Routine cleanings by a hygienist are important to optimal dental health. At a typical recall visit, your Bellingham, WA hygienist will check your medical history for any updates or changes, take necessary x-rays, scale all plaque and calculus (tartar) off your teeth, polish teeth to remove surface stains and check pockets and bone levels around your teeth. Your hygienist will also instruct you on flossing and brushing correctly and apply fluoride if necessary.
What Is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?
Periodontal disease is an acute or chronic infectious process affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. If left untreated, it can result in bone loss and the eventual loosening of the teeth leading to tooth loss. If a diagnosis of periodontal disease is made, the visits may be broken up into several appointments depending on the severity.
Gum Care (Periodontal Disease)
Gum disease accounts for approximately 70% of all tooth loss in adults. Early signs of gum disease include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing and gums that are red, inflamed, or swollen.
Gum disease and tooth decay are caused by the same bacteria. These bacteria form plaque beneath the gumline, which eats away at the bond between tooth and gum. If deterioration is allowed to continue, "pockets" form in between the teeth and the gums. Pockets deeper than 3ml may require special treatment to remove the bacteria and plaque. Without treatment and continuous maintenance, gum disease will eventually weaken the bonds that hold the teeth in place.
There is no permanent treatment for gum disease. However, it can be kept under control with proper personal hygiene and regular visits to a trained dentist or hygienist.
Scaling & Root Planing Treatment
The scaling of the plaque and calculus is not only above the gum tissue, but also extends below the gumline. One-fourth or half of the mouth is anesthetized so that the hygienist can comfortably clean below the gums. This is called scaling and is done using hand instruments or ultrasonic vibrating instruments to blast deposits off the teeth.
Scaling alone may leave a rough surface, so it is usually combined with root planing. The hygienist carefully planes the root surfaces to avoid the future buildup of calculus. Smooth root surfaces allow the gums to regenerate without irritation. The gum tissue shrinks and tightens around the teeth because the irritant has been reduced or eliminated.
After the initial periodontal scaling and root planning, the patient will return at regular intervals for periodontal maintenance to keep the disease from progressing any further.