When it comes to dental procedures, we know it can get confusing. It’s not you, it’s the terminology. Sure, “dental cleaning” sounds a whole lot friendlier than “prophylactic hygiene visit,” but it can also muddle things a bit.
For not all cleanings are equal.
If your appointment is for a “routine cleaning,” generally speaking, you have a healthy mouth. Twice-a-year visits are adequate to make sure things don’t get out of control by removing the plaque, calculus, and stains that build up between cleanings. They also give us a chance to make sure you’re not missing any areas in your cleaning and motivate you to keep taking good care of your oral health.
But when gum disease is an issue, “just a cleaning” isn’t enough. In fact, it would be a disservice to you. Quite simply, periodontal disease is an infection. As such, it calls for therapeutic treatment.
Where a routine cleaning focuses on the top surfaces, perio treatment requires root planning and scaling to clean above and especially below the gum level, where deposits of plaque and calculus have lodged.
Normally, gum tissue forms a tight turtleneck around the tooth. Infection makes it sag like a sloppy sock, forming pockets. These become perfect little harbors for even more harmful microbes. Regular toothbrushing and flossing are fairly ineffective at this point.
Root planning and scaling can remove rough areas of cementum, dentin, and even soft tissue that is contaminated with microbes and their toxic byproducts. It can help the tissue reattach and heal.
The importance of getting your gum disease properly treated can’t be overstated. Recent scientific research indicates that periodontal disease is a contributing factor other diseases of chronic inflammation, from heart disease to stroke to dementia, diabetes, and some cancers.
And while it’s not curable, it is controllable – through better hygiene, a healthier diet, and, above all, more frequent dental visits for deep cleanings. It’s how you control the level of disease and catch episodic relapses before they get out of hand.
Image by Guillermo Alejandro Gómez Puentes, via Flickr