Protect Your Gums to Save Your Smile
The gums in your mouth play an extremely important role in keeping the teeth in place and protecting their roots from damage and decay. The gum health is the cornerstone of your overall wellbeing. If the gums themselves become infected that can eventually lead to gaps in your smile and can further progress to affect the bone that supports your teeth. Left untreated, this condition can have serious effects not only on your gums and oral health, but your overall health as well. In fact, aside from tooth decay the biggest threat to your smile is this preventable infection called gum (periodontal) disease which is typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque (a sticky deposit of bacteria) to build up on the teeth and harden.
Dr. Tufa and our hygienists check your teeth and gums for deep gum pockets and early signs of gum disease during periodic exams and cleaning appointments. If found, they will recommend appropriate periodontal disease treatment to get rid of the harmful bacteria causing the issue and to restore your oral health.
Controlling and Managing Periodontal Disease
Gum Disease Progression
According to a recent research done by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), approximately half of U.S. adults aged 30 years or older and 70% of adults 65 and older, are dealing with some form of periodontal disease. It is a staggering statistic but what is even more surprising is that many people are not even aware of their condition. Those impacted usually have inflamed tissues around their teeth. The advanced stage of the disease is called periodontitis, where the inflammation can become more severe and lead to loss of bone and teeth, tissue damage - and contribute to other diseases throughout the entire body such as diabetes and heart disease.
We screen our patients for periodontal disease during every routine exam. If found, we will determine the stage of its progression - gingivitis (mild), periodontitis (moderate) or advanced peridontitis (severe). The first step in treating gum disease is called “deep cleaning” or “scaling and root planning” followed by periodic (usually every 3 months) periodontal cleaning treatments. Our dental hygienists are highly trained to perform these procedures at our practice. For those in the severe category – a more complex periodontal procedures may need to be recommended at one of our partner periodontist specialists.
Scaling and Root Planing
As noted earlier, periodontal or gum disease is an inflammatory condition of the tissues that surround and support the teeth which is prevalent in adults and is a major cause of tooth loss. It is typically asymptomatic and many patients are not aware they have this condition. Gum disease is caused by plaque and calculus deposits on the teeth that harbor bacteria, and lead to eventual bone and tooth loss. Newer research has linked periodontal disease with systemic conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, pregnancy complications and low birth weight, etc.
Signs of periodontal disease include tender, red and swollen gums that bleed easily, bad breath and bad taste, teeth that have shifted position, and in more advanced cases - teeth that are loose. Scaling and root planing is the first line of treatment for periodontal disease. It is a non-surgical approach that removes excessive calculus and bacterial deposits below the gum line. It is usually done in 2 visits, under local anesthesia using hand and ultrasonic power cleaners. More advanced cases may need surgical treatment in addition to scaling and root planing. Gum disease and bone loss are irreversible – this “deep cleaning” treatment is designed to control and maintain the condition but will not reverse the damage that has already occurred.
Scaling and Root Planing Procedure
Routine Dental Cleaning vs Scaling and Root Planing
For patients diagnosed with periodontal disease, a more advanced cleaning called scaling and root planing may be recommended as the first step in treating it. There are several differences between routine dental cleaning and scaling and root planing.
A routine dental cleaning is preventive in nature and its purpose is to keep gum disease and tooth decay from developing. It usually takes place every 6 months and the teeth are cleaned from deposits above the gum line.
Scaling and root planing is a specialized procedure meant as an initial treatment for patients diagnosed with periodontal disease. Teeth are treated deep beneath the gumline to remove the excessive plaque and bacterial deposits - hence the more common name for it “deep cleaning”. In addition, root surfaces are smoothed out to discourage additional bacteria from attaching. The procedure may require multiple appointments done in stages. Once completed, a custom periodontal cleaning maintenance schedule will be created that best promotes the continued rehabilitation of your gum tissue.
Routine Cleaning vs Scaling and Root Planing
Periodontal cleaning (also known as periodontal maintenance therapy) is a specialized type of dental cleaning recommended for patient who have undergone treatment for gum disease. Unlike routine dental cleanings, that are designed for patients with healthy gums, periodontal maintenance appointments are meant to keep the gum disease at bay at a supportive 3-month periodontal cleaning visits.
Unfortunately, periodontal disease can only be managed and controlled but not cured. The bacteria that cause the condition re-establish around 3 months after treatment. The re-care schedule disrupts this process in gum pockets 4 mm or greater. For patients with gum disease, active homecare and 3-month periodontal cleaning visits are a requirement for successful therapy and disease control.