Have you ever gone to the dentist for a regular cleaning but been told that you need to have a special, deep cleaning instead? You may have thought it was a way for your dentist to get more money from you however it is actually your periodontal health they are concerned about.
If you haven’t gone to the dentist regularly or perhaps have a factor that pre-disposes you to periodontal disease, your hygienist and dentist may recommend that you have scaling and root planing (aka a deep cleaning). Scaling and root planing cleans between the gums and the teeth down to the roots and is an effective treatment against gum disease before it gets more severe.
You probably know your mouth is a dirty place and plaque builds up on your teeth every day. Plaque is a clear, sticky film that is full of bacteria and is removed when you brush your teeth. While you may do your best to clean your teeth it is inevitable that you may not get all of the plaque off near your gum line. Plaque eventually hardens to become tartar, also known as calculus. When you go for your 6 month cleaning, this is what the hygienists are working to remove with their special instruments.
If you don’t go for regular cleanings, however, this calculus sits untouched below your gum line and your body starts to fight against it. Your gums may start to get red, swollen and bleed easily. This is called gingivitis and is an often reversible form of periodontal disease. If left untreated, however, the bacteria begins to cause the gum to pull away from the tooth and causes pockets to form.
Think about your last cleaning for a second. Do you recall the hygienist checking your gums and calling out numbers (“three, five, four, three…”). Well they are actually measuring the depth of your gum pockets. A measurement of 3mm or less is healthy, 4mm is borderline and 5mm or above is of concern. These measurements help indicate the type of cleaning you need.
So is it really all that big of a deal? Your gums probably look okay to you and may not hurt. In reality, though, it is a very serious problem. If you ignore it, the pockets will continue to deepen and the bacteria will start to destroy your bone. As you lose more and more bone, your tooth may become mobile and ultimately may need to be removed.
Scaling and root planing is often the first step at treating your periodontal disease. If it progresses, patient options include more costly gum surgery or new advanced treatments such as LANAP™ (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure).
So when the hygienist or dentist tell you that they can’t or won’t do a traditional cleaning for you, listen to them. They know that a regular cleaning won’t stop your periodontal disease from worsening. Don’t feel pressured to have it done that day–take the time to ask more questions, understand how severe it is and do your own research. They have your health as their priority and want to make sure you are comfortable with all of your treatment recommendations.