The goal of a dental cleaning is to remove plaque (a soft, sticky, bacteria-infested film) and tartar (calcified plaque) from the teeth. Periodic dental cleanings are necessary to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. If left untreated, bacteria will accumulate and lead to cavities and gum disease. Cleaning and polishing of the teeth leaves the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth, which helps deter bacteria from sticking to them.
Our dental hygienists will use special instruments to gently remove these deposits without harming the teeth. First, our dental hygienist will use an ultrasonic device that emits vibrations to knock larger pieces of tartar loose. The ultrasonic device sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris and keep the area at a comfortable temperature. Next, hand instruments, called scalers and curettes, are used to manually remove smaller deposits and smooth the tooth surfaces. These instruments are curved and shaped to match the curves of the teeth. Once all the tooth surfaces have been cleaned of tartar and plaque, the teeth are polished using a rotating rubber cup and a polishing paste. Prophylaxis paste which is a special gritty toothpaste like material is applied to the teeth to make them shiny and smooth. Our dental hygienist may also apply fluoride to the teeth to help strengthen the tooth enamel.
What is a deep cleaning?
A deep cleaning, otherwise known as scaling and root planing, is when plaque and tarter deposits are removed from the root surface of the tooth below the gumline. This is needed when someone hasn’t had a cleaning in a long time, thus allowing plaque and tartar to migrate from above the gumline to below the gumline.
How is a deep cleaning different than my regular cleanings?
A normal cleaning will typically be done in situations where plaque and tartar are only present above the gumline. When the tartar gets below the gumline, special instruments are used to clean the root surfaces of the tooth below the gumline. In order to make sure that you are comfortable through the procedure, our hygienists will often provide local anesthetic to make sure that you do not feel any discomfort along the gumline during the procedure.
Why do my gums hurt or bleed when I brush and floss them?
Bleeding or sore gums is a sign of gingivitis (inflammation of the gingiva). Gingitivis occurs when bacteria, in the form of plaque or tartar, comes into prolonged contact with your gums. Your gum tissue will mount an inflammatory response, which manifests in the way of red, swollen, and painful gum tissue. Properly brushing and flossing your teeth will keep plaque and tartar from accumulating along your gumline, and will keep your gums healthy and pink.
What is periodontal disease?
Also known as “gum disease” or “periodontitis”, periodontal disease occurs when gingivitis is not treated. Plaque and tartar begins accumulating at the gumline, and if not regularly professionally cleaned, can begin to advance below the gumline. Inflammed and swollen gums, also known as gingivitis, will eventually lead to loss of bone around the teeth, and a deepened gum pocket. Bacteria and plaque will move into these deeper gum pockets and continue to advance down along the root surface of the tooth, causing continued bone loss.
How can I prevent gingivitis and gum disease?
As part of your routine dental exam and cleaning visits, we will monitor your gum health and will let you know if there are any areas of concern. We will make sure to remove any plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth, and take action to treat any deep and inflammed gum pockets that have formed. The most predictable and easiest way to treat gum disease is when it is caught early, and at this point can predictably be treated to prevent future bone loss.
What happens if gum disease, or periodontitis, is left untreated?
If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to gum disease, which is the loss of bone around teeth. In severe cases, periodontal disease can lead to gum recession, tooth mobility, and tooth loss.