What is a deep cleaning or scaling?

Did you know that nearly half of adults in the US have a form of periodontal disease? Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is a serious medical issue but is treatable and most of all, preventable.

What is it?

Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, is constantly forming on your teeth. If you don’t clean your teeth often and well, that bacteria can attack your gums and inflame them, causing the gums to then pull away from your teeth and form pockets. Plaque that gets trapped in the pockets cannot be reached or removed with regular brushing and if left unchecked, can develop into tooth and bone loss.

It’s a good bet you have periodontal disease if you notice swollen, red gums; receding gum line (long tooth); bad breath or lingering bad taste in your mouth; loose teeth; or bleeding gums. Causes for all of those issues include common afflictions or habits such as poor oral health habits, poor eating habits, diabetes, smoking, grinding your teeth, pregnancy, and genetics.

The tricky part of periodontal disease is it hides. A tooth extends below the gum line and that is where the foundation and strength of teeth is found. Simply stated, periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that attacks your teeth’s support structure. When the support is gone, the infection can move to the tooth root and even the bone connecting your tooth to your jawbone.

Treatment methods for gum disease

Deep cleaning is a process of scaling and root planing, a common and effective method in addressing periodontal disease and related issues. In a deep cleaning, also known as a prophylaxis, a hygienist removes tartar (a yellowish-brown mineral that forms along and under the gums) and calcium buildup from your teeth, as well as cleaning the inside of the gum area touching the tooth root. This type of cleaning gets those areas we can’t easily reach with regular brushing and flossing.

Deep cleaning and subsequent healing allows gum pockets to reduce and encourages healthy teeth. Your dentist might also prescribe a local delivery antimicrobial therapy which involves applying an antibiotic directly to target areas to eliminate bacteria and any accompanying infection.

Scaling (a term often interchangeable with deep cleaning) involves the removal of tartar from teeth and from pocket areas between teeth and gums, through the use of specialized ultrasonic instruments or manual scaling tools. Related to scaling is root planing, in which tooth roots are cleaned with special dental tools or a laser to remove rough areas or indentations where bacteria like to gather.

Catch it in the act

Part of effective prevention of gum disease is regular checkups and cleaning visits with your dentist. This should be done every six months and they will remove plaque from your teeth, check gum condition and strength with a probe, and polish tooth surfaces. If your gums tend to bleed easily or have formed pockets deeper than 4-5 millimeters, bacteria may be present and your dentist will recommend a deep cleaning to remove it.

Keep a good thing going

After a deep cleaning, you might notice pain for a day or two and perhaps sensitive teeth for a week. In addition, your gums might swell slightly and feel tender. It’s all part of the healing process and to help, your dentist will likely prescribe an antibiotic to fight infection and a pain reliever to help keep you comfortable. You will also likely return for at least one follow-up appointment to check the healing process, re-measure the depth of tooth pockets, and ensure the bacteria is all the way gone.

Your dentist may also prescribe a specialized pill and/or mouth rinse to prevent recurring infection and speed the healing process.

After a deep cleaning appointment, all bacteria should be removed from pockets in the teeth and in a few weeks the gums will become healthier, provided the patient continues diligent oral hygiene. If, however, deep cleaning/scaling and 3-month dentist visits are not doing the job to reverse periodontal disease, it is highly recommended you visit a periodontist for a consultation regarding future treatments and potential oral surgery.

For more information on how dentures will fit into your life, contact Pasadena Periodontics at (626) 365-0590 or pasadenaperiodontics.com.

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