What is Periodontal Maintenance?

Did you know that many people have periodontal disease and they don’t even know it? One of the trickiest parts of the disease is that it is usually painless and in that regard is adept at sneaking up on unsuspecting souls. Some of the more common and visible symptoms include recessed gums; swollen, bleeding, or red gums; bad breath; and even loose teeth. But many people have no symptoms at all, and are shocked when their dentist announces they need scaling and root planing instead of a regular dental cleaning.

What’s the difference? While the goal of any dental cleaning is to remove plaque, prevent decay, and ensure optimal oral health; the cleaning process can be markedly different depending on several factors. That is why it is very important to understand that periodontal cleaning is critical to controlling periodontal disease and avoiding potential tooth loss and other serious issues.

What is periodontal maintenance?

All dental cleanings are not created equal. Many patients ask why they are having periodontal maintenance when they just came in for a cleaning. The name alone sounds ominous but if your dentist or hygienist recommends periodontal maintenance, it is wise to heed their advice. Let’s compare periodontal maintenance to traditional cleaning:

Periodontal Maintenance

Periodontal disease often results in bone loss, gum pockets deeper than 4 millimeters, bleeding gums, or exposed root surfaces. If you suffer from any of those symptoms or if you have had periodontal surgery or root planing, a regular cleaning is not enough. Instead, periodontal maintenance scaling is needed to maintain healthy gums and bones.

The procedure removes plaque and tartar above and below the gum line, and all the way down the length of each tooth to the junction of the root, gum, and bone. Rough areas of the roots are smoothed over if needed and pocket depths are monitored. Inflamed pockets are also sometimes irrigated with antibacterial medicines when needed.

This is a more intensive procedure but essential to restore and maintain the health of your gums and bones. If bacteria are present in your mouth and left to their own devices, they can cause inflammation, infection, and other health issues. Periodontal maintenance typically requires more frequent dental visits but the good news that the procedure is typically covered by insurance carriers.

Periodontal maintenance is generally performed 3 to 4 times a year, depending on how quickly plaque and tartar accumulate, if there is bleeding or inflammation present, stability of the condition, your ability to maintain your teeth at home, and any concerning health risk factors.

Prophylaxis

Prophylaxis, also known as regular cleaning, is recommended for patients with no bone loss, periodontal disease, or infection around the teeth. The procedure requires no bleeding, mobility of the teeth, recession, or spaces around the roots of the teeth. Your mouth should be healthy with no evidence of bone or gum problems. A regular cleaning then removes soft plaque, tartar, and stains from the teeth above the gum line, and slightly below.

Regular cleanings are usually done 2 to 3 times a year; depending on how quickly a patient develops stain, plaque, and tartar. This is a purely preventative measure included with regular dental checkups and focus on removing plaque and other irritants, followed by a thorough cleaning and polishing. You should always work to keep tartar at bay by regular brushing and flossing, but stubborn deposits need more attention.

To that end, regular dental cleaning is essential in maintaining a healthy smile and avoiding gum disease. This cleaning also removes visible stains from teeth, above the gumline.

Benefits of periodontal maintenance

A few of the most common benefits of periodontal maintenance include:

  • Removal of tartar. Left untreated, tartar can cause serious problems. Even using the best brushing techniques is not always sufficient.
  • Aesthetics of course come into play, as yellow or stained teeth don’t brighten your smile.
  • Fresh breath is another big benefit and periodontal maintenance helps remove hidden bacteria causing smelly breath.

Experts confirm there is a direct relationship between chronic inflammation in the gums and overall health, especially heart disease and diabetes. Keeping the gums and bone surrounding your teeth as healthy as possible is an important part of maintaining excellent overall health.

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