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Every patient should visit their dental office for professional cleanings on a regular basis. Cleanings are crucial to your oral health, and to preserve any dental work you may already have.
The American Dental Association advises that average patients have professional dental cleanings at least every six months. But in many cases, cleaning appointments should occur even more frequently. That’s why it’s advisable to ask that your dentist evaluate your smile; this allows them to determine how often you’ll need professional cleanings. If Dr. Hsu and his expert team recommend that you have a cleaning every 3 to 4 months, it is because they feel this interval will be of most benefit to your dental and overall health. Therefore, it’s important to follow their recommendation in order to prevent dental problems like decay and periodontal disease.
What can I expect during my professional cleaning appointment?
During a cleaning visit, the dental hygienist will first check your gums in an exam called periodontal probing depths. With the information obtained from this exam, the dentist can determine whether or not you have gum disease. In patients with no infection, the hygienist will then perform what’s called a preventive cleaning. Preventive cleanings are also known as a prophylaxis or “prophy”. For this procedure, the hygienist uses ultrasonic tools to remove plaque and tartar build-up from teeth surfaces. Then, the teeth are polished using high-performance brushes, which remove remaining staining. Finally, the hygienist flosses the patient, and asks them to rinse with fluoride mouthwash. In some cases, the dentist may also apply fluoride for the purpose of preventing decay.
For patients with gum disease, the cleaning procedure will be different. In these cases, a prophylactic cleaning is not enough to heal the gums and remove the tartar located below the gumline. To accomplish these goals in patients with gum disease, the dentist will typically recommend additional periodontal therapy, which may include scaling and root planing. These treatments are more extensive, and together, are known as “deep cleaning.”
Video 01:00 | Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and eating balanced, healthy meals are important to maintaining a healthy smile. Regular dental visits are also extremely important to prevent and treat oral disease.
How often should patients visit the dentist’s office for cleanings?
For patients with healthy gums, the minimum number of appointments recommended is two per year. However, for patients that have been diagnosed with gum disease, a dentist may suggest between three and four cleaning appointments per year. The actual number of visits will vary depending on disease severity, as well as how well the patient maintains their oral health with flossing and brushing.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums. This condition represents the earliest stage of periodontal disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to the point of causing further damage to the bone tissue that anchors teeth.
Any patient who notices bleeding when they brush or floss should schedule an appointment to have their gums checked. During the appointment, Dr. Hsu will assess their smile and suggest treatment if any signs of gingivitis are detected. It’s absolutely essential to understand that gingivitis is not only treatable, but reversible when caught in its early stages.
How is Gingivitis treated?
Gingivitis can occur due to many factors, but it’s typically caused by the buildup of plaque along the gum line. This plaque build-up leads to inflammation of the gums, which causes the bleeding.
The most common approach to treating gum inflammation is to undergo professional cleanings and proper daily home care such as brushing and flossing.
However, sometimes that approach will not be sufficient, making it necessary for the dentist to use other tools like dental laser and antimicrobial rinses to help eliminate bacteria and reduce inflammation.
It’s crucial to treat gingivitis in its early stages, or it will likely progress to periodontal disease, which is a condition that causes irreversible damage to periodontal tissues.
What are the most common signs of Gingivitis?
The primary and most common sign of Gingivitis is bleeding gums. This bleeding can occur during brushing or flossing, but can also happen spontaneously. Another common symptom of the condition is persistent bad breath or halitosis that occurs a short while after brushing.
If you notice any bleeding or recurrent bad breath, or your gums appear swollen and are tender, it’s important to make an appointment at Crystal Lake so that Dr. Hsu can evaluate your oral health and suggest proper treatment.
Video 01:00 | If your gums are tender, swollen or bleed easily when flossing, you may have gingivitis—the early stage of gum disease. Fortunately, gingivitis can be prevented by following a good oral health care routine and by regularly visiting a dentist. Find out more about how to reduce the risk of gingivitis and, if needed, how to treat it.
What happens if a patient doesn’t treat Gingivitis?
As mentioned earlier, the sooner a patient treats their Gingivitis, the more likely that they will be able to revert its consequences. However, ignoring these initial stages will likely culminate in the development of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria that causes Gingivitis has progressed to the tooth’s root, damaging periodontal bone and tissue. Periodontal disease is the advanced stage of gum disease. Therefore, it is more challenging to treat, requiring the patient to visit the office several times for extensive cleaning (“deep cleanings”).
Patients who may be suffering from this condition should visit their dentist as soon as possible, because non-treated periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.
Periodontal Therapy: Scaling and Root Planing
For patients who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, the usual chosen course of treatment is a deep-cleaning procedure that is called scaling and root planing, or SRP. This treatment involves cleaning and polishing the roots of the teeth in order to remove dental plaque and stubborn tartar. Two or more appointments are usually needed for the SRP procedure, and on occasion, the areas will first need to be numbed to make the patient more comfortable.
In some cases, the dentist may also need to use a dental laser and other treatments, such as antibiotic therapy or medical rinses to eliminate bacteria from tooth roots and the surrounding gum tissue.
How to treat late-stage periodontal disease?
In its later stages, periodontal disease is more difficult to control. By this time, a significant amount of bone tissue has typically been lost around the tooth root. In time, if the disease keeps progressing, the only viable alternative is to remove the tooth and install a dental bridge or an implant to replace it.
Periodontal disease is one of the most frequent causes of tooth loss. At Crystal Lake, we understand that treating gum disease is so important, because:
We encourage all of our patients to visit our office on a regular basis, and develop healthy home care habits with proper techniques. This will help to control periodontal disease in its earlier stages, preventing potential significant problems from developing.
Video 01:00 | Gums that are red, tender or swollen may indicate periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Because you can have periodontal disease without knowing it, it’s important to visit your dentist for periodontal screening.
Is there a cure for periodontal disease?
While it is possible to cure Gingivitis, periodontal disease can unfortunately only be managed. Once it has affected the supporting bone around a tooth, there is no way to get it back, because it won’t regenerate.
Dr. Hsu can both help patients to manage the progression of periodontal disease and slow its long-term effects. However, treating periodontal disease also requires the patient’s active participation. They must follow a strict oral care routine every day, and visit our dental office on a regular basis for professional cleanings. During these visits, the dentist’s focus will be on keeping the teeth’s roots clean and ensure that surrounding tissue is as healthy as possible. These periodontal maintenance cleanings will need to occur between every three and four months so that the dentist and patient can keep this chronic disease under control.