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Dental Cleanings and Treatment of Gum Disease

Dental Prophylaxis (Cleaning)

A dental prophylaxis, commonly referred to as a dental cleaning, is a preventive dental procedure performed by our dental hygienist to remove plaque, tartar (calculus), and stains from the teeth and gums. It is an essential part of maintaining good oral health and preventing dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

During a dental prophylaxis, our hygienist will remove plaque and tartar deposits from the surfaces of the teeth, particularly in hard-to-reach areas such as between the teeth and along the gumline. This process, known as scaling, helps eliminate bacteria and other harmful substances that can contribute to tooth decay and gum inflammation.

After scaling, the teeth are polished using a special paste and a polishing tool to remove surface stains and smooth the tooth surfaces, making them less susceptible to plaque buildup and staining in the future. The polishing process also helps to create a smoother surface that is easier to clean with regular brushing and flossing.

Routine dental cleanings may also include x-rays, intra-oral photos, and/or an exam by our dentist, depending on the circumstance.

Gum (Periodontal) Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common but preventable condition that affects the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is caused by the buildup of bacterial plaque along the gumline, leading to inflammation and infection of the gums. Gum disease can range from mild gingivitis to more severe forms of periodontitis, and if left untreated, it can result in tooth loss and other serious health complications.

The two main stages of gum disease:

  1. Gingivitis: Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and is characterized by inflammation of the gums. Symptoms may include red, swollen, and tender gums that bleed easily, especially during brushing or flossing. Gingivitis is typically caused by poor oral hygiene habits that allow plaque to accumulate along the gumline. However, it is reversible with proper oral hygiene and professional dental care.

  2. Periodontitis: If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, a more advanced stage of gum disease. Periodontitis involves the destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligaments, and alveolar bone. Symptoms may include persistent bad breath, receding gums, deep gum pockets, loose teeth, and changes in the bite. Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and may also increase the risk of systemic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections.

Several factors can increase the risk of developing gum disease, including poor oral hygiene, smoking, genetics, hormonal changes (such as during pregnancy or menopause), certain medications, and underlying health conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases.

Treatment for gum disease varies depending on the severity of the condition but may include professional dental cleanings (scaling and root planing), antimicrobial therapy, surgical interventions (such as gum surgery or bone grafting), and ongoing maintenance care. In addition to treatment, practicing good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing twice a day, flossing daily, using antimicrobial mouthwash, and attending regular dental check-ups, is essential for preventing gum disease and maintaining optimal oral health.

Treatment of Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)

A dental SRP, or Scaling and Root Planing, is a non-surgical deep cleaning procedure performed by our dental hygienist or dentist to treat gum disease. It is typically recommended when there is evidence of gum inflammation, deep gum pockets, and/or tartar (calculus) buildup below the gumline.

Here's what's involved in a dental SRP procedure:

  1. Scaling: The first step of SRP involves scaling, which is the removal of plaque, tartar, and bacteria from the surfaces of the teeth and roots. Our hygienist will use specialized instruments, such as ultrasonic scalers and hand scalers, to carefully clean the tooth surfaces and remove debris from below the gumline. This process helps eliminate bacteria and toxins that contribute to gum inflammation and periodontal disease.

  2. Root Planing: After scaling, our hygienist will perform root planing, which involves smoothing out rough areas on the roots of the teeth. Root planing helps remove bacterial toxins and tartar from the root surfaces and creates a smoother surface for the gums to reattach to. This process also helps reduce the depth of gum pockets and promotes healing of the gum tissues.

  3. Irrigation and Medication: During the SRP procedure, our hygienist may irrigate the gum pockets with antimicrobial solutions to help kill bacteria and disinfect the area. They may also apply antibiotic medications, such as gels or chips, directly into the gum pockets to further reduce bacterial infection and promote healing.

  4. Follow-up Care: Following the SRP procedure, our hygienist may recommend additional follow-up appointments to monitor healing and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. They may also provide instructions for proper oral hygiene and home care to help maintain the results of the deep cleaning and prevent future gum disease.

Overall, a dental SRP is a vital treatment for managing gum disease and preventing its progression to more advanced stages. It helps remove bacterial plaque and tartar from below the gumline, promotes healing of the gum tissues, and reduces the risk of complications associated with untreated periodontal disease. However, in some cases, additional periodontal therapies or surgical interventions may be necessary to achieve optimal results. It's essential to follow recommendations for ongoing periodontal care and maintenance to preserve the health of your gums and teeth.

Why it's important to have regular cleanings or periodontal treatments:

Cardiovascular Health: Research has shown that periodontal (gum) disease is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis. Chronic inflammation in the gums may contribute to inflammation in the blood vessels, leading to the development and progression of cardiovascular conditions.

Diabetes: Poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and complications associated with diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease, and gum disease may make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels, leading to poorly managed diabetes.

Pregnancy Complications: Poor oral health during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia. Pregnant women with untreated gum disease may be more likely to experience complications during pregnancy.

Respiratory Infections: Oral bacteria and inflammation from gum disease can travel through the bloodstream and reach the lungs, increasing the risk of respiratory infections such as pneumonia and exacerbating existing respiratory conditions


Alzheimer's Disease: Some research suggests that chronic gum inflammation may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

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