Tag Archives: gum disease

The Difference Between Cleanings, Deep Cleanings & Periodontal Maintenance

There is more than one type of dental procedure that may be casually referred to as a cleaning. For example, there is a regular cleaning & then there is what is referred to a deep cleaning. It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between these procedures & implications that  each of these procedures have when it comes to your oral health.

Regular Cleaning or Prophylaxis

A regular cleaning, which is called prophylaxis by dental professionals, is what most people think of when they think of going to the dentist for a checkup. Prophylaxis involves removing plaque, calculus & stains from teeth. (Plaque is a sticky substance that builds up on teeth as a byproduct of bacteria feasting on the food you eat. Calculus, also known as tartar, occurs when plaque & minerals in your mouth harden.) A dental hygienist or a dentist uses a specialized cleaning device, called an ultrasonic scaler, to remove plaque & calculus. This cleaning occurs only on the visible part of the tooth, known as a the crown.

Regular cleaning is only recommended for patients who have generally good oral health & do not suffer from bone loss or gum problems (bleeding, recession, infection, etc.)

Scaling & Root Planing or Deep Cleanings

Root planing is a procedure that involves removing tartar, bacteria, toxic deposits from the root of a tooth, all the way down to where gum & bone meet. While it is sometimes casually referred to as a “deep cleaning”, you should know that this treatment is quite different from prophylaxis. This procedure is required as a treatment for periodontal disease or periodontitis (commonly called gum disease, though it also affects the bone).

Many people can have periodontal disease & not even know it. Symptoms of the disease include bleeding gums, bad breath, teeth that look longer due to recessed gums, & swollen or red gums. However, many people do not notice any symptoms at all. That’s why it may come as a surprise when your dentist recommends scaling & root planing instead of a regular cleaning. It’s important to understand that this procedure is vital to getting periodontal disease under control & avoid future tooth loss, though other procedures including surgery may be required to treat the disease.

Periodontal Maintenance

Once you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease & have undergone scaling & root planing, periodontal maintenance is what you can think of as taking the place of prophylaxis in your dental care routine. Rather than just addressing the just crowns of your teeth as in prophylaxis, periodontal maintenance also cares for your tooth roots, gums & bone. In other words, think of it as cleaning & maintenance for the tissues affected by your periodontal disease. The frequency of your periodontal maintenance appointments depends on your individual oral health condition & will be determined by your dentist.

Why Dental Care Is Important

Any dentist will tell you that dental care is important, but what we might not explain is exactly WHY dental care is important. Though you see a different doctor for your physical health than you do for your oral health, much of what your dentist does is connected to your overall health.

The most common reason for visiting the dentist is to get a teeth cleaning. And while professional dental cleanings are a great way to keep your smile bright, they are also vitally important to your health. Cleanings are the dentist’s opportunity to assess your dental health & detect problems that may also affect your general health.

A dentist can tell a lot about you & your health by looking at your mouth. Things like bad breath & the color of your tongue can be indications of health issues that may be affecting your entire body. The level of build up on your teeth (plaque, tartar, etc.) can be an indication of how healthy & balanced your diet is.

Here are a few more examples of how your dental health & your overall health are connected:

  • Studies have shown a link between gum disease & heart disease. Seeing your dentist regularly to treat &/or prevent gum disease may help prevent cardiovascular problems in the future.
  • Because of certain hormonal changes during pregnancy, a dentist or dental hygienist may know a woman is pregnant even before she tells them, just by looking at her gums. Pregnant woman are also at higher risk for periodontal disease, which has been linked to low birth weight & premature birth.
  • Dentists can perform tests to detect oral cancer. Early detection of oral cancer can have a large impact on outcomes.
  • Gum disease affects the ability of patients with diabetes to control blood sugar. Also, the high blood sugar associated with diabetes can put patients at higher risk for infection, including gum disease.

With all of this knowledge of how your dental health & your overall health are connected, be sure to keep your cleaning appointment with your dentist & bring up any concerns or questions you may have.