You might think that dental checkups are always the same. While both regular cleanings and periodontal maintenance are performed on a routine schedule, they differ in that one is a preventative measure, and the other is a treatment.
A routine dental cleaning is known as prophylaxis, a term applied to preventative care measures. During a regular teeth cleaning, a dental hygienist scales and polishes a patient’s teeth in order to remove all visible tartar built up above the gum line. A regular teeth cleaning is prescribed when a patient’s gums are healthy and snuggly attached to teeth. Regular cleanings, usually recommended once or twice per year, help prevent extensive oral health problems from developing, namely periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is an excessive bacterial build up, which occurs between the teeth and gums. Periodontal disease affects roughly three out of four patients and occurs when tartar accumulates more than four millimeters below the gum line, creating pockets between the teeth and gums, where bacteria thrive. Left unattended, periodontal disease can lead to inflammation, infection, bone loss and systemic health problems (diabetes and heart disease). When diagnosed with periodontal disease, patients will require special teeth cleanings.
Similar to a regular teeth cleaning, periodontal maintenance removes tartar buildup from the teeth. Unlike a normal, preventative cleaning, periodontal maintenance is a treatment prescribed to combat periodontal disease. It involves both scaling and root planing, meaning tartar must be removed from deep between the teeth and gums.
During a periodontal maintenance appointment, the hygienist will remove tartar build up from in between your teeth and gums down the entire length of each tooth, stopping where the gum, root and bone meet. Your hygienist will carefully monitor the depth of each pocket in your gums and irrigate these pockets with antiseptic medications, if inflammation or infection are present.
Periodontal maintenance appointments only occur after a patient has been diagnosed with periodontal disease and treated for periodontal root planing & scaling. These types of cleanings are usually recommended every three to four months in order to maintain gum health and eradicate the dangerous bacterial growth that occurs with periodontal disease.
If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, Dr. Schaffer will discuss further treatment recommendations with you, including initial and ongoing treatments, such as periodontal maintenance. For more information, contact Schaffer Dental Excellence to schedule a consultation with our dentist.