Why do your dentist and dental hygienist recommend that you have regular visits for scale and cleaning?
It is the key to maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
Some signs of poor gum health are:
- Receding gums
- Swollen, bleeding and sore gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Stained teeth
- Foul taste in the mouth
These are signs of inflammation due to accumulation of plaque and calculus on your teeth and gums.
What is plaque?
Dental plaque is a sticky biofilm forming on the surface of our teeth every day. It is made up of various bacteria existing in our mouth and in its early stage, it is soft, sticky and usually a creamy, white colour.
These bacteria interact with the food and drink we consume and release acids that may lead to dental cavities and gum inflammation. This is why it is important to brush and floss daily to remove plaque at regular intervals. If left undisturbed, the dental plaque matures and starts to form calculus, which can be more harmful to the supporting tissue ie: the gums and the bone around the teeth.
What is calculus?
Calculus or Tartar is a hard, calcified build-up of dental plaque biofilm that cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. Calculus is effectively hardened plaque.
If any small amount of plaque is left on your teeth, eventually the minerals in your saliva will be deposited in the plaque, causing it to become calcified.
The rough and porous surface encourages more plaque attachment, so the calculus needs to be removed by a dental professional. This is the “scaling” part of a scale and clean.
The purpose of the cleaning and polishing is to remove plaque and calculus from the surfaces of the teeth so that you have a better chance of keeping the teeth clean during your regular home care regime.
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Periodontitis (Gum Disease)
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums in the early stage of gum disease. It is often seen in the mouth as bleeding gums. Gums might appear red and swollen depending on the severity. Patients often complain of bleeding when brushing or flossing and occasionally sore gums.
What is periodontitis?
Gingival recession, also known as receding gums, is the exposure in the roots of the teeth caused by a loss of gum tissue and/or retraction of the gingival margin, from the crown of the teeth.
Periodontitis is the progression of untreated long-standing gingivitis, where the inflammation begins to affect the tissue supporting the teeth, including the bone.
There are many stages of periodontitis, depending on type and severity. In its early stage, as the gums recede or detach from the teeth from inflammation, small pockets begin to form between the teeth and gums.
These pockets harbour plaque and tartar with harmful bacteria. As the infection and inflammation worsen, teeth will begin to lose bone support and tooth loss can often occur. With advanced periodontitis, patients often complain of pain, unable to chew due to loose teeth, teeth movement, foul taste from pus draining from infected gum pockets and bad breath.
The majority of cases of gingivitis are often related to poor oral hygiene. Thus, with early treatment with your dentist and hygienist as well as improvement in your home care guided by the hygienist, it is reversible.
However, there are additional factors that may increase your risk of gum disease and may affect the outcome of treatment:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Uncontrolled diabetes or obesity with pre-diabetic risk
- Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy and during menstruation
- Medical conditions that may affect your immunity for example; HIV/AIDS or leukemia and currently receiving treatment
- Medications that may lead to changes in oral condition and dry mouth such as anticonvulsants, steroids, hypertension (blood pressure) medications
- Teeth related factors such as crowded teeth hindering access for cleaning, untreated broken teeth or fillings creating food/plaque traps, poor fitting dentures or crowns and bridges
- Genetic component
What is the treatment for gum disease?
Treatment for gum disease involves scaling and cleaning to remove dental plaque and calculus (tartar) containing harmful bacteria. This is done above gum level, at margins of the gums and also in deep pockets below the gums; also known as root planing. This aims to reduce gum inflammation and prevent further tissue damage and bone loss.
Your hygienist will assess a home care regime and introduce products such as interdental brushes and may also recommend using anti-bacterial gel or mouthwashes at home, to supplement the active treatment. Your dentist will discuss other risk factors and how we may address these issues to ensure success of gum treatment. For example: restoring broken teeth and replacing broken fillings, to ensure these are not hindering cleaning and encourage cessation of smoking to allow for optimal gum healing.
In some situations of severe or advanced gum disease where surgery may be required to re-establish healthy gums, you may be referred to a gum specialist.
What is a dental hygienist?
A dental hygienist is an important part of our team here at DC Dental Clinic.
Under the guidance of our dentists, our hygienist provides periodontal (gums) treatment including scaling and cleaning.
Our hygienist focuses on patient education. Patient education provides advice on your oral hygiene regime at home, as well as education on products that will assist you in your teeth and gums care, for example: electric toothbrushes, interdental brushes, mouthwashes, fluoride products and products for the management of decay and dry mouth.
For example: our hygienist can provide tips and tricks to using interdental cleaning products.
The hygienist also focuses on prevention therapy for children, including providing fissure sealants, fluoride treatment and hygiene education for children and advising on how your diet may increase your risk of developing decay.
Our hygienist uses plaque-disclosing solution to stain plaque, to help show our young patients where they might be missing with their brushing.
They are enthusiastic in being involved in care of elderly patients with dentures and dry mouth issues and a helping carer of special need patients with oral hygiene care at home.
They can also assist you in cosmetic treatment such as bleaching or whitening treatment. The hygienist will perform a comprehensive consultation to assess your need and can provide either in-chair, as well as a take home kit, depending on your need.
Here at DC Dental, we strive to educate patients on how important it is to maintain good oral hygiene and overall oral health, as research shows a clear link between periodontal (gum) disease and the following medical conditions:
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease risk
- Premature birth with low birth weight in babies
- Uncontrolled diabetes in adult diabetics
So it is recommended for you to visit the hygienist at regular intervals, to maintain healthy gums and teeth.