For our first column, we’re going to answer a question we hear frequently: “Do I really need that deep cleaning?”
Often, patients are unfamiliar with deep cleanings and how they differ from the standard dental cleaning. During a standard cleaning (dental prophylaxis), the dentist or hygienist removes calculus deposits, also known as tarter, from the part of the teeth above the gumline.
A deep cleaning is not just a cleaning deep under the gums, but is also a comprehensive and thorough removal of diseased tooth and tissue. The dentist or hygienist cleans your teeth by removing the calculus deposits below the gum line. In addition, we are able to smooth the surfaces of the roots and remove the infected inner portion of the tissue. This provides for a healthy root structure able to heal against healthy gum tissue. Since gum tissue can be sensitive, especially around a diseased tooth, we usually numb the area to avoid discomfort.
You might be wondering why it’s sometimes necessary to get at calculus below the gum line. Think of it this way: imagine you get a splinter. Left in your skin, it would cause swelling and infection. In the same way, the calculus deposits on your teeth can lead to bigger problems if they are not removed, problems like swelling, infection and eventual bone loss. The deep cleaning removes the disease and toxins, helping to prevent these problems down the road.
So how does calculus lead to disease? Calculus contains billions of bacteria. The bacteria release toxins which cause gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Left untreated, the same bacteria that cause bleeding and swollen gums will eventually cause the bone near the tooth to break down. After long enough and enough bone loss, some teeth can become loose and even fall out.
This results in a problem that cannot be treated with regular brushing, flossing, and dental cleanings. In fact, even with all the technology we have in dentistry today, there is not much we can do to save a tooth after the bone around the tooth has been lost. Almost all patients who wear dentures lost their teeth to gum disease, not decay. A deep cleaning may be one step your dentist recommends to prevent this from happening to you. With regular dental visits, good home care, and early detection, this disease can be prevented in almost all instances.
One more important point – gum disease is usually painless, so many people don’t even realize they have it. If it has been more than 6 months since you’ve seen your dentist, do yourself a favor and schedule a check-up. It may save you a lot of money and discomfort in the future.
We hope this answers questions you might have had about deep cleanings and gum disease. Look for us next month when we cover a different topic submitted by you!