It is important for all patients, especially those who have gum disease, to understand the difference between regular teeth cleanings and periodontal maintenance.
Regular cleanings are administered to patients who do not have the symptoms of advanced gum disease, such as bone loss, infections around the teeth, bleeding, receded gums, or exposed tooth roots. The teeth and gums should be healthy for a regular cleaning.
Regular cleanings remove soft plaque, tartar, and stains from the teeth around the gum line. Dentists recommend cleanings be done 2 to 3 times a year as a preventative procedure. Factors that influence the frequency of these cleanings include how quickly the patient’s teeth stain, or accumulate plaque and tartar. These cleanings are seen as a preventative procedure and form part of general dental health maintenance.
Scaling is a procedure that forms a large part of periodontal maintenance, as it maintains gum and bone health. Scaling is the removal of plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line, as well as down the length of each tooth to where the root, gum, and bone meet.
Additionally, during periodontal maintenance, rough areas of exposed tooth roots are smoothed out, gum pocket depths are carefully monitored, and inflamed pockets may be irrigated with antibacterial medicines.
Periodontal maintenance is usually performed 3 to 4 times a year, depending on how quickly plaque and tartar accumulate; the amount of bleeding or inflammation of the gums; other health factors; and the state of your daily home care.
Who Needs Periodontal Maintenance?
If your dentist or hygienist has recommended that instead of a regular cleaning that you have periodontal maintenance it is most likely because you have a chronic bacterial infection in the mouth known as periodontal disease. You may also be at a high risk of developing the disease, due to a variety of factors, and therefore be put on periodontal maintenance treatment as a preventative measure.
Periodontal disease is a an advanced stage of gum disease, which is caused by a buildup of plaque on your teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce acids and toxins that attack your teeth and gums, causing infections. If left untreated, the gum disease will progress and the patient’s symptoms will develop and worsen until the patient begins to experience tooth and bone loss (periodontal disease).
If you have periodontal disease that has resulted in bone loss, gum ‘pockets’, bleeding gums, exposed root surfaces, or have had periodontal surgery or root planning, a regular cleaning is no longer an option for you.
What Happens During a Periodontal Maintenance Session?
Appointments typically consist of evaluating the development of your periodontal disease; checking the amount of active bleeding; the actually cleaning/scaling; placement of medicine in gum pockets; and continued guidance on how to look after your dental health at home.