Our hygiene department is the foundation of our dental practice. Prevention is our goal, so we schedule visits with our hygienists at regularly recommended intervals – most commonly every 6 months. This is the best way to insure that any problems are detected early and are treated before they become more serious.
Your hygienist will do a professional cleaning of your teeth, removing plaque and tartar as well as any staining that can be removed. She will evaluate the health of your gum tissue to determine if there is the presence of gingivitis or periodontal disease. She will make sure all your teeth are in good condition and discuss any medications you might be taking that affect your oral health. She will also inform patients of issues that are relevant to his or her individual oral health and discuss any concerns they may have.
Your doctor will come in to do an examination and review the hygienist’s findings. He/she will diagnose any conditions you may have as well as treatment you may need. The doctor will also perform a head and neck exam, checking lymph nodes, tongue and oral tissues for any abnormalities or signs of oral cancer. He/she can answer any questions you may have at that time.
GUM DISEASE (PERIODONTITIS)
Gum disease, or Periodontitis, is swelling or soreness of the gums (the soft tissue around and supporting your teeth). It is caused by the bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth. The plaque bacteria have toxins that infect and inflame the gums. If you do not remove plaque by brushing and flossing your teeth, it can build up and infect your gums, teeth and the bone that supports them. If not treated, you can lose your teeth.
The signs of gum disease are not always easy to see and can be painless. The earlier gum disease is detected, the easier it is to treat. Our hygienists are experts at detecting gum disease and use periodontal measurements to determine the level of gum disease a patient may have.
Mild periodontitis (known as gingivitis) is the first stage of gum disease. Your gums may feel tender and you may see bleeding when you brush or floss. Gingivitis can be controlled by having a hygienist clean you teeth on a regular basis and maintaining a strict routine of proper brushing and flossing at home. Our hygienists instruct patients on proper techniques for brushing and flossing their teeth.
At this stage, plaque spreads to your tooth roots causing an infection which can damage the bone fibers that hold teeth in place. Your gums begin to pull away from your teeth. Scaling and root planning by the hygienist may be recommended.
Scaling and root planning is a method of treatment in which plaque and tartar (hardened, calcified plaque) are removed beneath the gum line. An instrument called a scaler or an ultrasonic cleaner are used to remove plaque and tartar and the root surfaces of the teeth are smoothed. This procedure makes it more difficult for plaque to accumulate along the root surface and allows the gum tissue to heal. Often medications are also used to aid healing and help control infection. Follow-up visits and brushing and flossing instructions are also part of your treatment.
Advanced or Severe Periodontitis
In this stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone holding your teeth are severely damaged. There is usually some bone loss and teeth loosen and shift.
If diagnosed before the disease becomes too severe, it can be treated by a specialist called a Periodontist. With meticulous home care and frequent follow-up treatment, your teeth can be saved. In some very extreme cases there is no other treatment than to remove the teeth.
The good news is that periodontitis can be treated and controlled if diagnosed early and managed through meticulous home care and regular dental visits!