Good home care is necessary to maintain good oral health and reduce plaque but it is never perfect and build up will eventually occur. Over time the plaque that hardens between your teeth and at the gum line is called tartar (or calculus) and this requires a professional cleaning to remove.
The in-office dental cleaning, also called a professional dental cleaning, is performed by your team's Registered Dental Hygienist. There are different levels of cleanings that can be performed depending on the level of buildup on your teeth and the condition of your gums. Typically a general dental exam is performed at the same appointment as your in-office cleaning.
What is the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar:
Plaque is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva that forms a sticky white film on the surface of your teeth. Daily removal of this plaque is very important to your overall health because the bacteria in the plaque produce toxins that will break down tooth structure resulting in cavities and cause inflammation of your gums. This inflammation (gingivitis) can lead to periodontal disease which has been linked to many other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, premature birth, and low birth weights. Tartar, also known as calculus, is plaque that has been left on the tooth so long that it has hardened and calcified. It can be found above and below the gum line and requires special dental instruments to remove.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps protect against cavities. When placed as a topical fluoride (rinse, varnish or foam) the teeth absorb it and become stronger against tooth decay.
What Happens in a Basic Dental Cleaning:
During your cleaning the hygienist will use a variety of tools to remove the plaque, tartar, and debris from your teeth. These tools include a small mirror, a variety of scalers (tools with a small hook on the end), a tooth polisher with a variety of small heads, a water stream, and a suction hose. The scalers are used to remove the hardened bits of tartar from the difficult to reach areas of your mouth, in between teeth, at the gum line, and behind your front teeth. When all of the hardened tartar is removed the hygienist will polish your teeth using a flavored paste. This removes any soft plaque and the grittiness in the paste polishes your enamel for smooth and slick feeling teeth, making it harder for plaque to accumulate in the future. Finally your hygienist will floss your teeth making sure to remove any last bit of plaque from between the teeth and any left over polishing paste. Sensitive or inflamed gums may bleed a little. Throughout this whole appointment instructions will be given on helping to get the best quality of cleaning at home.
What Happens During a Deep Cleaning:
Every year our team will check your supporting tissue for signs of gum disease using the small measuring stick, or probe, around each tooth and measuring the space between the tooth and the gum tissue. Active gum disease is noted when the pocket depths between the teeth and gums are more than 4mm and/or bleeding occurs. If this diagnosis is made your doctor will likely recommend a “deep cleaning”, also known as scaling and root planning, to eliminate the infection and heal the tissues.
Scaling and root planing are procedures that are performed around, below, and under, the gum line, of crowns and roots of affected teeth, to remove bacterial deposits. It is similar to the procedure described above except that the scaling is more extensive and deeper under the gums. The removal of plaque and tartar from the root surfaces is accomplished using scalers or curettes (similar to scalers but with a longer reach) and ultrasonic tools to vibrate the debris off of the tooth and out of the deep pockets. The hygienist will then irrigate the tissue, possibly using an antimicrobial rinse, to remove any residual bacteria and begin the healing process. Many of our patients prefer to have this type of cleaning performed while they are numb.
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