‘Deep Cleaning’ – What Is It And How Can It Be Avoided?

Our Chelmsford periodontist explains what a deep clean, or ‘root planing’ is and how to avoid it.

Dr Edward Sammut - Specialist DentistOver the years that we have been posting our blogs, we have tried to instil in our Chelmsford patients the importance of looking after not only our teeth, but our gums too. Gum diseases are responsible for a significant amount of tooth loss; the tragedy being that it is, by and large, fairly straightforward to avoid.

Gum disease is caused by a buildup of bacteria that attacks the gum tissue. It can also cause further damage to the roots of our teeth and the surrounding bone material. As our teeth rely on healthy jawbone tissue to hold them in position, where this is compromised, teeth can become loose and even fall out.

At Blue Sky Dental, whilst we do encourage patients to take care to avoid this happening, there are ways that we can treat or manage it when it does occur.

Hygienist appointments

In addition to good home cleaning with regular brushing and flossing, patients should also see a dental hygienist every six months. This enables us to offer advice on better ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy, based upon what we detect when your teeth are examined. The scale and polish procedure provided by the hygienist is also an important step in gum disease control and management. It removes hardened bacteria and mineral deposits from the teeth and gum line by breaking it up with a sonic tool before a high speed brush is used to remove the rest of it.

For those in a higher risk group such as diabetics or heavy smokers, we recommend that more frequent cleaning is undertaken, usually around every three or four months.

For those who don’t see a hygienist, and especially where poor home oral care is present, there is a real risk that what may otherwise be a relatively mild, and treatable, case of gingivitis can result in periodontitis, a more advanced form of the problem that is more difficult to treat.

Treating periodontitis

Once the effects of gum disease have taken hold below the gumline, one of the key treatments to try to prevent further damage is a ‘deep clean’, also known as ‘root planing’. This can’t be done by a hygienist and will have to be performed by a specialist dentist known as a periodontist. The aim of this procedure is to remove bacteria from areas not only above but also below the gumline. This potentially makes the procedure uncomfortable and therefore will usually be performed using a local anaesthetic.

In addition to bacteria, mineral deposits can also collect on the root of the tooth and also on the surrounding bone. This rough surface will help bacteria stick to it, worsening the problem. Where the problem is not resolved the bone can deteriorate and cause the teeth to work loose and even fall out.

Although this is the most effective procedure available when gum disease becomes this advanced, success is not guaranteed and we can’t stress enough, the need for our Chelmsford patients to really take good care of their gums and not rely on a ‘last chance’ treatment to save their teeth.

Prevention of gum disease

Keeping both teeth and gums healthy is not that difficult to do. Essentially, it requires us to clean them well and to make sure that this becomes an important part of our daily routine. Brushing our teeth isn’t about making our mouths feel fresher (although it does that as well). It is designed to remove both food and bacteria not only from the surface of the teeth, but from between them and in the gum pockets too.

Brushing is the first thing that we need to get right. A brush no older than 3 months should be used (or the same time applied to an electric brush head). The bristles should be angled towards the gums so that they can reach underneath. We generally prefer patients to use an electric toothbrush as these are more efficient, although a manual one can still work if you take care. Finally, you should always use a toothpaste containing fluoride and brush for at least 2 minutes.

There are toothpastes available that ‘target’ gum disease. Amongst other inngredients, these contain sodium bicarbonate which helps to break down the bacteria and, out of all of the ‘targeted’ toothpastes, are worth investigating if you want to help keep your gums healthy.

You should also use dental floss or interdental brushes to remove bacteria from between the teeth as toothbrushes are generally not that efficient at cleaning in these areas.

If you smoke, you should certianly try to stop as smoking is a leading contributor to gum disease as well as oral cancer. Excessive or regular alcohol consumption is also a contributor and should be managed within health guidelines.

Even with the best home cleaning, most patients will need a regular scale and polish to prevent and manage gum disease. If you have never seen a dental hygienist, or haven’t for some time, please make it a New Year’s resolution to make this a regular part of your dental care. You can make your appointment by calling Blue Sky Dental today on 01245 211070 and our team looks forward to booking you in.

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