Dental Hygiene / Periodontal Health
In addition to the meticulous cleaning, polishing and examination of your teeth, we help our patients to practice healthy oral hygiene habits at home. We will evaluate your hygiene routine and suggest improvements if needed, as well as any preventative measures such as dental sealants or nightguards to protect against bruxism (teeth grinding) and TemporoMandibular Joint (TMJ) disease. If you suffer from gingivitis or more severe gum disease, we may recommend a scaling and root-planing procedure. These measures can be instrumental in preventing bone loss and saving your natural teeth.
Keep in mind that proper dental care is about much more than a beautiful smile — it is vitally important to maintaining good health. Recently, researchers have discovered a close tie between periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pre-term and low-birth-weight babies, cancer, Alzheimer’s, respiratory and kidney diseases, plus others. New research continues to verify this systemic connection between oral health and overall health, and it’s estimated that keeping teeth and gums healthy can increase life expectancy by 10 years or more. This is especially true for patients who are at increased risk of heart attack, diabetes or are pregnant.
The link between your periodontal condition and your general health is a strong one, so preventing and treating gum disease can literally save your life!
Non-Surgical Treatment of Gum Disease
Phase Contrast Microscope
We are one of the few practices using the phase contrast microscope to help diagnose gum disease and evaluate its treatment. This microscope enables us to view the bacteria under your gums to determine if it is the bone-destroying infectious type. Because it’s connected to a monitor, you’ll be able to see the problem too, as well as improvements due to treatment.
Measuring For Bone Loss
At periodic intervals, we will measure to see if you’re experiencing bone loss around your teeth. This painless measurement is a simple process that helps keep gum disease under control.
Oral Cancer Screenings
During your dental exam, we’ll check your neck and mouth for lumps, red or white patches or recurring sore areas. Screening for early changes in the oral tissue can help detect cancer at an early stage, when it can be more successfully treated.
Smoking, especially combined with heavy alcohol consumption (30 drinks a week or more), is the primary risk factor and likely trigger for about 75 percent of oral cancers diagnosed in this country. Other lifestyle and environmental factors may also change your risk of developing oral cancer — we’ll review them in detail during your visit.
Scaling & Root Planing
Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical procedure to remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line, cleaning and smoothing the root surfaces with specially designed instruments. Plaque and tartar must be minimized, because aside from the bacterial toxins that irritate the gums, plaque and the rough surfaces of tartar make it easier for additional bacteria to gain a foothold. We’ll also insert medication under the gums to help control periodontal disease.
Testing For Periodontal (Gum) Disease
During your checkup, we’ll conduct a thorough periodontal examination. Using a periodontal probe, we’ll gently measure the pocket space between each tooth and gum to determine the depth of periodontal pockets. Generally, the more severe the disease, the greater the pocket depth. We’ll also use the phase contrast microscope to determine if bone destroying bacteria are present, and to evaluate the extent of infection. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far it has progressed.
The first step is usually a thorough cleaning that may include scaling to remove plaque and tartar deposits below the gum line. We may plane and smooth the root surfaces, allowing the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the tooth. In some cases, your occlusion (bite) may require adjustment as well.
Antibiotics or irrigation with antimicrobials (chemical agents or mouth rinses) may be recommended to help control the growth of bacteria that cause periodontitis (inflammation of the gums). In some cases, we’ll place antibiotic fibers in the periodontal pockets after scaling and root planing, to control infection and encourage normal healing.
When deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, it is difficult to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar. Patients are rarely, if ever, able to keep these pockets clean. Consequently, if non-surgical methods are unsuccessful, surgery may be needed to restore periodontal health. The good news is that most periodontal disease can be effectively treated, eliminating sore gums and the more serious problems that can ensue.