Category Archives: Gum Disease/Periodontal Disease

The Difference Between Cleanings, Deep Cleanings & Periodontal Maintenance

dentist ready to perform scaling and root planingThere is more than one type of dental procedure that may be casually referred to as a cleaning. For example, there is a regular cleaning & then there is what is referred to a deep cleaning. It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between these procedures & implications that  each of these procedures have when it comes to your oral health.

Regular Cleaning or Prophylaxis

A regular cleaning, which is called prophylaxis by dental professionals, is what most people think of when they think of going to the dentist for a checkup. Prophylaxis involves removing plaque, calculus & stains from teeth. (Plaque is a sticky substance that builds up on teeth as a byproduct of bacteria feasting on the food you eat. Calculus, also known as tartar, occurs when plaque & minerals in your mouth harden.) A dental hygienist or a dentist uses a specialized cleaning device, called an ultrasonic scaler, to remove plaque & calculus. This cleaning occurs only on the visible part of the tooth, known as a the crown.

Regular cleaning is only recommended for patients who have generally good oral health & do not suffer from bone loss or gum problems (bleeding, recession, infection, etc.)

Scaling & Root Planing or Deep Cleanings

Root planing is a procedure that involves removing tartar, bacteria, toxic deposits from the root of a tooth, all the way down to where gum & bone meet. While it is sometimes casually referred to as a “deep cleaning”, you should know that this treatment is quite different from prophylaxis. This procedure is required as a treatment for periodontal disease or periodontitis (commonly called gum disease, though it also affects the bone).

Many people can have periodontal disease & not even know it. Symptoms of the disease include bleeding gums, bad breath, teeth that look longer due to recessed gums, & swollen or red gums. However, many people do not notice any symptoms at all. That’s why it may come as a surprise when your dentist recommends scaling & root planing instead of a regular cleaning. It’s important to understand that this procedure is vital to getting periodontal disease under control & avoid future tooth loss, though other procedures including surgery may be required to treat the disease.

Periodontal Maintenance

Once you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease & have undergone scaling & root planing, periodontal maintenance is what you can think of as taking the place of prophylaxis in your dental care routine. Rather than just addressing the just crowns of your teeth as in prophylaxis, periodontal maintenance also cares for your tooth roots, gums & bone. In other words, think of it as cleaning & maintenance for the tissues affected by your periodontal disease. The frequency of your periodontal maintenance appointments depends on your individual oral health condition & will be determined by your dentist.

What’s unique about Columbia #31:  Columbia has three artificial lakes: Wilde Lake, Lake Kittamaqundi, & Lake Elkhorn.

What’s a Periodontist & Why Do I Need One?

woman wondering about going to periodontistYou’re used to going to the dentist & just seeing the doctor, the hygienist & maybe a dental assistant. But now you’ve been told you need to see a periodontist too. Now you’re thinking, “Perio-what?”

If you’ve never heard the word periodontist, don’t worry. To put it plainly, a periodontist is a dentist who specializes in caring for your gums & the other supporting tissues of your mouth. “Peri-” means “around” & “odont” means “tooth”. Periodontal means having to do with the tissues around your teeth & periodontitis means infection of the tissues around your teeth.

Dentist usually refer patients to a periodontist because they have periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. While general dentists are also qualified to treat periodontal disease, periodontists can offer more specialized care and attention, just like an orthodontist can offer more specialized braces options that most general dentists.

Dentists may also refer you to a periodontist if you have health factors that put you at higher risk of periodontal disease & it’s complications. Examples of such risk factors are pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease or having recently undergone cancer treatment or organ replacement surgery.

While a dentist may choose to treat your periodontal disease at their own practice at first, they may choose to refer you to a periodontist if they feel a specialist will be able to offer you a more successful outcome. By the way, when we say a more successful outcome when it comes to periodontal disease, we generally mean you’ll end up keeping most of your teeth.

As you may have realized from the explanation about terminology above, periodontal disease is a disease of the tissues around your mouth. Specifically this means your gums & the bone of your jaws, which are what hold your teeth in your mouth. If these both become diseased & weakened, your teeth can fall out. Having periodontal treatment (often called periodontal maintenance) from either a periodontist or your general dentist reduces the chance you will lose a tooth.

We know that some periodontal patients view going to see a periodontist for their treatment as an inconvenience, so we will do our best to pair you with a specialist who’s hours fit your busy schedule. However, if you find that you just can’t make the time to go to the periodontist, we’d much rather you see us for your periodontal maintenance rather than not doing it at all.

If you have any questions about your referral to a periodontist or your diagnosis of periodontal disease, please contact us!

What’s unique about Columbia #29: The Middle Patuxent River & Little Patuxent River both run through Columbia.