Dental cleanings are preventative treatments designed to halt gum disease and the formation of cavities. The dental cleaning process uses tooth scaling and tooth polishing techniques to gently remove plaque and tartar from the teeth. Plaque and tartar are types of debris that naturally accumulate on the teeth and at the gum line. If not professionally removed, plaque and tartar can house bacteria that will damage tooth and gum structures.
Built-up plaque and tartar can cause gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. When a patient has gingivitis, he or she will have slightly swollen gums, which are caused by their body’s immune system response to bacteria on the teeth and gums. If bacteria and plaque are allowed to remain on the teeth for long periods of time, the patient’s prolonged inflammatory immune response can cause permanent damage to the gums and the bone holding the teeth.
Periodontal disease is a long-term (chronic) infection of the gums. It is caused when a person’s teeth are exposed to residual plaque and bacteria for prolonged periods. A patient with periodontal disease will have reddened, highly sensitive gums, with infections (pus pockets) at the base of the teeth. The patient may also have persistent bad breath or gums that bleed easily.
When left untreated, periodontal disease can cause the teeth to become loose or to fall out. Periodontal disease is treated through use of oral antibiotics and antibiotic mouthwashes in combination with regular cleaning, scaling, and flossing. Severe cases may need to consult a periodontal specialist to discuss more aggressive treatments, such as gum surgery.