Dental cleanings are an essential part of ensuring optimal oral health at every age, helping to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria that cause tooth decay and tooth loss while also providing an opportunity to screen for issues like oral cancer and gum disease. Cleanings begin with a visual examination to look for obvious issues. Then, each tooth is carefully cleaned using gentle abrasives and special instruments to remove tartar and plaque from the tooth surfaces, between teeth and along the gumline. During cleaning, the gums will be evaluated to look for signs of disease, including receding gums and redness. Oral cancer screening will also be performed. Finally, recommendations may be made to help improve brushing and flossing techniques to keep teeth in top shape between appointments.
Ideally, teeth should be professionally cleaned every three to six months to remove built-up bacteria that can cause gum disease.
Gum disease can cause different symptoms depending on the extent of the disease. In its early stages, gums may be red and tender with early signs of recession, exposing more of the tooth surface. As the disease progresses, gums can become sore and infection around the roots can cause chronic bad breath. Eventually, the tooth roots will become weak, causing teeth to become loose and eventually fall out.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the U.S. Routine dental cleanings play a critical role in identifying gum disease in its earliest stages when treatment is simplest. Mild gum disease usually can be treated with frequent cleanings to reestablish gum health. More advanced gum disease (also called periodontitis) is treated with deeper cleaning techniques called root planing and scaling that use special instruments to reach below the gums and around the root to remove bacteria. Root planing and scaling are often combined with antibiotics to destroy bacteria in areas that are difficult to reach.
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