3 things to know about gum disease, scaling and deep cleaning

Nearly half of American adults have some form of periodontal disease, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it’s a serious condition, periodontal disease is preventable and treatable. Here are three things to know about gum disease and deep cleaning of your teeth.

  1. Symptoms – Many people with gum disease are not aware of the problem. Often the disease is painless. Common signs are:
    • Bad breath
    • Loose teeth
    • Gums that are red, swollen, bleed easily, or pull away from the tooth
    • Pus around the teeth and gums
  2. Diagnosis – Every six months, schedule a checkup and cleaning appointment with your dental professional. They will remove plaque, polish tooth surfaces, and check the healthiness of gum tissue with a periodontal probe. This helps the dentist determine if gums have pulled away from teeth, bleed easily or have pockets that may have formed around the teeth. Periodontal pockets deeper than 4 to 5 millimeters may indicate the presence of bacteria. It’s important to remove the bacteria to protect bone structures and prevent tooth loss.
  3. Deep cleaning – For patients with deep periodontal pockets, and those with chronic gum disease, the dentist may recommend deep cleaning which involves scaling and root planing.
    • Scaling – During the procedure, a dental professional will remove plaque and tartar, a buildup of a yellowish-brown mineral, along and under the gums. These areas are not easily reached with regular tooth brushing, flossing or regular dental cleanings.
    • Root planing – This procedure involves cleaning the tooth roots using dental instruments or a laser to remove rough spots where bacteria can collect. This helps clean out bacteria that can lead to more serious gum problems.
    • Follow-up care – The dentist will prescribe an antibiotic for the infection and an over-the-counter pain reliever to ease any discomfort. The dentist may recommend follow-up appointments to verify healing, confirm the removal of bacteria and monitor your oral health.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Dental Association
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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