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What Is The Difference Between Periodontal Maintenance and Regular Dental Cleanings (prophylaxis)?

What is Periodontal Maintenance?

Periodontal maintenance is a routine appointment, usually every 2-4 months, that includes reviewing any changes in your overall health or medications, a thorough oral evaluation, meticulous cleaning, both above and below the gums, oral health education, and review any recommendations for improved home care.  They require more skill and expertise than a regular prophylaxis appointment.

Here’s what happens during a periodontal maintenance procedure.

  • Check pocket depth– A “pocket” is the space between your gums and teeth, and usually implies bone loss. This pocket is where bacterial plaque forms deep under the gums. In a healthy mouth, your gums should be tightly attached to your teeth and the “pocket measurement” should be very shallow (between 1 to 3 millimeters). But as the bacterial plaque continues to grow, your immune cells begin fighting back, destroying the attachment of the gums to the tooth root, and eventually destroying supporting bone in the process.  As a result, the pocket measurements get bigger as the plaque grows deeper and deeper.
    During periodontal maintenance appointments, San Diego patients will be thoroughly examined for the presence of any deep pockets or signs of inflammation. Dr. Beck uses a small narrow ruler, called a probe, to gently measure how deep the pockets are.
  • Thorough cleaning– Part of the periodontal maintenance includes meticulous cleaning to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria from above and below the gum line.
  • Root scaling– Because gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the tooth, bacterial plaque can collect deep under the gums, along the root of the tooth, eventually hardening onto the roots like barnacles on a boat or limescale on a shower faucet.
    Root scaling is the process of removing this hardened plaque and “smoothing” out the root to eliminate any irregularities that may make plaque removal more difficult in the future.
  • X-rays– One final part of periodontal maintenance is examining the health of the bone supporting your teeth.  X-rays are an essential part of for disease progression. They are taken yearly to check for any bone loss, cavities, or other possible infections.

What Is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis, commonly called gum disease, is a chronic inflammatory disease that is triggered by microscopic bacterial colonies that grow on your teeth.  We call this plaque, the sticky substance that forms on your teeth throughout the day and while you sleep.

Other chronic inflammatory diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, asthma, Chron’s disease, tuberculosis, and some forms of hepatitis.  They are called chronic because you will always have the potential for disease progression and extra precautions need to be taken to maintain optimal health.

How does plaque trigger periodontitis?  As the bacteria-filled plaque builds up, more and more toxins are released into the gum surround your teeth, triggering your immune system to fight back.  As a result, your gums become swollen, inflamed, red, and can start to bleed even when touched softly.

The longer the plaque remains on your teeth, the more intense the inflammation, and the gums begin to pull away from your teeth, allowing the plaque to grow deep under your gums, eventually causing the bone around the teeth to deteriorate.  Teeth become loose and may even need to be removed.  Surprisingly, periodontitis usually doesn’t hurt and people are completely unaware this is occurring until it is discovered during a dental exam.

Periodontitis can cause gum recession, tooth loss, and bone degeneration. Because periodontitis is a result of ones immune system being heightened over a long period of time, and both the bacterial toxins and activated immune cells float through your entire body, periodontitis can damage organs far away from your mouth.  If you take precautions to live a healthy lifestyle for a long happy life, healthy gums are essential.

Once someone completes treatment for periodontitis, periodontal maintenance is the next critical step. San Diego patients who suffer from gum disease will almost always require regular periodontal maintenance to prevent inflammation from recurring.

What is Prophylactic Dental Care?

The word prophylaxis simply means “to prevent disease.” So when you go to your dentist every 6 months to get a cleaning and x-rays, dentists refer to that type of procedure as a dental prophylaxis because it is intended to prevent disease in an otherwise healthy mouth.

San Diego patients who suffer from periodontitis usually are not eligible for this kind of prophylactic dental care because they have already the disease.

The health of your gums and your teeth can have a tremendous impact on your overall health. Gum disease has been linked to many medical conditions and disease including stroke, diabetes, heart disease, early dimentia, alzheimers, and even several cancers. That’s why dentists recommend that San Diego patients go get their teeth cleaned and inspected at least twice per year.

But while many patients are familiar with the regular cleaning they get every 6 months, not everyone is aware of the need for periodontal maintenance on a more frequent basis.

San Diego patients who have suffered from gum disease need periodontal maintenance in order to prevent the disease from returning and continued destruction of their gum and bone. This type of procedure is different from the routine cleanings, called a prophylaxis, which is intended only for patients who have never had gum disease and serves to maintain their excellent oral health and prevent cavities.  Periodontal maintenance, on the other hand, is specific for patients who have received treatment for gum disease at any time in their lives.

Once someone has had gum disease, they are always susceptible to it in the future, and need special attention on the maintaining their disease-free gums.  These appointments take longer than a routine prophylactic cleaning and great care is taken to closely inspect their teeth and gums so that any problem can be caught early and treated before developing into a bigger (and more expensive) problem.

As a board certified periodontist, Dr. Beck provides some of the absolute best periodontal care in the nation. If you think you might be suffering from gum disease or if your gums are inflamed, bleeding, or sore, call us immediately at (858) 924 0191. We even offer customized sedation options for our patients in San Diego who experience anxiety about going to the dentist.

We want all of our patients to feel totally relaxed and comfortable during their visits with us. Call us today to find out more about our headphones, movie glasses, aromatherapy, warm blankets, and other ways we help our patients reduce stress and anxiety, so they can be comfortable and relaxed during their visits.

Gum disease can cause tremendous harm to your overall health and should be treated as soon as possible. After you call, the first step will be for us to setup a time for you to come into our office, meet Dr. Beck, and discuss your concerns and questions with her. From there, Dr. Beck will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan that fits your needs and get you back on the road towards optimal health.

Why Choose Dr. Beck for your Periodontal Maintenance

On top of getting her Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from UCLA, Dr. Beck also spent an additional 3 years in a full-time postgraduate program focused on the treatment and management of periodontal disease and oral health. Her rigorous studies and research has been published in prestigious medical journals read by dentists and scholars around the world.

Dr. Beck has also achieved the absolute highest level of academic excellence in the field of periodontics as a Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. Plus, Dr. Beck was also recently honored by the UCSD School of Medicine as a Volunteer Clinical Instructor with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health.

If you’re tired of having your gums bleed whenever you brush or if you’re ready to get rid of your sore, inflamed gums, call Dr. Beck today at (858) 924 0191. Gum disease is not something to ignore and it’s always best to have it taken care of before it gets worse. If you struggle with anxiety about going to the dentist, call today to find out about our sedation options, because your health and comfort are our number one priority.

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