The Difference Between Cleanings, Deep Cleanings & Periodontal Maintenance

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.

Dental Crowns 101

Dental Crowns 101

creating dental caps or crownsDental crowns, or caps, are one of the most common restorative dental procedures that dentists perform. If you’ve been told you need a crown, there’s no reason to worry. Dental crowns allow us to restore your smile both functionally & aesthetically, & modern techniques mean we can complete the procedure faster than in the past.

First, let’s review the anatomy of a tooth. Each tooth comprises two parts: a crown, which is the visible part outside your gums, & a root or roots, which are embedded in your gums & jaw bone. Sometimes when you hear a dentist say the word crown, they’re referring to the visible part of your tooth, & other times they may be talking about an artificial crown that is used to repair a tooth.

Most of the time, when your tooth is damaged by decay or an accident, a filling or bonding is all that you’ll need to restore your tooth. However, sometimes tooth decay or damage is extensive enough that the dentist will recommend replacing the entire outer structure of your tooth. This restoration is what we call a crown (also commonly called a cap).

The dentist will start by removing some of the outer structure of your tooth. Then, they will attach the crown using a permanent adhesive cement. This crown will have been made ahead of time to match the shape, size & even the color of your tooth.

In the past, the only option for dental crowns was a metal restoration, made from precious metal, semi-precious metal, or a metal alloy. These days, however, dental materials technology has advanced to the point that there are several kinds of tooth-colored crown materials available. Most of these crown materials are some kind of porcelain, which can be made to resemble tooth enamel both in color, texture & the way it reflects light.

Commonly, these modern tooth-colored crowns will be manufactured by a dental laboratory that your dentist works closely with. The dentist will match the crown to the color of your tooth using a guide, then pass this information on to a laboratory technician, who handcrafts your custom crown.

Alternatively, modern 3-D scanning & milling technology has allowed dentists to bring this process in-office. Instead of sending information to a lab & having them send back a custom crown, computerized scanner & computer-controlled milling machines located right in the office can carry out this process. The use of this state-of-the-art technology means that dental crowns can be created & placed in your mouth much faster than ever before.

If you’ve been told you need a dental crown, keep in mind that because there are many types of materials available to make crowns, you can have some control over the price of your tooth restoration. However, we must emphasize that your dentist will always encourage an option that returns your tooth to the function & appearance of your original tooth. When cared for using a standard dental hygiene routine of brushing, flossing & 6-month checkups, a crown is expected to last a lifetime.

Signs of a Cavity

dentist pointing out signs of a cavity on dental x-rayCavities, or tooth decay, is a fairly common dental ailment, particularly in children or young adults. Even though most of our patients are familiar with what cavities are, we find that many are still surprised when we tell them they have a cavity! That’s because many cavities, especially early on, do not cause tooth pain & may not be visible to the untrained eye. So we’ve provided the following basic information about the signs of cavities so that you’ll be better informed in the hopefully unlikely event that we tell you you’ve got a cavity.

White Spots

White spots may appear on your teeth as a sign of early decay. These white spots are a sign of where minerals have been lost from the surface of your teeth. Luckily, when these white spots appear, it’s not too late. At this point, the development of a cavity can be stopped or reversed. Your tooth enamel can repair the damage naturally using minerals such a fluoride, found in saliva, fluoride toothpaste, & other sources such as fluoridated drinking water. These things can also help prevent decay in the first place by making your teeth stronger.

Brown Spots

Light or dark brown spots on your teeth are a sign of a more progressed cavity. These spots are where your tooth’s structure has started to soften & dissolve. You are most likely to see these spots on front teeth or the tops of molars. However, they can also exist between your teeth without being visible. That’s why it’s important to visit the dentist for cleanings & checkups. The dentist has techniques & technology for detecting cavities that are not easily visible otherwise.

Tooth Pain or Sensitivity

First of all, we should note that many cavities do not cause a toothache! You can have no pain or sensitivity at all & still have a cavity that is getting bad. However, if you do experience pain or sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods, this is a big sign that you may have a cavity.

Always call us right away if you have a toothache! The sooner we see you the sooner you’ll be out of pain.

Dark Spots on Your X-Rays

Typically, we take x-rays of your teeth every 12 months (roughly once a year) to get a deeper understanding of the health of your teeth. While dental x-rays have many uses for diagnosis & treatment of dental health issues, one of the primary purposes of getting x-rays regularly is to give the dentist an opportunity to check for cavities between your teeth (which dentists call inter-proximal caries) which might not be detectable otherwise. These cavities between your teeth show up as dark spots that the dentist is trained to identify.

Treatment for Cavities

Treatments for cavities vary depending on the severity & location of the cavity, & your individual dental health. Most of the time, a cavity that is caught early enough just results in a filling. In more serious cases, you may need a crown (i.e. a cap) to restore a tooth that has been extensively damaged by decay. If caught early enough, some micro-cavities can even be reversed using re-mineralization treatments to strengthen your enamel. If you suspect you may have a cavity, please contact us for an appointment right away. No matter what, we’ll keep checking your smile for cavities at your regular check-up & cleaning.

 

Your Intro to Dental Implants

info about dental implantsDental implants are the latest & greatest in dental technology that allows dentist to replace missing teeth permanently. You may know that implants can replace teeth & are used in complete smile reconstructions & makeovers. But you may also not be sure exactly what dental implants are, & how they work.

That’s why we’ve written this simple & quick intro to dental implants. If you want more detail about the implant procedure or want to find out if you’re a good candidate for dental implants, please call us to schedule an implant consultation visit.

First, we want to familiarize you with how natural teeth work. Natural teeth consist of a crown, which is the visible part of tooth that’s outside the gums, & a root, which is under the gums & attached to the bone of your jaw. Your smaller front teeth tend to have one root each while the larger teeth toward the back of your mouth (molars & bicuspids) tend to have more than one. The root of your teeth contain the nerve & the pulp, which nourish the inside of a healthy tooth. When this pulp becomes damaged or infected, that’s when the dentist tells you you need a root canal, a procedure which can save your tooth even when the pulp is compromised.

Traditional tooth replacement options such as bridges (partials) & dentures only structurally replaced the crown part of your missing tooth. Bridges or partials replace your tooth by attaching an artificial tooth to the healthy teeth nearby. Dentures replace an entire upper or lower arch of teeth & visually replace the gums too for a natural look. Neither of these options anchor replacement teeth in your jaw or gums, which means that people with these appliances have to avoid many foods & may experience slipping or discomfort when eating or speaking.

With the quickly-advancing technology of dental implants, we can finally offer a restorative dentistry option that replaces your missing teeth both visually & functionally.

Dental implants actually consist of two parts, just like your natural teeth. The implant itself acts as an artificial tooth root & is secured in the bone of your jaw just like a real root. Implants are made of a special kind of bio-safe titanium. Both this special metal & the screw-like shape of the implant’s lower portion are designed so that bone will grow around it, keeping it tightly in place.

The second part of the dental implant is the crown. This is an artificial tooth that is made of porcelain & is custom designed by a dental technician to match the color, size & shape of your natural teeth. It is attached to the metal implant using a permanent dental adhesive.

Once the procedure is complete & the patient has healed, they will have fully functional teeth that are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth. The result is a return to eating any of the foods you want, speaking naturally, smiling confidently & being free of dental pain.

It’s true that dental implants cost more than most tooth replacement options such as bridges or dentures. If your biggest concern is cost, you may consider these other options. However, if you biggest concern is your longterm comfort, health & quality of life, implants are your best option.

Replacing Missing Teeth: Dentures vs. Dental Implants

woman choosing dentures or dental implantsWhether you’ve lost teeth to decay, periodontal disease or an accident, we know that having a missing tooth can be embarrassing, inconvenient & often very uncomfortable. Luckily, there are many options for restoring your teeth, but with so many options, there is also some confusion. In this post we’re going to break down the choice between dentures & dental implants for replacing missing teeth.

What Are Dentures?

Dentures are a set of false teeth that fit over the gums (full dentures) or clip into place on existing teeth (partial dentures). You can get dentures for your upper teeth, your lower teeth, or both. Dentures also have a gum-colored acrylic base that can be matched to the color of your actual gums to look natural.

Pros of Dentures
  • Dentures are less expensive than implants, usually ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on quality.
  • Getting dentures is a fairly quick & painless process that doesn’t involve surgery.
  • Dentures are covered by most dental insurance plans.
  • Dentures can restore a more youthful look to your face by supporting lips & cheeks & fixing the sunken look created by tooth loss.
Cons of Dentures
  • Bone loss over time causes dentures to eventually stop fitting properly. Dentures will need to be adjusted or replaced.
  • Dentures need to be removed & cleaned thoroughly on a daily basis.
  • Dentures need to be removed at night to give the gums time to rest.
  • Dentures can often slip out of place, causing problems when eating or speaking.
  • Food can get caught under dentures causing discomfort & potential for infections.
  • People with dentures have to avoid eating many foods, leading to a less satisfying & nutritious diet.
What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are an artificial tooth root made from a titanium metal post. The implant is inserted into the bone of the jaw under the gums, where it can act as the foundation for an artificial tooth, called a crown, to be permanently attached with a dental cement. Dental implants have ridges on them that make them resemble screws. The purpose of these ridges is actually to give the bone of your jaw more surface area to hold onto & grow around, a process called osseointegration. Once in place, dental implants & crowns are nearly indistinguishable from natural teeth & function just like them too.

Pros of Dental Implants
  • Presence of the implant allows the pressure of chewing & biting to be transferred into your bone, promotion bone growth. Without this pressure, such as with dentures, bone loss begins to occur.
  • People with dental implants can eat essentially anything that someone with natural teeth can eat. There are not dietary restrictions.
  • Dental implants are permanent & can be cleaned easily with brushing & flossing just like natural teeth.
  • Dental implants are permanent & can last a lifetime, meaning less cost for maintenance into the future.
  • Dental implants can also restore a more youthful look to your face by supporting your lips & cheeks just as natural teeth would.
Cons of Dental Implants
  • Dental implants cost more than dentures, usually a few thousand for each individual implant & crown.
  • Dental implants involve oral surgery & some minimal post-operative discomfort.
  • Dental implants sometimes involve several months of healing time before the treatment is complete (3-6 months between implant placement & final crown placement).
  • Implants are sometimes considered a cosmetic procedure & not medically necessary by insurance companies & are therefore not covered by some dental plans.

 

Ultimately, most dentists will strongly encourage the use of implants for replacing missing teeth. Dentists know that dental implants are the best choice for both your oral health & your comfort.  As much as we think about teeth on a daily basis, we don’t want you to have to think of yours constantly! Once a patient’s implants are placed & healed, they can return to a life with a fully functional smile.

Like any dental procedure, your choice of which treatment to undergo & the results you can expect all depend in your individual dental condition. When we make a recommendation of treatment for replacing missing teeth, we take your current oral health, your health history, your ultimate goals & your financial preferences into account. If you’re interested in either dentures or dental implants, please arrange a consultation with us.