Preventing gum disease and, ultimately, tooth loss is one of the chief reasons to be diligent about oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly. But if you haven’t always been thorough about your dental care, you may have gum disease (AKA gingivitis) or more serious complications. The good news is, these can be treated and do not have to result in tooth extraction or other health problems. This is where dental deep cleaning comes in, also known as Scaling and Root Planing (SRP). Many patients wonder when or if dental deep cleaning is necessary. How do you know if you really need SRP and, if you do, what should you expect?
When is Dental Deep Cleaning Necessary?
Many patients have never heard of dental deep cleaning or SRP, and may be uncertain about it when their dentist recommends it. If you’ve never heard of this procedure, that’s a good thing; this means you’ve exercised proper teeth and gum care, and you don’t have gum disease or periodontal disease, an infection that erodes teeth, muscle and bone. If your dentist recommends SRP, it means you have symptoms of gum disease or periodontal disease. Dental deep cleaning is necessary to stop the damaging effects of this disease.
When Do Dentists Recommend SRP?
Dentists assess the need for dental deep cleaning or SRP from three basic signs: the state of the “sulcus” (the space between teeth and gums), the presence of calculus underneath the gums, and bone loss. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
The Spaces Between Teeth and Gums
We all have tiny, open spaces between each of our teeth and our gums, which dentists call a sulcus. Bacteria, plaque and calculus can build up in these areas over time and can become problematic if they are not removed through brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings. When this happens, the gums become swollen, the spaces get deeper, and bacteria make their way further and further down into the gums. A healthy sulcus is less than 3 mm deep, while greater depth suggests a problem. Your dentist will check the depth of the area using a special probe.
When the bacteria create an infection in the gums, it’s called gingivitis. If it isn’t severe, a regular dental cleaning and more rigorous dental hygiene can correct this. If the bacteria reach deep into the gums, an infection can damage the underlying structures, like the tooth root, attached ligaments, and the bone. This is periodontal disease, and it can cause tooth loss and other health problems if it’s not addressed.
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Calculus Under the Gums
X-rays show the position and state of teeth and tooth structures that aren’t outwardly visible. This includes the state of tooth roots, ligaments, and the bone underneath. Though it isn’t always visible, calculus under the gums may appear on these x-rays as a grayish area between teeth. If calculus under the gums is present in an x-ray, there are usually other signs of problems as well, like bleeding gums, deep sulci, swelling, and excessive visible plaque.
X-rays will also reveal any damage or decay to your jaw bone, also called periodontal bone loss. This occurs slowly and you may have bone loss without ever feeling discomfort in your jaw. When your x-rays show bone loss, it’s another clear sign of periodontal disease. If the bacteria underneath the gums isn’t removed, it will continue to eat away the bone, tooth roots and ligaments. SRP or dental deep cleaning is necessary to remove the bacteria and prevent further damage.
What to Expect from SRP
Scaling and Root Planing is similar to cleaning an infected wound. During this procedure, the dentist will use special tools to remove the bacteria, plaque, and calculus from the spaces underneath the gums. A topical or local anesthetic is usually used during this process to reduce discomfort. Usually, only select teeth undergo SRP. The dentist will examine your mouth in four quadrants, and conduct SRP as needed in one or more of the quadrants. In some cases, antibiotics may be used to stop the periodontal infection.
Just as you might expect from treating an infected wound, more care and attention is required to keep the bacteria from coming back after SRP. With diligent dental hygiene and additional dental visits three to six months after the first treatment, the spaces between the teeth and gums can stay clean and begin to heal. While the bone loss that has already occured cannot be undone, further bone loss and damage to tooth roots, ligaments, and gums can be stopped.
Dental deep cleaning is a medically necessary procedure used to stop periodontal disease. Though you may not have heard of it before, it is not new, and in fact has been used effectively for decades to treat the disease. If your dentist recommends SRP and you’re not sure, ask them to explain it further, or consider getting a second opinion.
Periodontal Treatment in Las Vegas, Henderson, Laughlin, & Lake Havasu
Our staff at Boston Dental Group operates many dental offices throughout Southern Nevada and Arizona. If you think you are showing signs of periodontitis, please schedule an appointment at one of our offices. We provide frequent discounts for the treatment of mild and moderate periodontal diseases, and can provide you with a recommendation to a trusted periodontist in advanced cases.
If you’re concerned about the costs of the procedure, look for affordable dental care options without insurance. Look for low-interest or no-interest payment plans, and a focus on affordable care. Remember that stopping periodontal disease as soon as possible can save you from bigger costs and complications later on, like tooth loss or dentures. Don’t let expenses be an obstacle to your dental health. Schedule an appointment today with a Las Vegas dentist near you and learn more about low-cost dental care options.