The bacterial plaque that builds up on our teeth will harden over time as the minerals like calcium in our saliva come in contact with our residual plaque. The result is calculus, which is sometimes called “tartar”, and is a hard deposit that contains much of the same bacterial toxins as the plaque upon which it is formed.
Everyone builds up calculus to some extent and with varying degrees. Failure to remove the normal buildup from the teeth allows gingivitis and periodontitis (gum inflammation and infection) to develop. The only way to remove this calculus is with a professional dental cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
A professional dental cleaning usually involves several steps. First, we measure the depth of the periodontal “pockets” or the space between the teeth and the gums. Next we will remove the bulk of the material, often with ultrasonic or cleaning instruments that use a spray coolant and oscillate at a high frequency like an electric toothbrush. We do the fine “scaling” and “root planing” with precise hand instruments. Then we will polish the teeth to remove residual stain and a biofilm. Finally, we apply a special fluoride gel or foam to the freshly exposed surface. This fluoride treatment helps to protect the teeth from decay and helps to prevent sensitivity.
Your visit to our office is an important part of your program to prevent gum disease and maintain your teeth for your lifetime.
This is one of the most common questions we receive from patients. Every person’s oral health is different, and commonly we have to come up with a plan that is suited to your specific needs. How much calculus you build up, your history of cavities, whether you smoke or have a history of a systemic disease, and whether you grind your teeth are all factors in forming a decision about your suggested cleaning protocol. However, there are some generalizations we can make about your dental cleanings and oral healthcare.
In general, we like to see children starting at age 3 and thereafter every six months. This helps to not identify any concerns early on, but also to develop good oral hygiene habits at a young age. In regards to adults, we see some as frequently as every three or four months, while others can be maintained every six months depending on their health. Ask Dr. Arnold and the dental hygienist to develop a regular care plan that is right for you.