Put yourself in the patient seat for this example of a scenario that happens frequently in dental offices all across the world:
You, the patient, have likely not been into an office for a routine dental visit in a number of years, and either due to sensitivity, bad breath, or insurance changes, you feel compelled to go in for a routine dental exam and cleaning.
At the office, the hygienist takes a few x-rays of your teeth, and she begins to probe your gums and the spaces between the teeth. She explains as you go through the process that she will be calling out numbers. Numbers one through three are signs of healthy gum pockets. Anything four of more could mean that you have some gum disease. OUCH! Your gums are swollen and tender, and any time the hygienist calls out a three or higher, you nearly jump out of your seat. Next, the doctor comes in to review the x-rays with you. They will explain that there are large pocket depths between your teeth where bacteria has accumulated, contributing to inflammation and infection. They reveal that you have PERIODONTITIS.
SO WHAT IS PERIODONTITIS?
Periodontitis is gum disease. In 2015, the CDC found that nearly 50% of the American population over 30 exhibits periodontitis (ADA, 2015)! When bacteria collects within the pockets between your teeth, usually due to lack of flossing, inadequate self-oral hygiene, or infrequent visits to the dentist, plaque buildup can secrete acids that essentially dissolve the bone tissue around your teeth. The disease is infectious and will continue to progress if left untreated, and the patient with periodontitis will begin to lose teeth. Gum disease not only affects your oral health, but also has huge impacts on individuals with other health issues; the effects have even been linked to heart disease.
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SO… JUST CLEAN MY TEETH NOW…??
This is the reaction that many patients may feel when they find out that they have gum disease. Unfortunately, most of the time, the hygienists cannot continue with a regular cleaning. Depending on the depth of your pockets, the doctor may refer you out to a Periodontist, a specialist who will perform a deep cleaning treatment and then conduct several visits to ensure that the gums heal properly afterwards and that the infection has been eradicated. If we see you near the beginning of the disease’s progression, when the calculus buildup and depth of the pockets is lower, our hygienists can perform the deep cleaning in the office. This procedure is called Scaling and Root Planing, and it typically takes two- one hour and a half visits.
After the deep cleaning at our office, we will schedule a follow-up visit to assess the gum healing about 6 weeks afterwards and to do a regular cleaning at that time. Your hygienist will likely recommend 3 or 4 month recall visits as opposed to waiting 6 months for regular cleanings as a preventative measure.
WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DO A REGULAR CLEANING?
Unfortunately, legally and ethically, we cannot do a regular cleaning when we have identified that you have periodontitis. Since a regular polishing is focused at the gum line, this could potentially disturb bacterial colonies, releasing them throughout your bloodstream.
Even if you do not choose to do a deep cleaning with our office, we highly recommend that you take action to treat the disease. Periodontal disease is both preventable and curable, and it is important to address for the health of your teeth and for your body!
I’M INTERESTED IN INVISALIGN… WILL THIS IMPACT MY TREATMENT?
Did you know that as a Premier Preferred Invisalign provider, Bright Smiles Dental in Chesterfield is distinguished among dentists in Virginia by this distinction? You have absolutely come to the right place if Invisalign is something that has piqued your interest.
While we recommend a cleaning before beginning your treatment, even if you opt not to, we do have our doctors inspect your gums for potential periodontitis. We would definitely need to address any serious plaque buildup before beginning treatment, but we have had many patients do so and then have great success with Invisalign! Please feel free to stop by our office, conveniently accessible to Chesterfield and Midlothian, and get a free consultation and scan to see a simulation of what your teeth will look like after treatment. Our friendly office staff will coordinate with your insurance to establish a treatment plan specifically designed for your needs!
Periodontal disease affects nearly half of the U.S. population. (2015). Science in the News. American