The best way to prevent major tooth and gum problems is to have regular dental cleanings and check-ups performed at our office. Just as regular oil changes on your car help to prevent the need for engine overhauls, having frequent professional tooth and gum cleanings lessens your chances of developing major oral health issues like periodontal disease and abscessed teeth.
In the mouth, the 2 most common diseases are periodontal disease and tooth decay. Both are caused by different types of bacteria. Periodontal disease is, in most people, a chronic disease which develops and progresses slowly over several years. Certain types of bacteria combine with food debris and other substances that they produce themselves to form a film on the teeth called plaque. If this plaque is not cleaned off of the teeth, it begins to harden as minerals from the saliva are deposited onto it. This mineralized plaque, which is hard as rock, is now called tartar or calculus. The gum tissue does not like being in contact with plaque and tartar and if it is exposed to these substances, it becomes very inflamed. Inflamed gums are puffy, red and bleed easily when they are brushed and flossed. This is the first stage of periodontal disease and is known as gingivitis. If the plaque and tartar remain in contact with the gums long enough, the inflammation spreads from the gums into the bone which holds the teeth in the jaws. As the bone becomes inflamed, it starts to recede away from the teeth along with the gums. The roots of the teeth start to become exposed and the teeth eventually become loose and fall out.
Tooth decay is also caused by plaque on the teeth. The bacteria in plaque break down sugar and other carbohydrates in the food we eat and produce acid. If the plaque is not cleaned off of the teeth, this acid starts to eat holes in the teeth themselves which are called cavities. Eventually, these cavities reach the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth and can cause excruciating toothaches.
During professional dental cleanings, the dentist or hygienist removes this built up plaque and tartar to prevent or stop the progression of both periodontal disease and tooth decay. X-rays may also be taken to help diagnose the presence or extent of both of these conditions. The dentist will do a thorough exam of the teeth and gums to diagnose periodontal disease, cavities or a number of other conditions which can occur in your mouth.