Good oral hygiene isn’t really much of a secret. You brush twice a day for two minutes, being sure to hit every tooth on both sides, and your gums. You floss once a day.
That’s pretty much it.
But when you get lazy and streamed 10 episodes of True Crime and are now so sleepy you skip brushing, now you’re opening the door for plaque to make a longer acquaintance with your teeth. Plaque is the film that coats your teeth. It is a mix of sugars, proteins, and bacteria that are always hanging around your mouth, especially after eating. But plaque is easy to get rid of by simply brushing and flossing.
Ah, but you’ve been, uh, less than diligent and that plaque has now taken up long-term residence and has turned into calculus, commonly known as tartar.
What is tartar?
Tartar is what happens with plaque combines with minerals, including calcium. Tartar is the cream-colored stuff that accumulates in certain spots in your mouth, usually where there are salivary glands or where saliva can accumulate, such as the inside of your lower teeth. Unlike plaque, tartar is tough — it can only be removed by one of our Gentle Dental hygienists or one of our dentists.
Therein lies the problem. Tartar has now grabbed onto your teeth, but if you’re not paying attention (or aren’t coming in for professional cleanings every six months) the tartar continues to build. Now it starts to push up under the gumline. The gums don’t like this new visitor and they respond by becoming red, irritated, and tending to bleed easily. This is the start of gingivitis, the first step down the road to gum disease.
Scaling and planing
Now you definitely need to come see us at Gentle Dental, as no one wants to allow gum disease to take hold in their mouth. To reverse what is happening, we now will need to perform what is known as root scaling and root planing. Scaling is the first step. We’ll use some local anesthetic to keep you comfortable, and then we need to take a dental pick and move it under the gumline to break off the tartar and plaque that have gotten in there.
Once all the teeth have been scaled, they need root planing. This includes going under the gums again and this time smoothing the tooth roots. Bacteria, plaque, and tartar adhere more easily to rough surfaces. To avoid of reprise of what happened before, planing smoothes the root surface, and it allows the inflamed gums to heal and reattach themselves more firmly to your tooth roots.
Hopefully that stuff sounds a little scary because it can all be avoided by maintaining good home hygiene. Is it time for your next cleaning to get rid of your accumulated tartar? Call us at Gentle Dental, (732) 549-5660, to schedule your appointment.