Periodontal maintenance is a routine appointment, usually every 2-4 months, that includes reviewing any changes in your overall health or medications, a thorough oral evaluation, meticulous cleaning, both above and below the gums, oral health education, and review any recommendations for improved home care. They require more skill and expertise than a regular prophylaxis appointment.
Here’s what happens during a periodontal maintenance procedure.
- Check pocket depth– A “pocket” is the space between your gums and teeth, and usually implies bone loss. This pocket is where bacterial plaque forms deep under the gums. In a healthy mouth, your gums should be tightly attached to your teeth and the “pocket measurement” should be very shallow (between 1 to 3 millimeters). But as the bacterial plaque continues to grow, your immune cells begin fighting back, destroying the attachment of the gums to the tooth root, and eventually destroying supporting bone in the process. As a result, the pocket measurements get bigger as the plaque grows deeper and deeper.
During periodontal maintenance appointments, patients will be thoroughly examined for the presence of any deep pockets or signs of inflammation. Dr Hiru Mathur or Dr. Sally Sheng use a small narrow ruler, called a probe, to gently measure how deep the pockets are.
- Thorough cleaning– Part of the periodontal maintenance includes meticulous cleaning to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria from above and below the gum line.
- Root scaling– Because gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the tooth, bacterial plaque can collect deep under the gums, along the root of the tooth, eventually hardening onto the roots like barnacles on a boat or limescale on a shower faucet.
Root scaling is the process of removing this hardened plaque and “smoothing” out the root to eliminate any irregularities that may make plaque removal more difficult in the future.
- X-rays– One final part of periodontal maintenance is examining the health of the bone supporting your teeth. X-rays are an essential part of for disease progression. They are taken yearly to check for any bone loss, cavities, or other possible infections.
What is Prophylactic (Prophy) Dental Care?
The word prophylaxis simply means “to prevent disease.” So when you go to your dentist every 6 months to get a cleaning and x-rays, dentists refer to that type of procedure as a dental prophylaxis because it is intended to prevent disease in an otherwise healthy mouth.
Some patients who suffer from periodontitis usually are not eligible for this kind of prophylactic dental care because they have already the disease.
The health of your gums and your teeth can have a tremendous impact on your overall health. Gum disease has been linked to many medical conditions and disease including stroke, diabetes, heart disease, early dementia, Alzheimer’s, and even several cancers. That’s why dentists recommend patients go get their teeth cleaned and inspected at least twice per year.
But while many patients are familiar with the regular cleaning they get every 6 months, not everyone is aware of the need for periodontal maintenance on a more frequent basis.
Patients who have suffered from gum disease need periodontal maintenance in order to prevent the disease from returning and continued destruction of their gum and bone. This type of procedure is different from the routine cleanings, called a prophylaxis, which is intended only for patients who have never had gum disease and serves to maintain their excellent oral health and prevent cavities. Periodontal maintenance, on the other hand, is specific for patients who have received treatment for gum disease at any time in their lives.
Once someone has had gum disease, they are always susceptible to it in the future, and need special attention on the maintaining their disease-free gums. These appointments take longer than a routine prophylactic cleaning and great care is taken to closely inspect their teeth and gums so that any problem can be caught early and treated before developing into a bigger (and more expensive) problem.
As a board certified periodontists, Dr. Hiru Mathur & Dr. Sally Sheng provide some of the absolute best periodontal care in the nation. If you think you might be suffering from gum disease or if your gums are inflamed, bleeding, or sore, call us immediately at (281) 494-2477. We even offer customized sedation options for our patients who experience anxiety about going to the dentist.
We want all of our patients to feel totally relaxed and comfortable during their visits with us. Call us today to find out more about our headphones, aromatherapy, warm blankets, and other ways we help our patients reduce stress and anxiety, so they can be comfortable and relaxed during their visits.