14 Sep By the Numbers
A lot can happen in six months. Think how many weddings, vacations, road trips, and jots over to the park you have taken. How many times a week do you say “time flies?” I’ll probably say it twice before the day is over. If this much can happen over the past six months, I’d say just as much can go on with something we use all day, every day – our teeth and gums.
Dental professionals LOVE numbers. As soon as you step into our chairs, we start pulling out numbers. Probing depths first: those 2’s and 3’s, but hopefully not 4 or 5’s that we start rattling off. Next, we start shouting off if we see cavities done by numbering your teeth 1 – 32 with a couple of letters followed soon after. It sounds like a math problem that never ends. This is part of our routine exam, and we do these every 6-12 months as a way to monitor your gum and tooth health.
The 2’s and 3’s measure the depth of your gum tissue around your teeth — the larger the number, the higher severity of gum disease (we use millimeters, the tiny dashes on your ruler). We’re usually really happy if we complete our exam and the highest number is a 3, meaning 3 millimeters. If numbers progress from here to 4 and 5 mm pockets, you’re in the warning zone that could mean more treatment is needed, and 6 and above begins to get in an area of severe disease that could even require specialist intervention.
The cause of periodontal disease is not cut and dry, and periodontitis (the loss of bone surrounding your teeth) can be caused by a wide variety of things. The three most common terms associated with periodontal cases are plaque, tartar, and calculus.
Plaque: One of those terms most patients get worn out hearing. What is it? Have you ever woken up in the mornings and found your teeth feeling fuzzy? That’s because of plaque. It’s soft and formed by bacteria, but comes off with a toothbrush. It forms quickly (hours), harbors a lot of bacteria, and leads to cavities in a very short time. At your six month checkup, it’s common to find some plaque on your teeth, and we can clean this off with a regular cleaning.
Calculus and tartar can be a different story. These deposits are formed when plaque is allowed to stay on teeth for an extended period and calcify. Both of these are common to find in small amounts but over time they can cause big problems for gums. Once formed, no amount of brushing will remove it. If left untreated, periodontitis does not stay still, bone loss around teeth progresses until teeth eventually get loose due to lack of foundation. Infections can occur and eventually lead to tooth loss.
To combat calculus and tartar, we use ultrasonic instruments that move at incredible speeds to break up the calcifications and remove it from teeth. This procedure of removing large amounts of calculus is called “scaling and root planing” or what we refer to as a “deep cleaning.” It’s a very detailed procedure, and we take great pride in doing a thorough job, this is why if we find scaling is necessary to restore good gum health; we may take 2-3 appointments to finish.
Now let’s talk about gums. Periodontitis (bone loss) can begin within months, but gingival inflammation or gingivitis (bleeding gums) can begin within just days. An incredible 47.2% of Americans over age 30 have a form of bone loss, and for Kentuckians, that number is higher. Every day we are learning more than it is not only genes that play a role in gum health but also home care.
Brushing at least two times a day and getting a cleaning every six months will reduce the amount of plaque and tartar the builds up on your teeth. If you find your gums are bleeding regularly; it is probably time to think about making an appointment for an exam. At BGOHC we strive to always be there for you. If you have a question about treatment or would like some pointers on better home care please give us a call and our friendly staff will be there to help.