Plaque is the colonization of natural oral bacteria on food debris that remains on the surface and in the crevices of the teeth and gums. Combining with minerals in the saliva, it ultimately forms hard, rough sediment known as dental tartar or calculus, which attracts further plaque buildup. Calculus must be removed by a dental professional for the prevention of periodontal disease.
Removal of calculus may be performed by a licensed dental hygienist or dentist, either by manual scaling of the teeth or with an ultrasonic device. The choice of technique is a personal preference by the hygienist or wishes of the patient. The ultrasonic scaler, commonly called by the brand name Cavitron®, is often indicated for the efficient removal of heavy, tenacious tartar and stains. The hygienist may follow its use with hand scaling for a more finite smoothing of tooth and root surfaces.
Patients should schedule their professional dental cleaning appointments on a regular basis for the early diagnoses of dental disease. The hygienist or dentist may recommend a prophylaxis visit every two to six months. Even if your dental insurance plan only covers the procedure twice a year, it’s money well spent. Recall frequency depends on many factors and should be determined on an individual basis. Some people tend to have more buildup of calculus than others and some may be more prone to periodontal inflammation or the development of tooth decay. Patients with inadequate oral hygiene practices will require more frequent cleanings to prevent periodontal disease.
The routine dental cleaning is anything but routine, and should include:
- Debridement of tartar beneath the gum, as conditions warrant.
- Supra gingival (above the gum) scaling to remove plaque and tartar from all visible tooth surfaces.
- Polishing the teeth.
- Periodontal charting (measurement of the gum attachment) and scheduling of additional periodontal care as indicated.
- Nutrition assessment, if needed.
- Tooth brushing and flossing instructions.
- Personal oral hygiene evaluation, home care review and recommendations
- Topical fluoride treatment