Periodontal maintenance is a deep cleaning procedure performed ONLY on patients with periodontitis (a serious gum infection).
What’s periodontitis? Do I have it?
Periodontitis is diagnosed by the appearance of periodontal pockets – areas where the gum has pulled away from the tooth due to bacterial infection. It causes redness, pain, and swelling in the gums. Ultimately, it can lead to tooth loss, lung disease, and heart disease.
Periodontitis can be avoided by practicing proper dental hygiene. If you think you might have periodontitis, visit your dentist for a proper diagnosis.
What happens in periodontal maintenance vs. regular teeth cleanings?
Periodontal maintenance is commonly (and mistakenly) thought to be the same thing as regular teeth cleanings. Regular teeth cleanings are actually called prophylaxis in the dental world. While they may sound scarier, they’re actually quicker and easier than periodontal deep cleanings.
There are two major differences between periodontal maintenance and regular teeth cleanings. Periodontal maintenance is often referred to as a dental deep cleaning, because it includes:
- Scaling – cleaning beneath the gum line to remove plaque, bacteria, and other build-up
- Root Planing – shaping the root of the tooth to remove leftover debris, and decrease the chances and/or amount of bacterial build-up in the future
Regular teeth cleanings only remove debris at or above the gum line. With scaling and root planing, your dentist will give you local anesthetic so they can clean below the gum line and shape your roots with minimal pain.
While there is no follow up procedure for regular teeth cleanings, periodontal maintenance requires antibiotic aftercare, more frequent checkups, and possibly pain relievers.
Regular teeth cleanings can also include tooth polishing.
Do I really need periodontal maintenance cleanings?
Because periodontitis is a lifelong issue, treatments must be performed every 3 months (possibly for life). However, if it’s treated early with aggressive 3-month treatments and strict dental hygiene practices, some patients can return to regular teeth cleanings every 6 months.
If your dentist asks you to come in for deep cleanings, do not skip the treatments! (You might find yourself looking into dental implants or other tooth replacement options.) If you’re worried about the cost, talk to your dentist about financial options for periodontal maintenance.