Cleaning & Prevention
During each hygiene visit, your hygienist will examine the tissues of your gums, cheeks, lips, tongue, and jaw. It may surprise you how much surface area there is to examine! We know that it is equally important to have regular soft tissue screenings as it is to have a professional cleaning.
While anyone can experience oral cancer, tobacco users are a significantly higher risk than non-users. Chewing tobacco contains up to 3,000 different chemicals, including compounds also found in pesticides and embalming fluid. Changes at the cellular level below the surface can go undetected until they have advanced to a critical stage.
Detecting and treatment of oral cancer as early as possible can have a critical impact on your chances of a quick and complete recovery. According to the American Cancer Society, 7,000 people die from 30,000 cases of oral cancer each year. If we suspect any abnormalities in your oral tissue, we may suggest a biopsy and microscopic analysis from a certified lab.
Non-cancerous changes in your mouth’s tissue will also be speedily assessed and treated. Drawing on her background in oral pathology, Dr. Frances Golly will evaluate any irregularities, from oral warts to autoimmune lesions and determine if monitoring or removal is warranted.
Our team understands that tobacco’s strong addictive nature can make quitting hard for even our most health-conscious patients. If you’re ready to quit, we will support your efforts in every way. Speak to your hygienist or Dr. Frances Golly about the tools we have available to help you kick the habit.
To maintain a healthy smile, good home care habits between visits are essential. Successful hygiene routines can be established by anyone committed to devoting a few minutes each day. Like regular exercise, consistency is critical to building a healthy habit. Twice daily brushing for a minimum of two minutes and flossing once a day are the foundation of a healthy home care routine. We understand that the sheer volume of oral hygiene products available today can be overwhelming. Your hygienist can help you select the best tools to fit your dental needs. Whether it’s an electric toothbrush to maintain cleanliness, or a prescription toothpaste to reduce plaque, our team can connect you with exactly what you need to maximize the time and effort you put into keeping your smile healthy.
Patients who are considered high-risk for dental problems can benefit from highly personalized routines. Simple, inexpensive substitutions can transform the environment of your mouth and drastically reduce the activity of disease. Even the switch to Xylitol, a naturally derived sweetener that can minimize cavities in children and adults can be transformative when used in the right dosages.
We know that dental emergencies can surprise anyone at any time, but patients who commit to regular, preventative care appointments typically experience fewer problems over time. Professional cleanings by a registered dental hygienist are the foundation of a proactive approach to dental health, and allows us to address issues quickly, preventing them from developing into larger issues. Despite your best efforts, deposits of mineralized plaque called tartar, adhere to hard-to-reach areas of the teeth. These deposits create a breeding ground for millions of harmful bacteria. If left to grow, they can flood your gums with toxins, resulting in devastating chronic problems and even tooth loss.
By removing tartar at your professional cleaning appointment, our highly trained hygienists prevent it from producing irreversible damage. We use the most advanced instruments and prescription strength polishing paste to gently buff away stains and plaque, leaving your teeth smooth and shiny. Because discoloration can settle into the tooth’s enamel over time, regular cleanings help slow yellowing and maintain a glassy surface.
More commonly known as gum disease, periodontal disease affects nearly 30% of adults and is the leading cause of tooth decay in adults. The majority of denture cases result from this chronic condition. Although periodontal disease is not curable, a dedicated professional hygiene schedule and consistent home care can keep it under control.
Gum disease has few signs or symptoms in the early stages, which can allow it to advance unnoticed by patients. Many people experience no pain and are surprised by the speed at which periodontal disease can damage their mouths. The gums and bones around your teeth act as the foundation for your smile, and despite how beautiful your teeth may be, if the foundation crumbles, your smile will, too.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Our mouths are home to millions of bacteria, both beneficial and harmful. Bacterial waste causes the formation of a sticky substance called plaque, which adheres to the teeth. Brushing and flossing can remove plaque before it mineralizes into tartar. Tartar becomes a colony for bacteria, releasing toxins into the gums.
In response to this bacterial invasion, our immune systems create inflammation. At the base of each tooth, a small collar of gum tissue forms a small pocket ideal for the infiltration of deeper tarter and bacteria. Inflammation can cause bleeding gums, known as gingivitis, in its early stages. If bacteria is left untreated, a chronic infection in the periodontal pocket can form. In many cases, this causes the deterioration of bones around the teeth. Gums may be slightly tender at this stage, but most patients feel only minimal discomfort as the bones start to erode.
More than half of the bone around the teeth can erode before you notice any looseness or pain. Because the bones cannot regenerate, this loss is permanent and difficult to control once the bacteria are deep within the gums. Left untreated, gum disease leads to abscesses and generalized tooth loss.
Before making a diagnosis of gum disease, our dedicated team takes several factors into account. The small collar of gum, or pocket, around each tooth sits about 2-3 millimeters deep, which is easily cleaned by floss or toothpicks. Dr. Frances Golly and our hygiene team can measure and chart several areas using a device called a periodontal probe. If the pockets are deeper than three millimeters and bleed when the probe is inserted, it indicates the presence of periodontal disease. The deeper the reading, the more advanced the disease has become.
Dr. Frances Golly will also evaluate the texture and shape of your gums, and detect any movement in each tooth. It’s also vital to examine the levels, shape, and density of the bone around your teeth using digital x-rays. The collection of this data creates a clear picture of your gum condition.
Following diagnosis that includes the defining of severity, we can develop a personalized treatment plan for gum disease. When present in milder forms with little or no bone loss, one or two visits with our hygiene team can bring the condition under control. Once you leave our office with a personalized plan for daily home care and a strategic schedule for in-office maintenance, little additional treatment may be needed.
If advanced inflammation and measurable bone loss is evident, our team will work with you to determine a proactive approach to stop further deterioration. Often, we will suggest a gentle numbing or your gums to allow for an in-depth cleaning called root planing or scaling. Over a few visits, your mouth will be deep cleaned, one portion at a time. The infected pocket around each tooth, including the mineralized tartar, will be carefully cleaned with hand and ultrasonic instruments. After the initial therapy, polishing the teeth to establish a glassy surface will help repel stains and plaque buildup.
Dr. Frances Golly may also suggest a medicated rinse, electric or ultrasonic toothbrush, and other targeted strategies and tools to aid your homecare routine. It’s important to remember that gum disease can be controlled but not cured. Consistent efforts each day will help control the disease.
Dedicated home care is crucial to preventing the progression of gum disease. Within only a few hours of cleaning, the bacteria begin to repopulate and adhere to the teeth. Left undisturbed, plaque will start to harden and mineralize within a day. Deeper gum pockets call for even more diligence in care to stop the progression of bacteria from undermining the foundation of your smile. Because gum pockets previously damaged by bacteria can be difficult to reach at home, a dependable maintenance schedule with us is essential. We will customize your plan to include the correct number of visits per year depending on the severity of disease, its response to treatment, and the quality of your home care.
If our combined efforts fail to slow or stop the progression of your gum disease, we will work with you to refer your case to a specialist called a periodontist. Using their specialized training in gum conditions, a periodontist can recommend further treatment.
As evidenced by continued research, there are clear links between bacterial disease in your mouth and ailments in other parts of the body. Studies have shown a link between oral bacteria and conditions like heart disease, stroke, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer. We have a greater understanding of the relationship between oral health and whole-body health than ever before.
Bleeding gums provide a direct path to the bloodstream for oral bacteria. We know that open wounds on our skin are cause for concern of infection, and gum tissue that bleeds should be treated with the same concern. It’s no wonder researchers continue to identify deposits of oral bacteria throughout the human body.
Auto-immune disorders like diabetes lower the body’s ability to fight infection, which can allow gum disease to advance faster and cause more destruction. Research confirms that inflammation in the mouth can aggravate diabetes, making it more difficult to control. This connection between the two chronic conditions highlights the importance of optimal oral health.