Bacteria accumulate on teeth as a substance called “plaque”, which is invisible until it reaches an accumulated mass. Plaque is soft, and easily removed with correct tooth brushing and flossing, but it irritates the gums if not removed regularly. This makes them bleed more easily. Once plaque has been on the tooth for a few days to a week, it begins to harden and adhere to the tooth structure, creating “tartar”. Dental professionals call this “calculus”, from their professional training. Tartar doesn’t come off with a toothbrush or floss.
People build up tartar on their teeth at different rates and in different locations. A licensed dental professional (often called a dental hygienist) knows how to detect the tartar and safely remove it, using very small instruments to fit under the gums, and around the curves of teeth and their roots. Then they make a series of stroke movements to scrape it off each tooth. Sometimes, they use an ultrasonic device that also sprays water, much like the method used for cleaning delicate jewelry. In the process, they will also spot patterns in the daily cleaning methods used by patients and give advice about improving the removal of plaque before it forms into tartar."
It is difficult for patients to maintain good dental health when they delay appointments like this. The more tartar that adheres to the teeth, the more damage occurs in the bone and gum tissue (gingiva) surrounding the teeth. And, without healthy support, the tooth cannot function as designed. Because this process is painless, many individuals do not learn of the problem until it is too late to correct it.
Once all the tartar is removed by the end of an appointment, the teeth are polished to remove any residual debris and leave a smooth surface, usually with a layer of protective fluoride. If a patient is younger or cavity-prone, they will apply fluoride in a different manner that is the most effective.!
A dentist checks the teeth, once cleaned and x-rayed, to find cavities or defects. If treatment is required in the future, a separate appointment will be scheduled. Together, the professionals determine the appropriate interval needed between cleanings to keep the patient in good dental health. Sometimes, the dentist may consider the teeth so healthy that they deserve tooth whitening. If the patient is interested, special molds are made of their teeth and they are sent home with a whitening solution and whitening product to use daily. There are other, in-office procedures that accomplish this more quickly, as well.
We can help arrest your gum disease and bring your smile back to health. Give us a call today at (773) 582-0035.