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What’s the difference between a regular dental cleaning and periodontal maintenance?

The main difference is the presence of periodontitis, often called gum disease which is a bone infection around the sockets of your teeth. A regular dental cleaning removes plaque and small amounts or tartar, usually above the gumline when no active periodontitis is present. Your hygienist can remove this plaque with hand instruments and polishing. Periodontal maintenance is for those who are diagnosed with periodontitis. The focus of periodontal maintenance is to remove tartar below the gumline on the root surfaces of teeth. More specialized instruments are required, called ultrasonic scalers. Periodontal maintenance also involves closer monitoring of gum health measurements called periodontal probing. Cleanings are generally adequate twice per year while periodontal maintenance may be needed as much as 4 times per year to control the disease process. Insurance coverage is usually different between a regular cleaning and periodontal maintenance where cleanings are covered at 100% while periodontal maintenance is covered at 50-80% depending on your insurance plan.


What is gingivitis versus periodontitis?

Gingivitis and periodontitis are both forms of gum disease but the severity is different. Gingivitis is inflammation in your gums and considered reversible. It generally causes bleeding in your gums. It can be maintained or go away completely with regular maintenance and excellent home care. Periodontitis is inflammation in the bone surrounding your teeth. It is a more severe form of gum disease that causes bone to be lost around your teeth and is a significant cause of tooth loss. It considered to be irreversible but can often be maintained at a very slow progression with more involved maintenance. Often patients with periodontitis need to be seen 3-4 times per year and in moderate to severe cases you will often need to be under the care of a periodontist to help manage the problem.

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