Washington State dental hygienists receive the highest specialized education in America and perform procedures which other states may restrict. We have registered dental hygienists who use their extensive training to help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. The following is a summary of services provided by our professional hygiene staff.


Prophylaxis (Preventative Cleaning)

The hygienist thoroughly removes bacterial plaque, visible calculus (tartar), and stain to maintain the health of your gums. You will receive oral hygiene instructions and plaque removal aids to best maintain a healthy mouth at home. We recommend that you receive this treatment every six to twelve months depending on the health of your mouth. The goal is to prevent decay and periodontal disease. These procedures may be combined with a recall exam, fluoride treatment, or x-rays, which are charged separately.


Full Mouth Debridement

The removal of a large amount of calculus (tartar), stain, and bacterial plaque. This may be prior to periodontal treatment or instead of a preventative cleaning. Generally, this treatment is necessary after an extended period of time without regular hygiene visits. Your hygienist will evaluate your needs to determine the treatment recommended for you.


Gum Disease

Your hygienist and dentist will evaluate your teeth and gums and determine which classification or type of periodontal disease you may have. This is achieved by periodontal probing (measurements of pockets), noting areas of bleeding and/or white discharge, bone loss, recession, and tooth mobility.

The early stage of this disease is called
gingivitis- an inflammation of the gingiva (gum tissue), usually caused by bacterial plaque (the sticky goopy substance that can be removed daily by brushing and flossing). Gingivitis is both preventable and reversible. If allowed to progress, gingivitis becomes periodontitis- a chronic bacterial infection in the tissues surrounding the teeth. Bone and supporting tissues are damaged and permanent bone loss occurs. This is known as a "silent" disease because no pain is involved until tooth loss is imminent. The following is a list of the "warning signs" to be aware of.

Warning signs:

* Bleeding or tender gums - especially when brushing and flossing
* Red, swollen or shiny gums
* Significant "tartar" build-up
* White discharge around the teeth and gums
* Persistent bad breath or odor
* Loose teeth


Note: Many of these signs and symptoms will not be as evident in a smoker, although their periodontal disease may be more advanced.

Sulcular measurements that are one to three milimeters deep without bleeding and recession are typically considered healthy. Four milimeter pockets with bleeding may indicate gingivitis or early periodontitis. Five milimeter or deeper pockets with multiple bleeding sites strongly indicate the presence of a bacterial infection called periodontal disease. The infected areas are not accessible by brushing and flossing, and require your dentist or hygienist to manually remove the bacterial toxins with special instruments. The infection must be removed every 90-120 days to prevent further bone loss. Without adequate bone support tooth loss occurs.

Patients may wonder why they have not been told about periodontal disease before, and this is an understandable question. Quite simply, people's bodies change. Bacterial plaque can cause decay in teeth or cause an infection in the gums. When patients come in for their cleanings and exams, the dentist evaluates both the health of the teeth and the health of the gums and bone support. Just as the patient may have developed a cavity since the last appointment, an infection in the gums may also have developed. This could be the beginning stages of periodontal disease.

There are many risk factors affecting the onset of periodontal disease, including: smoking, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, pregnancy, osteoporosis, stress, radiation, chemotherapy, medications, inadequate home care, hereditary predisposition, etc.

Our goal is to protect our patients' oral health, which is essential to overall physical health. This is acheived by
regular visits to your hygienist to get your teeth cleaned, in conjunction with consistent home care (brushing, flossing, etc.)

Periodontal Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment of periodontal disease generally requires several appointments with local anesthesia. This process is called periodontal scaling which is the removal of bacterial plaque and calculus (tartar) from pockets underneath the gum tissue. These deposits may be removed with either hand instruments or ultrasonic scaling devices. One month after treatment has been completed your hygienist will provide a courtesy reevaluation appointment. Depending upon the complexity of the problem, one to four appointments may be needed to properly clean all tooth surfaces.

Periodontal maintenance

The bacteria involved in periodontal disease go through periods of activity and remission. Research shows that over time there is a shift in the type of bacteria which colonize deeper pockets, from relatively benign to more destructive bacteria. Research has shown that by removing the harmful bacteria more frequently the disease can be more effectively kept in remission. It is recommended to have periodontal maintenance appointments every two to four months.

 

Sealants

Dental sealants are recommended for children and some adults to help prevent tooth decay in hard to clean areas. Sometimes posterior teeth have natural grooves in them that are very difficult to keep clean with brushing alone. The sealant is a clear or white nontoxic plastic coating that is applied in one short appointment.

Treatment:

* The area that will be sealed is first thoroughly cleaned and dried.
* The tooth surface is prepared by opening grooves if needed and an etching solution is applied; this will aid the sealant solution in bonding to the tooth surface.
* The sealant coating is painted on the tooth surface and cured with a curing light for approximately 20-40 seconds.

Care Following Treatment:

Dental sealants can last up to ten years, and we guarantee them for three years. Sealants should be followed by proper oral hygiene, thorough dental home care, a healthy diet, and regular dental cleanings and exams with your dentist.

 

Sealants are covered by most insurance companies. We recommend that you review your insurance plan prior to scheduling for treatment as some policies have age restrictions for this procedure.

Risks:

There are no known risks involved in this treatment, in fact it is a cost effective and highly recommended treatment in preventing tooth decay.