Plaque is a sticky mixture of bacteria, food particles, and waste products of bacteria. The longer it's left on the teeth, the harder it gets and the harder it is to remove. If left on the teeth for more than 24 hours, some plaque will turn into calculus and won't easily come off when you brush or floss. The more calculus builds up, the more bacteria can thrive and cause inflammation. Inflamed gum tissue allows bacteria to thrive. Bacteria irritate the gums and make them sore and puffy. If the gums bleed when you brush or floss, you have gingivitis - the earliest stage of gum disease.
Gingivitis is completely reversible when caught early. In order to prevent the worsening of gingivitis, your dentist may recommend you have scaling and root planing done on your teeth. Scaling and root planing removes the plaque and calculus from the whole tooth - root to crown. The hygienist will use a special tool called a scaler. Scalers are ultrasonic devices that vibrate at a high frequency and break down bacterial cell membranes and removes both plaque and calculus. The hygienist will then go back by hand and remove anything the ultrasonic scaler left behind.
After the procedure, you will likely be recommended an antiseptic mouthwash containing chlorhexidine and shown how to brush and floss your teeth effectively.
Combined with excellent home care, your mouth can easily be returned to a good state of health!
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