Plaque is a sticky colorless deposit of bacteria that is constantly forming on the tooth surface. Saliva, food and fluids combine to produce these deposits. Plaque forms 4-12 hours after brushing which is why it is so important to brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Tartar or calculus is a crusty deposit that can trap stains on teeth and cause discoloration. Calcium and phosphate bind to form crystals on the teeth. These calcium phosphate crystals eventually harden with plaque to form calculus. For many folks, these deposits build up faster as we age. Factors that contribute to periodontal diseases are diabetes, genetic disorders, blood diseases, emotional stress, tobacco use and HIV injection.
OK, what is the treatment? This involves periodontal or deep cleaning. Scaling coupled with root planing is used to remove plaque and tartar beneath the gum lines. A local anesthetic is given to reduce any discomfort. A scaler or an ultrasonic cleaner is used to carefully remove plaque and tartar down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket. Root surfaces are then smoothed or planed. This helps pockets to shrink. This procedure also makes it difficult for plaque to accumulate along the root surfaces. Once treatment is completed, regular dental cleanings are required every three months so that the pockets can be maintained.