You thought you were doing a good job: You brush your teeth after meals and floss at least once a day. And every six months, you go to the dentist’s office for a professional cleaning. At least, you mean to go.

As long as your teeth look good and your breath is fresh, it’s easy to think you’re maintaining your oral health. But skipping dental treatments, forgetting to brush and floss, or brushing your gums so hard that they erode and pull away from your teeth adversely affects your oral health — and even health of your whole body.

Why brushing alone isn’t enough

Of course it’s essential to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least daily. If that’s your habit, bravo! You’re at the halfway mark to a lifetime of healthy teeth.

But brushing and flossing are limited in what they can accomplish. Brushing your teeth sweeps away the bacteria-rich, sticky film called plaque that covers your teeth after you eat. But your brush can’t reach between your teeth or under the gum line.

Flossing helps, of course, but it has limitations on how effectively it removes plaque, too. That’s why your dentist cleans under your gum line with special tools when you come in for a biannual cleaning at Sunrise Dental in Spokane or Spokane Valley, Washington.

A regular cleaning at Sunrise Dental is usually enough to reverse gingivitis — an inflammation of the gums that sometimes shows up as blood on your toothbrush or dental floss. If you don’t brush and floss regularly and have your gingivitis treated at Sunrise Dental, the plaque on your teeth could harden into tartar. You could also go on to develop a gum infection called periodontitis.

You can’t remove tartar

If you don’t have regular professional cleanings, you may notice that your teeth begin to develop brown stains at the gum line or in the spaces between your teeth. Those stains aren’t caused by coffee or tobacco. In fact, they’re not stains at all: They’re brown, crusty tartar.

Tartar is created when leftover plaque hardens on your teeth.You can’t scrape off the tartar yourself. Your dentist or hygienist must carefully chip the tartar off your teeth with specialized scaling tools during your professional cleanings.

If you don’t get your teeth cleaned, the tartar irritates your gums and causes them to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets. Tartar that’s trapped in the bottom of your gum pockets can’t be removed during a normal professional dental cleaning. You need a deep dental cleaning.

Deep cleanings stop periodontitis

Periodontitis affects almost half of adults in the United States and is much more serious than gingivitis. Periodontitis can erode your gums and jawbone, cause permanent tooth loss, and spread to vital organs, such as your heart. Untreated, this gum infection can even enter your bloodstream to cause a life-threatening systemic infection.

Luckily, when your Sunrise dentist catches periodontitis at an early stage, it can be reversed and controlled with a series of deep cleanings. Deep cleanings go beyond annual dental cleanings by cleaning out gum pockets and smoothing the tooth roots so that your gums can adhere to your teeth again.

Scaling and planing restores your gums

When scaling during a deep cleaning, your Sunrise dentist first administers a local anesthetic to control discomfort. He then reaches deeply down into bottom of the gum pockets to chip away tartar with a scaling tool and remove any plaque that’s collected in the pockets, too.

Once your teeth are tartar and plaque free, your dentist uses another tool called a planing tool to reshape your tooth roots. Planing smooths the roots to create a more adhesive surface. As your gums begin to heal, they reattach to your teeth to keep your teeth secure and to form a barrier against bacteria.

Because of the extensive nature of planing and scaling to resolve or control periodontitis, you may need several appointments before your deep cleaning is finished. After your final treatment, you return to Sunrise Dental so that your dentist can examine your teeth, gum, and bones, measure your gum pockets, and determine if your disease is under control.

If your disease was at an early stage, you may need only one deep-cleaning series to reverse the periodontitis. If your periodontitis is more advanced, and you still have evidence of gum pockets or bone loss, you may need to have deep cleanings on a regular basis to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Don’t wait until you have gingivitis or periodontitis before getting your teeth professionally cleaned. Call the friendly pros at Sunrise Dental for an exam and cleaning today.