We’ve all heard the word before, whether at home on the television, billboards on the side of the road or in dental assistant schools. That word is plaque—the sticky film which covers your teeth when bacteria forms in your mouth. The acids that form within that sticky film makes gums swell and bleed, causing gum diseases like gingivitis. You may have noticed before when brushing your teeth that your gums have bled. This is a prime indicator that you have gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, the gum tissue between the tooth and the gum can weaken, causing teeth to fall out.
Risks for Gum Disease
There are certain lifestyle choices and conditions which can make a person more susceptible to gum disease. Smoking irritates the gums and can lead to bacteria-causing plaque. The elderly are especially at risk because the large amounts of medication they take can often cause dry mouth, and a lack of cleansing saliva can allow plaque to form. The elderly may also have a more difficult time brushing and flossing their teeth daily. Diabetes patients are another at-risk group, because diabetics often have more sucrose in their saliva than others, and this extra sucrose can cause a build-up of plaque.
Treatment Strategies for Dental Assistants
There is a proper technique in dental assistant training for treating gingivitis at the dentist. This technique is called scaling and root planing. Because of the extensive nature of these procedures, usually, only half of the mouth is done in one sitting. Scaling involves scraping tartar from above and below the gum line, using a small handheld metal tool called a scaler. Root planing is essentially polishing the teeth, to smooth the surface and get rid of rough spots which tend to garner bacteria.
After scaling and root planning, a dentist may use lasers to vapourize and remove damaged tissue. This laser will also kill lingering bacteria in your mouth. In cases of extreme gingivitis, surgery may be needed to pull back the gums and get at hard-to-reach tartar. It is important during any dental procedure that the dental assistant knows as much about the disease and treatment as the dentist. Dental assistant programs will ensure this. A dental assistant may be responsible for giving you numbing medication during the procedure. Some dental assistants will be trained to perform minor scaling procedures themselves. Overall, a dental assistant will be there for the duration of the procedures to aid the dentist. At the end of your appointment, they will also provide you will all the necessary follow-up care for at home.
General Prevention Strategies at Home
There are several ways you can prevent gingivitis at home. To be noted, these are not just precautions for avoiding gingivitis, but routines you should be doing all the time to maintain good oral health:
- Brush twice a day
- Don’t smoke
- Use mouthwash after brushing
- Get routine check-ups at your dentist’s office (once or twice a year)