Routine scale and polish has little or no effect on gingivitis

Scaling and polishing removes deposits such as plaque and calculus (tartar) from tooth surfaces. Over time, the regular removal of these deposits may reduce gingivitis (a mild form of gum disease) and prevent progression to periodontitis (severe gum disease). Routine scale and polish treatment is sometimes referred to as “prophylaxis”, “professional mechanical plaque removal” or “periodontal instrumentation”. Many dentists or hygienists provide scaling and polishing for most patients at regular intervals even if the patients are considered to be at low risk of developing gum disease. There is debate about whether scaling and polishing is effective and the best interval between treatments. Scaling is an invasive procedure and has been associated with a number of negative side effects including damage to tooth surfaces and tooth sensitivity.

For the purposes of this review, a ‘routine scale and polish’ was scaling and polishing of both the tooth and the root of the tooth to remove plaque deposits (mainly bacteria), and calculus. Calculus is so hard it cannot be removed by toothbrushing alone and this along with plaque, other debris and staining on the teeth is removed by the scale and polish treatment. Scaling or removal of hardened deposits is done with specially designed dental instruments or ultrasonic scalers, and polishing is done mechanically with special pastes. In this review, we included scaling above and below the gum level; however, we excluded any surgical procedure on the gums, any chemical washing of the space between gum and tooth (pocket) and root planing, which is more intense scraping of the root than simple scaling.

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What’s the evidence on the best approach to supportive periodontal therapy?

Periodontitis (gum disease) is a chronic condition caused by bacteria, which stimulate inflammation and destruction of the bone and gum tissue supporting teeth. People treated for periodontitis can reduce the probability of re-infection and disease progression through regular supportive periodontal therapy (SPT). SPT starts once periodontitis has been treated satisfactorily, meaning that inflammation has been controlled and destruction of tissues supporting the tooth (bone and gums) has been arrested. SPT aims to maintain teeth in function, without pain, excessive mobility or persistent infection over the long term. SPT treatment typically includes ensuring excellent oral hygiene, frequent monitoring for progression or recurrence of disease, and removal of microbial deposits by dental professionals. Although success of SPT has been suggested through a number of long-term, retrospective studies, it is important to consider evidence available from randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Continue reading

No evidence that treatment of gum disease reduces the number of babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy

Periodontal disease is a disease of the supporting tissues of the teeth that may affect the gums, periodontal ligament membrane, and bone around the tooth socket. It has been linked with infections, which some researchers believe could lead to or have an impact on a number of conditions, including problems in pregnancy. Periodontal disease is common in women of reproductive age, and gum conditions tend to worsen during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. The treatment involves bringing plaque on the teeth down to minimal levels, to reduce and resolve inflammation of the gums. It could involve counselling on oral hygiene measures, removing the plaque and calculus by using hand instruments (e.g. scale and polish) or ultrasound equipment (e.g. mechanical debridement), sometimes alongside the use of antibiotics or antiseptic mouthwashes or gels. If the nonsurgical treatment is not successful, surgery is sometimes required. This review assessed studies where pregnant women with gum disease were treated using a combination of techniques, with or without antibiotics. Continue reading

Treating all teeth within 24 hours for chronic gum disease

FMSGum disease or periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes damage to the soft tissue and bone around the teeth. Mild periodontitis is common in adults with severe periodontitis occurring in up to 20% of the population. Non-surgical treatments based on the mechanical removal of bacteria from infected root surfaces are used in order to arrest and control the loss of the bone and tissue that support the tooth in adults suffering from chronic gum disease. These treatments can be carried out in a different area of the mouth in separate sessions over a period of several weeks (SRP), which is the conventional method, or alternatively, can be done within 24 hours in one or two sessions, which is termed ‘full-mouth scaling’ (FMS). When an antiseptic agent (such as chlorhexidine for example) is added to the full-mouth scaling the intervention is called ‘full-mouth disinfection’ (FMD). The rationale for full-mouth approaches is that they may reduce the likelihood of re-infection in already treated sites. This review is an update of one originally published in 2008, and considers the effectiveness of full mouth treatments. Continue reading

Treating chronic gum disease – can it help to prevent heart disease?

Heart diseaseGum disease (periodontitis) is a common chronic or persistent condition that can get worse over time. It involves inflammation of the gums, which surround and support the teeth, causing swollen and painful gums and in severe cases loss of the bone that supports the teeth. Clinical investigations have shown that there might be a link between chronic, ongoing gum disease and heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease). Some investigators believe that the treatment for gum disease, which gets rid of bacteria and infection and controls inflammation, might prevent the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease. Continue reading

Triclosan / copolymer containing toothpastes for oral health

ToothpasteGum disease and dental decay are the main reasons for tooth loss. Plaque (a film of bacteria) can build up on the teeth, leading to swelling and redness of the gums (gingivitis) which if left untreated can develop into a more serious form of gum disease (periodontitis). Periodontitis can cause pain, eating difficulties and tooth loss. The build up of plaque can also cause teeth to decay. Adding an effective and safe antibacterial ingredient to toothpastes could be an easy and low-cost answer to these problems. Continue reading

Is there a case for routine scale and polish?

ScalingScaling and polishing of the teeth may help to reduce deposits such as plaque (bacteria)  and hardened plaque (calculus or tartar). It may also reduce bleeding and inflammation of the gums. Many dentists and hygienists provide scaling and polishing for most patients at regular intervals, even if they are at low risk of developing gum disease.  For this review, scaling and polishing was defined as the scaling and polishing of the crown and root surfaces to remove deposits of plaque and calculus. Calculus is so hard that it cannot be removed by toothbrushing alone, and it is generally removed by the scale and polish treatment. Removal of hardened deposits is done with specially designed dental instruments or ultrasonic scalers, and polishing is done mechanically with special pastes.

Is there evidence that this practice is effective? This review considers the data from randomized controlled trials. Continue reading