The ADA (American Dental Association) describes a full mouth debridement as the removal of excessive amounts of plaque and calculus/tartar that interferes with the ability of the dentist to perform a comprehensive and accurate oral evaluation.

Think of it as a first step before a proper dental exam.  Technically, this is not a cleaning, but is considered a preliminary procedure to discover if there is a need for additional treatment like filling cavities or doing root canals.  It is considered a definitive treatment for gingivitis (gum inflammation) or a pre-surgical treatment if the disease has progressed to severe periodontal disease.

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that forms on teeth after eating.  It is composed of bacteria and bacterial by-products, regardless of what foods are eaten.  The bacteria irritate the gums, which means they may bleed a bit.  If not removed by regular brushing and flossing, the plaque hardens into calculus (a.k.a. tartar), a deposit somewhat like cement or lime deposits on your plumbing, that is formed from the plaque in the mouth and the minerals in saliva, and that is bad news for your teeth and gums.  Unlike plaque, calculus cannot be removed by regular brushing and can only be removed by your dentist or hygienist with dental instruments.

While a regular professional cleaning does remove early deposits of plaque and calculus, a debridement is needed if a professional cleaning has not been done regularly enough and the calculus has thickened and become dense and very hard.  Debridement is a longer and more complicated process that will reveal if the inflammation and infection is localized or has advanced to surrounding tissue and bone.  While it may seem trivial to worry about heavy deposits on your teeth, recent studies show that there is a relationship between teeth and gum health, and several health disorders such as certain heart conditions, diabetes, and other systemic diseases.

After a full mouth debridement, your teeth may be sensitive to heat and cold, cold air, and sweets:  Toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help but may take a few weeks to have an effect.  It is important to brush and floss daily to remove plaque and keep the tarter minimized, in order to prevent further gum disease and maintain your oral health.

You will come back in 2 to 4 weeks for a second appointment, when any remaining plaque or tartar can be removed, and now that the deposits on your teeth have been scraped away, and after your gums have healed a little bit and the inflammation has subsided, your teeth, gums, and oral health can be accurately evaluated.  If signs of gum disease are present, a scaling and root planing treatment (SRP), also called a deep cleaning, may be recommended.

If you’ve not visited your dentist for a cleaning in a year or more, chances are, you may need a dental debridement.  It will get your teeth feeling cleaner and healthier than ever — and there’s nothing wrong with that!

If you are interested in full mouth debridement in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.