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Full mouth debridement is a non-surgical dental procedure. It removes plaque and tartar (also known as dental calculus) that cover your teeth and gums.
Dental plaque is sticky and often hard to see. But when plaque is allowed to accumulate over time, it can harden or calcify, forming tartar. By debriding your teeth and gums, tartar is broken up and removed.
This procedure may be the first step before proceeding to other treatments. It is typically used as a diagnostic procedure to better visualize the teeth and determine a treatment plan.
Full mouth debridement will probably be necessary if you have a lot of hardened tartar on your teeth and gums. Tartar is made up of:1, 2, 3
Tartar deposits can build up at the gumline and in the spaces between your teeth and gums. These deposits can:
Gum disease, in turn, can be associated with other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.4
With tartar covering your gums and the roots of your teeth, your dentist can’t diagnose and proceed with other treatments you may need. Your risk for gum disease is higher, and the extent of any possible damage is hidden.
Once this tartar has been removed, your teeth and gums will be more accessible. You and your dentist can then move forward with definitively assessing and treating any conditions you may have.
The process of full mouth debridement may take as long as one hour and will look like the following:
A full mouth debridement isn’t the same as a routine prophylactic cleaning (or prophy). It’s also distinct from scaling and root planing, which is a deep cleaning used to treat gum disease.
The main purpose of a full mouth debridement is to clear away excess tartar so that your dentist can assess the condition of the teeth and gums underneath.
Routine cleanings, on the other hand, are mainly preventative and handle tartar that sits above the gumline. If you have good oral hygiene, these regular cleanings also won’t be as intensive because there will be less tartar buildup in the first place.
Scaling and root planing involves more work than a full mouth debridement and may even be performed one quadrant of the mouth at a time.5, 6 Your dentist may decide that you need scaling and root planing after a full mouth debridement.
In short, no. If the extent of the debridement reaches deep into the gums, local anesthesia should prevent any pain you would feel.
After a full mouth debridement, you’ll want to maintain a clean and healthy mouth with good oral hygiene. The procedure is effective at reducing harmful oral bacteria, but they may return over the following months.7
Once debridement has been completed, your dentist may want to move on to other treatments if you show signs of advancing gum disease.
In some cases, debridement will be followed by scaling and root planing, which removes harder-to-reach tartar deposits under your gums and smooths the surfaces of your tooth roots.
However, root planing is somewhat invasive and can remove viable tissue from your tooth roots. Full mouth debridement with an ultrasonic scaler can provide a less invasive alternative in those who cannot undergo scaling and root planing for medical reasons.8
Full mouth debridement may cost between $75 and $150 without insurance. If there is more tartar below the gumline, you may need an additional deep cleaning (scaling and root planing), which can cost between $1000 and $4000 without insurance.9
Dental insurance can provide at least partial coverage for debridement and deep cleaning treatments. If you do need a deep cleaning, you might still need to pay a few hundred dollars out of pocket.9
Contact your insurance provider to know what specific procedures your insurance will cover (and by how much).
To prevent the need for a full mouth debridement or other intensive cleanings, you’ll need to prevent tartar from building up in the first place. You can do this by:10, 11, 12, 13
All of these things can help reduce dental plaque and prevent it from hardening into tartar.
Note that the importance of routine cleanings depends on your situation. There isn’t enough evidence to say whether or not they’re helpful for people who already have good oral health.14, 15
However, these routine cleanings won’t cause harm, and insurance providers typically cover two a year. And during these visits, your dentist will have the opportunity to assess your overall oral health and possibly prevent future problems.
With that in mind, talk to your dentist about your specific needs and concerns.
Full-mouth debridement is a non-surgical dental procedure that removes tartar buildup. It may be performed independently or as the first step in a deeper cleaning procedure, such as scaling and root planing.
Large deposits of tartar are associated with gum disease and need to be removed for any damage to your teeth and gums to be assessed. You can prevent this buildup in the first place by maintaining good oral hygiene.
Talk to your dentist if you have questions or concerns about debridement, scaling, or other treatments for gum disease.
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