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Periodontal maintenance has been proven to be the most important phase of periodontal therapy. Regardless of what comes before—be it scaling and root planing or surgical care—the maintenance phase determines the long term success of care. During a maintenance appointment, often referred to as “a cleaning” by patients, the therapist examines the mouth, removes plaque, hard deposits known as calculus or tarter, polishes the teeth, and reinforces home care—brushing, flossing, etc.
Appointments here are scheduled to last around 50 minutes. Another crucial part of maintenance is the periodontal exam. These periodontal exams should be done at least once a year, and compared to past exams. Honestly, that’s really the only way to know if a patient is stable, better or worse. The interval for maintenance appointments is determined by the dentist based on each patient’s needs. My average recommended interval is three months.
Periodontal disease by definition is a chronic (meaning it’s always there) situation. The goal of therapy is to attain the best level of health as possible, and maintain that for a lifetime. This can be done, as I have seen over my 20 plus years of treating some of the most delightful people I know. The relationship between the therapist and patient is one of support and trust. Sometimes, life gets in the way of keeping up with maintenance. It’s always a surprise to see how much time passes for some of our patients when they return to re-establish our relationship. Perio therapy works, and the more consistent you can be, the better. The point here is: something is better than nothing when it comes to maintenance, so don’t get overwhelmed thinking it’s too much of a long term commitment.