Plaque is a soft, sticky mixture of bacteria, waste products from bacteria, and some food debris. It irritates the gums, or gingiva
, and causes inflammation over time: gingivitis
. The longer plaque is left on the teeth, the harder it gets. After 24 hours, some plaque hardens into calculus, otherwise known as tartar
. Calculus is mineralized plaque and does not come off with the brush and floss anymore. The bacteria in plaque and calculus cause an ongoing state of inflammation called gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious disease called periodontitis
. The most common treatment for periodontitis is scaling and root planing.Periodontal scaling procedures "include the removal of plaque, calculus and stain from the crown and root surfaces of teeth. Root planing is a specialized skill involving scaling of the root of the tooth, made up of cementum. Because cementum is softer than enamel, it is affected more by ongoing build-up and inflammatory byproducts. A smooth cementum provides less opportunity for bacteria to hang out and form calculus, so root planing is an important part of stopping periodontal disease where it is at, and preventing periodontal disease from getting worse, specially once deeper pockets have formed in the gums, which is really in the bone. So, root planing is a specific treatment that removes the roughened cementum and surface dentin
that is impregnated with calculus, microorganisms and their toxins.