The standard of care for professional dental cleanings has long been every 6 months. This still holds true today for most patients. Studies have repeatedly shown that those who go to regular dental visits are less likely to have the need for a dental restoration or to have a tooth removed.
Are Teeth Cleanings Necessary?
While for many at home care can be a breeze for many others it is a constant struggle. Our daily lives can get in the way of even the simplest tasks including our oral hygiene. Regular professional teeth cleaning removes plaque, the soft yellowish build-up, and calculus (hardened plaque) that we are just not able to get to. This soft build-up is made up of billions of different types of bacteria that live and reproduce in our mouth by feeding on the food we eat releasing acids that if left alone will damage our teeth and periodontal tissues.
Most bacteria co exist in our bodies without causing too much trouble to our health and well being. But certain bacteria in dental plaque, when they grow in numbers, can lead to tooth decay or periodontal disease. A professional dental cleaning will reduce your chances of developing tooth decay or periodontal disease by significantly reducing the amount of plaque, calculus, and bacteria in your mouth.
How Often Is Acceptable?
As a dentist, my patients often ask me how regularly they should come in to get their teeth cleaned. My response is usually: “That depends”. For most of the population every 6 months is the right number. But there are those who just cannot maintain dental hygiene on their own or they develop calculus faster than others.
So for those patients I will recommend a schedule of every 3 months. 2 extra visits a year to maintain your dental health should not feel like a lot. This will reduce chances of tooth decay and periodontal disease development in these patients over the long haul.
Factors Affecting Dental Hygiene
We know certain lifestyle choices can affect a person’s risk of developing tooth decay and periodontal disease. Following are some questions you may ask yourself to understand whether you are at an increased risk:
-Does your drinking water contain Fluoride? Is this your main source of drinking water?
-Do you frequently snack, including on sweets?
-Are you a regular flosser?
-Do you brush your teeth at least twice a day?
-Do you visit your dentist for toothaches rather than routine examinations?
-Have you had multiple teeth with tooth decay at your last few dental visits?
-Is your dentist “watching” a lot of teeth with early tooth decay?
-Do you have to wear a denture or undergoing orthodontic treatment?
-Do you develop excessive amounts of calculus quickly?
-Do you suffer from a chronic long-term health condition such as diabetes?
-Do you suffer from a xerostomia (dry mouth)?
If you were able to answer “yes” to most of the questions above, you are likely to need to see your dentist or hygienist at least every six months, if not more often based on your dentist’s recommendations.
Following a professional cleaning, people prone to tooth decay can benefit from the fluoride treatment following removal of plaque and calculus. Studies have shown that professional fluoride treatment every six months can lead to about a 30% reduction in the development of tooth decay.
Dental Health = Overall Health
Some patients with chronic health issues such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes will need to see their dentists more frequently. This is because they are much more susceptible to periodontal disease. Patients taking blood thinners and other medications, such as for osteoporosis, may need to visit the dentist more regularly as well.
These medications can complicate the process of an tooth extraction or other dental work, so regular checks and cleanings are best to help detect problems before they become serious.
The cost of seeing your dentist and dental hygienist 2-4 times per year will be far less than restoring your teeth over the long run. Routine dental health maintenance is the best insurance you have to maintain a healthy smile.
Protecting your smile
Parents often wish to set a good example for their children by making regular check and cleaning appointments for the whole family. In the end, only you can choose what you feel is right for you. Maintaining a healthy smile that will last a lifetime is important to most people.