Despite the consistent message from dentists that two dental cleanings are recommended per year, patients still find excuses for not booking their checkups. Many people like to think that if they continue to follow a strict dental hygiene regime at home, it’s enough to remove any harmful plaque that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. While dentists applaud patients who take good care of their teeth, we still like to see our patients twice a year. Here’s why.
Dental Cleanings Remove Calculus
Brushing and flossing regularly at home is a good first step to help reduce plaque buildup. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for your toothbrush, and that includes electric toothbrushes, to remove plaque from harder-to-reach spots. As well, when plaque builds up it hardens, turning into calculus. This definitely can’t be removed with brushing alone. It requires special tools only available at dental offices. The problem with plaque is it’s not only yellow and can dull the appearance of our teeth, but it is also filled with billions of different bacteria.
These bacteria feed on the food left on our teeth and in our mouths after we eat. While there are both good and bad bacteria found in our bodies, some of the bacteria found in plaque are strong enough to cause tooth decay, which creates cavities. These holes can get deeper and deeper and even lead to tooth infections. As well, plaque can cause gum disease. So while your brushing and flossing are always important to maintain healthy teeth and gums, professional dental cleanings are a must to remove the plaque and calculus that can cause serious oral health issues.
One Size Does Not Fit All
The twice-a-year rule for dental cleanings works for most people and is also the number of checkups usually covered by basic dental plans. So it really is a good schedule to stick to. However, as with any health-related service, every patient is different. So while having dental cleanings twice a year is a good average, you might need more, or may even get away with less. This is because some people are at higher risk of gum disease and tooth decay. If we find you are one of those patients, we might recommend you see us more often. How often depends on a number of things, including if you:
- Use a fluoride-free toothpaste
- Love to snack on sweets and less healthy treats
- Don’t floss
- Don’t always brush twice a day
- Rarely see us at least once a year for check-ups and cleanings
- Have cavities or areas of tooth decay when you do come for check-ups
- Have used or do use a dental appliance(s)
- Have an underlying health issue such as diabetes or heart condition
- Take medicines that cause dry mouth, or you have issues with saliva production
- Smoke and drink alcohol often
- Have bleeding gums when you floss and brush your teeth
- Have been told you have a “pocket” 4mm or more at check-ups
These are the signs that tell us you need a more frequent time interval for your dental cleanings. We can determine what schedule works best for your needs whether it is every two months or just once a year. And remember, although at first you might be asked to come see us more frequently, with proper care you should be able to see your cleaning schedule spread out as your oral health improves.
Dental Health Is Tied To Overall Health
Many patients underestimate the importance of their dental health. However, because each part of your body is connected, your dental health can affect your overall health and vice versa. For example, chronic health issues including diabetes and heart conditions increase the risk for gum disease.
As well, certain medications can cause dental issues such as dry mouth. When you can’t produce enough saliva, your mouth can’t wash away bacteria effectively. This increases plaque build-up and in turn, increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. We look at your overall health and consider how this affects your oral health, and then make recommendations for your dental cleaning schedule to suit your needs.
Dental Check-Ups Are Cost-Effective
If budget issues are the reason you are avoiding your regular dental cleanings, keep in mind your check-ups are the best way to avoid more costly dental treatments down the road. When you come to see us twice a year, we offer what is called “preventative” treatment. Your dental cleanings and check-ups help ensure you maintain healthy teeth and gums so you avoid having to undergo more expensive treatments for dental issues later on that can really add up. A good example of how quickly dental treatments can impact your budget is looking at the risk of developing gum disease.
When you suffer from periodontal disease you require ongoing treatment by a periodontist. This is a far more expensive treatment regime, especially if you allow things to develop into advanced gum disease. With regular dental cleanings and check-ups, you have a low fee once or twice a year, compared to much higher fees for periodontal appointments.
Let’s not forget about the pain. Gum disease and cavities hurt. By missing your dental cleanings you allow cavities in their early stages to penetrate deeper and deeper into your tooth, leading to painful toothaches. As well, mild gingivitis in the early stages might cause bleeding, but as far as pain or discomfort goes you won’t suffer too badly early on. Allow it to advance however, and it can become very painful, including tooth sensitivity as your gums pull away from your teeth, exposing the vulnerable area below the gum line. So if you want to avoid pain, don’t avoid your dental check-ups!
In the age of selfies, you really don’t want to let anything happen to your smile. Dental cleanings twice a year keep your smile healthy and bright. This also protects your teeth and gums from advanced dental conditions that can lead to embarrassing, noticeable cosmetic issues.