“Why do I need to get my teeth cleaned at the dental office on a regular basis?”
This is a question my hygienists and I often get asked. To fully answer this question we need to explore the reasons for getting your teeth cleaned.
The main goal for keeping your teeth clean, both in the dental office, and at home, is to remove bacteria that have accumulated on the teeth. Bacteria are normally present in the mouth, and you cannot get rid of them completely. The bacteria use sugars from our food to grow, and as a by-product, they produce acids. These acids are what cause tooth decay and gum disease. Thus the bacteria are a direct cause of most dental problems. However with proper brushing and flossing, most of the bacteria can be removed. It will then take about 24 hours for more bacteria to form and adhere to the tooth surface in the form of dental plaque. This is the soft yellowy-white material that forms on your teeth and is easily removed with proper oral hygiene. It can be very tricky to be able to clean all the surfaces of the teeth at home, and thus bacteria are almost always left on the teeth. This remaining plaque will slowly mineralize and harden, becoming the dental tartar that is not easily removed. This is where it is necessary to get it removed professionally by a dental hygienist or dentist, as tooth brushing and flossing won’t remove it.
How frequently should this be done? Studies have shown that for the average person, who has no gum disease or other systemic diseases, a 6 month scaling frequency is adequate. For those who have a history of gum disease, many fillings or missing teeth, and those with braces, should have a scaling done every 3 months or sooner. Another demographic that needs more frequent visits to the dentist would be those who are immunocompromised, and those with diabetes and heart disease. It is well documented that poor oral hygiene can accelerate the progression of many systemic problems; the most common of which are diabetes and heart disease. Bacteria in the mouth won’t CAUSE these diseases, but they can make them worse.
Ultimately, it’s up to the individual patient to decide how often they wish to come in to the dental office for a cleaning. The hygienists and I will make a recommendation based on your individual needs, so what may be appropriate for one person, may not be good for another. Many insurance plans will cover “recall exams” at the dentist every 9 months. What many patients don’t realize is that they may have extra units of scaling available to them, so they actually have coverage for more frequent cleaning. We would be happy to look at your plan to let your know. Keep in mind that the insurance company doesn’t care about your oral health, as their main objective is to make money, and they are happy when you don’t use your benefits. We will assess you as an individual and make a recommendation based on what we feel would be of greatest benefit for your oral health, and not based on what your insurance plan tells you.
We will work with you with whatever you decide, and hopefully we can obtain a healthy, painless mouth, and healthier overall person.