How often should you get your teeth cleaned?By Ryan Wood, DMD
No matter your age or health status, it is important that you schedule regular exams with your dentist. This is because routine dental exams allow your dentist to identify emerging health concerns with your teeth and gums, helping you to avoid cavities and other problems such as gum disease.
Routine dental cleanings
Routine dental exams also provide your teeth and mouth with a thorough cleaning, a preventative measure that has been proven to maintain healthy teeth and ward off cavities and other concerns such as gingivitis.
With all that in mind, the standard answer to, “How often should I see my dentist?” is every six months – or twice a year, as recommended by the American Dental Association. That is not necessarily a hard and fast rule, as some people with healthier teeth can go as long as 12 months without an exam and cleaning, but most people should stick to the twice-yearly plan and maintain that cleaning frequency throughout their lives.
The point of a dentist visit is twofold: An exam by dental professionals and complete and thorough teeth cleaning.
This type of routine cleaning represents one of the most important steps in preventive oral health – healthy teeth and gums – and will help you and your family to ward off cavities and address any emerging oral health concerns (including oral cancer) before they fester and require more severe dental treatments. For instance, a cavity can often be ignored, but if left to grow and deepen, it can lead to infection (which may necessitate a root canal procedure) and even tooth loss.
That is why you should see a dental professional at least once a year to have your teeth and gums checked, preferably every six months.
The good news is that routine dental visits are easy, almost always painless, and rewarding. And thanks to our approach combined with modern dental practices, the professionals at BGW can make even the most nervous patient feel at ease. Routine cleanings and exams are just one aspect of the full-service dentistry we offer at BGW.
At a routine dental cleaning, you will first be examined and treated by one of our experienced and friendly oral hygienists, who will clean and polish your teeth, removing damaging bacteria and substances like dental plaque. You will then undergo a thorough examination by one of our dentists.
How long can you go without a dental cleaning?
While it is true that some people are blessed with healthier teeth than others, that does not mean that those people should go more than a year between professional dental cleanings. In fact, you should aim for a dental cleaning every six months.
Even if you practice wonderful oral care habits at home, such as regular brushing and flossing, you will be unable to produce the thorough and supportive cleaning that a dental professional provides – and thus leave yourself more vulnerable to concerns such as cavities and gum disease.
How Long Does a Teeth Cleaning Take?
Routine dental cleanings – even ones as thorough as we provide at BGW – should take no more than 30 to 60 minutes. There are other factors that may take longer, however. For instance, if you require sedation or are experiencing oral health problems, your cleaning could take longer.
At BGW, however, we respect your time and understand that many of our patients are on a tight schedule, therefore, we will try to get you in and out – all while protecting your teeth as well as professionally possible – in a reasonable amount of time.
What happens during teeth cleaning?
The reason that you should plan on routine professional teeth cleanings taking at least 30 minutes is that there are certain steps we must take to ensure your optimum oral health.
It starts with an initial exam – the dental hygienist (followed later by the dentist) will ask you about your oral health status and then take a full look inside your mouth, identifying any problem areas before beginning the professional teeth cleaning. This includes the teeth and the gums, as they survey for gum disease, as well as cavities, plaque and overall dental hygiene.
During this step, our dental hygienist uses a small mirror, and an instrument called a “scaler,” to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth – especially around the gum line and in between teeth (where even the most ardent home oral healthcare struggles to remove all these elements). Made up of harmful bacteria, plaque is the film that builds up on your teeth. If left in place, plaque will harden into tartar. Both substances can eat away at the enamel that protects your teeth, thus leading to cavities.
Following the removal of plaque (and plenty of rinsing in between), the dental hygienist will then give your mouth professional flossing, reaching areas that you may not notice or be able to reach on your own.
Once your teeth and gums are completely clean, the hygienist will proceed to polish them. This is where they utilize the gritty toothpaste and electric toothbrush to round off the cleaning and leave them feeling smooth and clean. And while you’ve been experiencing this step since you were a kid, the good news is that toothpaste has changed through the years and offers much more appealing flavors and feels. NOTE: Just because it feels like the dental hygienist is applying a lot of pressure while polishing, you should not apply the same amount while brushing at home. That is because the dentist’s brush is specially designed for this task. Your home toothbrush is not, and you can actually damage your enamel by pressing too hard while brushing at home.
Once your teeth are completely clean and polished, the dental hygienist will utilize a fluoride rinse to round out your treatment. Fluoride helps guard against harmful bacteria like plaque and leaves your teeth in a much safer position. And, just like other aspects of dentistry, fluoride treatments have also progressed and are much more pleasant and easy than in decades past. And because of advancements, you can eat and drink immediately following your visit (unlike the old days, when you had to refrain from these actions for some time after your visit).
Health benefits of a dental cleaning
There are a multitude of reasons why you should have your teeth professionally examined and cleaned at least once a year – though we recommend twice yearly.
First off, it will head off any growing or lurking oral health problems. Typically, this means cavities, but it can also allow the dentist to identify more significant issues such as gum disease, cracked or broken teeth, or worse (such as oral cancer). And by addressing these issues sooner, rather than later, you typically end up saving both time and money – as earlier treatments tend to require less effort (and thus cost less).
Second, addressing oral health will allow you to feel better both physically and psychologically, as you trust in the smile you show to the world. These are benefits few people think about but are worth much in your everyday life. Plus, dealing with mouth pain is one of the more frustrating and debilitating aspects of life, so addressing or avoiding this outcome is a huge reason why you should visit your dentist regularly.
Are there disadvantages to getting your teeth professionally cleaned more frequently?
If going to the dentist twice a year is good, surely going to the dentist three or more times a year must be even better, right?
Well, not really. You can get everything you need in two visits a year and going more often – while producing that wonderful smooth teeth feel – won’t necessarily do anything more for your oral health. In fact, going more often than that could be detrimental in cost versus the benefit it actually provides.
How should I take care of my teeth between teeth cleanings?
So, if you’re only seeing the dentist, at most, twice a year, what should you be doing in between visits to ensure optimum dental care? Here are the best practices as recommended by BGE professionals…
· Brush the right way
Many people utilize toothbrushes that are too firm. It’s best to use a soft-bristled brush, angle your brush 45 degrees and use short circular motions, taking care to also brush at the base of the tooth and on the gum line. And make sure to brush for at least two minutes each time you do brush. And make sure to use fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day.
It goes without saying that you should brush at least twice a day (and even dry brush – no toothpaste – a couple of times more per day), but flossing can be just as important to oral hygiene. Make sure to do use dental floss daily and gently so that you do not cut and damage your gums.
· Eat healthy
Certain foods – such as raw carrots, apples and celery – can actually help clean the tooth as you chew, while also supporting your overall health and thus aiding oral health. Also, you should cut down any soda or sports drink consumption to a minimum, as the sugar and acid in those beverages can harm your teeth – also try and keep fruit juices to a minimum for the same reason. You should also avoid sugary snacks when possible. Sugar is your teeth’s biggest enemy, as it sticks to the teeth and encourages/feeds the plaque and bacteria that grow on the tooth and cause cavities.
· Don’t smoke and drink in moderation
The nicotine and tar present in tobacco products eats away at your gums, encourage tooth decay, and leads to horrible-smelling breath. It also increases your risk of oral cancer. Excessive drinking can do the same thing, as well as cause dry mouth. Saliva acts as a cleanser for your teeth, and if you’re drinking to excess or smoking you make it more difficult for your body to produce an adequate amount of saliva.
Request an appointment with us
If you’ve read over this and realized it’s been too long since you’ve seen a dentist and had a professional tooth cleaning – or perhaps have moved to north Georgia and you’re looking for a new dentist – give us a call and let us help.
The caring team at BGW is always happy to add another member to our growing family of clients, and we’re here for you. Our staff will fully evaluate your oral health via the most cutting-edge methods available in all three of our locations throughout North Georgia. And whatever your need, we will tailor-make your oral care to suit your specific situation.