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How Often Should You See Your Dentist for a Cleaning?

How Often Should see your dentist for a dental cleaning

Almost everyone has been told at some point or another that it is important to visit your local dental office for a dental checkup and teeth cleaning. If you are one that regularly schedules your dental appointments, then this article probably won’t help you much. However, if you are someone who is unsure when the last time you sat in a dental chair was, then you may want to keep reading. 

Think hard about the last time you were at the dentist’s office. How long ago was that? If it was over six months ago, then it’s time to schedule another appointment. This is because the American Dental Association recommends visiting your local dentist every six months, or twice a year, for a dental checkup and teeth cleaning. 

bacteria that cause tooth decay
Bacteria responsible for tooth decay

But, why do they advise you visit the dentist that often, especially if you brush and floss everyday? Well for starters, it’s because not everyone brushes and/or flosses daily. In fact a study quoted in US News found that only about 30% of Americans floss everyday. While brushing removes plaque from about 60% of the tooth’s surface, flossing is responsible for removing the other 40%. Therefore, when people skip flossing, they are leaving plaque and bacteria in their mouths that can eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease. 

Even individuals who do brush and floss daily can miss hard to reach spots resulting in an accumulation of excess plaque in these areas. If plaque is left in place long enough, then it will eventually harden into tartar, which is also known as calculus. Unfortunately, tartar cannot be removed with brushing or flossing, and can only be removed using special tools. This is why professional teeth cleanings are needed. 

Dental scaler

A professional cleaning conducted by your dentist’s oral hygienist removes both plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth. In some cases, plaque accumulations below the gum line may also be removed to reduce or prevent gum inflammation. During a dental cleaning, a dental scaler is used to scrape off the plaque and tartar. In some cases, a water stream can also be used to loosen and remove plaque and tartar. 

Once all the large pieces of debris have been removed, the teeth are brushed with a gritty toothpaste to eliminate any remaining residue. After being rinsed, a fluoride polish is then applied to prevent future plaque accumulation and strengthen the enamel. Removing excess plaque and tartar removes excess bacteria, while fluoride makes the tooth more resistant against bacteria. These two benefits are why you need to visit your dentist every six months for a cleaning. 

Without regular dental cleanings, plaque will continue to accumulate until it eventually hardens into tartar. Even if you brush and floss regularly, you could still be missing places. Furthermore, the longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more bacteria reside there, and the more damage is done to your teeth. Teeth that have not been regularly cleaned are more susceptible to developing tooth decay or pulp infections that require root canals. 

Inflamed gums

Additionally, excess plaque tends to build up around the base of the tooth just under the gum line. This region is called the gum pocket, and it can collect bacteria from all over the mouth. This bacteria will cause the gums to become red, inflamed, and sore. They may even start to bleed frequently or even start to recede, which can cause tooth loss. 

Visiting your local dental office every six months for a dental cleaning  can help decrease your chances of developing these aforementioned conditions. Not only that, but you can maintain your oral health, which will save you thousands of dollars in the future. So, how long has it been since your last appointment? It may be time to call your local dental office and schedule another appointment for a dental cleaning. 

For more information about dental cleanings, see “4 Types of Dental Cleanings”.

Jonathan McCartney D.M.D

Dr. Jonathan McCartney received his doctorate from Case Western Dental School. After a few years of practicing in another dental office, Dr. McCartney’s goal was to create an environment for his patients that combines the most advanced dental technology with gentle, affordable, individualized care. The end result of this goal is McCartney Dental, a state of the art North Port modern dental practice.  

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