This widely accepted standard might not apply to you
We all know that it’s important to brush and floss daily, maintain a healthy diet and see your dentist regularly, but just how often should you get your teeth professionally cleaned? For quite some time, dental professionals have recommended a teeth cleaning every six months. However, this rule of thumb was designed with the “average” person in mind and now that healthcare is more personalized, standards are becoming less and less “standard.”
Importance of Cleanings
The purpose behind dental cleanings is to maintain healthy teeth, gums and bones, which contribute to good overall health. We’re all familiar with plaque, which is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria and saliva, and when this is not removed (brushed off, for instance), it turns into calculus. When plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy gums and bone. If you’re not cleaning your teeth well enough, or having a hygienist do it for you, you’re causing damage to your oral cavity that will be more difficult to manage later.
Where Do You Fit In?
The “every six months” rule is based on people who are middle-aged, don’t smoke or eat too many sweets, and who brush their teeth twice a day. At the end of six months, these people would have produced enough tartar that the skills of a dental hygienist are needed.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, some people might be fine going longer than six months in between cleanings, but this category is smaller than you’d think. Generally, these people are in their 20s and 30s and who are healthy, eat really well and floss daily. If you occasionally go to bed without brushing your teeth, floss irregularly or drink soda or sugary juices almost every day, this is not your category.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who need to have “deep cleanings” every three months (or more) because they have periodontal disease. With periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (aka pockets) that become infected and spread below the gum line. A hygienist is needed to monitor the pockets and the spread of the disease so deep cleanings are considered a treatment for active gum disease, versus a regular cleaning.
It is also a safe bet to see your hygienist more often if you smoke, have a diet rich in sugary foods and drinks, have diabetes, are elderly, have dry mouth or heart problems, etc.
What To Do
Talk to your dentist and hygienist. They have the skills and training to diagnose your current oral health and treat you to either maintain a healthy mouth or work toward a healthy mouth. Take some steps at home, too, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing regularly, eating a healthy diet and drinking a lot of water, and cutting back on drinking and smoking, if applicable. If you’re not sure if you have a healthy mouth because you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, take the first step and find a local dentist. The mouth is the gateway to the body and it’s proven that oral health might affect, or be affected by, or contribute to various diseases and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. So, if you have a dirty mouth, clean it up!