“I always have my teeth cleaned every six months, so why do I need to come more often?”
A common belief amongst patients is that having your teeth cleaned every 6 months is adequate in maintaining good oral health. While this is true for a small percentage of the population, majority of the patients need a professional cleaning every 3 to 4 months. According to the Canadian Dental Association “7 out of 10 Canadians will develop gum disease at some time in their lives. It is the most common dental problem, and it can progress quite painlessly until you have a real problem.”
How does gum disease start?
Gum disease starts when plaque (soft deposit, made up of food and bacteria) attaches to your teeth near and below the gumline. Plaque that is not removed with daily brushing and flossing, becomes tartar (hard deposits also known as calculus). The bacteria present in plaque and tartar produce toxins that cause gums to become red, swollen and bleed easily. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis leads to pockets of infection forming which destroy gum tissue and the supporting bone. This progressive stage of gum disease is known as periodontal disease and is not reversible. Any form of periodontal disease can be difficult to treat once it has started. Therefore, the best cure is prevention.
How can you prevent gum disease?
Brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day and flossing daily is a great start. Getting a professional cleaning and exam at appropriate intervals is equally important. Determining how long that interval is depends on the presence or absence of inflammation in your mouth. If you are going for a cleaning every 6 months and there is no bleeding and very little tartar, then you can continue with this interval. If however, your gums look red, swollen and bleed easily, and there is moderate to heavy tartar buildup, you need to come back sooner for your next cleaning.
Several research studies have measured how fast the bacteria regrows after a professional cleaning. The results show that bacteria return to baseline levels after 8 to 10 weeks. This is why a short 3 or 4 month interval is recommended for patients that have bleeding and tartar buildup.
Our goal is to find a time interval (whether that is 2, 3, 4, 6, 9 or 12 month) that works for you so that there is no bleeding and no calculus. When this happens, the interval is perfect.
Determining the frequency of your visits
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, talk to your dentist or hygienist about whether you need to have more frequent dental cleanings:
- Are you skipping more than 3-4 days of flossing a week?
- Do you notice any bleeding during flossing?
- Did your hygienist mention any bleeding or inflammation at your last dental cleaning?
- Do you experience bad breath?
- Do you smoke or chew tobacco?
- Have you ever been notified of a pocket 4mm or more during your periodontal probing exam?
- Are you unable to do a thorough job with your oral hygiene at home due to a health condition (i.e Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Rheumatoid arthritis, Cancer, or other disabilities)?
*Mention this article and receive a complimentary Freshen Up Whitening Kit at your next dental appointment with us. Open to existing and new patients (must book a dental cleaning appointment to receive the free kit). Offer expires June 30th, 2017. Limited quantities available.
Abinaash Kaur, BSc, DDS and Kamal Gill, RDH