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Oral health is often neglected here in the United States and elsewhere. This is unfortunate, as evidence connects oral health to overall physical health, wellness, and longevity. In fact, one of the easiest, and least expensive things you can do to protect your health, particularly as you age, is to practice good oral hygiene and get regular teeth cleanings.
Why is Teeth Cleaning So Important?
There are several reasons why taking care of your teeth and gums is so important. The first is bacteria that causes gum disease and tooth decay can get into your bloodstream and affect the rest of your body, including your heart. There is even a correlation between gum disease and dementia.
Secondly, good oral health will help you to keep your teeth well into old age. Not so long ago, tooth loss was commonly accepted as a normal side effect of aging. This is simply no longer the case. If you are able to keep your teeth, you will be able to avoid having to be fitted for dentures or implants later in life.
Finally, healthy teeth and gums are more attractive than those that are stained and damaged. A regular oral health routine can go a long way toward keeping your teeth white, your gums pink, and your breath fresh.
What is Plaque and Why is it Important to Get it Off My Teeth?
Have you ever run your tongue over your teeth and noticed a “fuzzy” sensation. What you are feeling is plaque, a colorless bacterial film. Plaque on teeth is the single biggest contributor to tooth decay and gum disease (periodontitis).
Left to its own devices, plaque hardens into tartar within 48 hours. Tartar is even more problematic than plaque, as it is a hard substance that can get under the gum line, causing periodontitis. Tartar must be removed by a professional dental hygienist.
Regular brushing helps to keep plaque at bay, but regular teeth cleaning at your dentist’s office is also necessary to address any tartar that has developed.
How Often Should I Brush and Floss My Teeth?
Everyone should brush their teeth with a soft bristle brush two to three times per day, preferably after meals. Take your time while brushing, using short strokes and making sure that you give attention to all areas of your mouth. Floss your teeth at least once a day to get rid of debris that is trapped between your teeth.
If you are concerned about your oral hygiene, talk to your dental hygienist. He or she is an expert in cleaning teeth and can assist you with developing the best possible technique for brushing and flossing.
How Often Should I Have My Teeth Professionally Cleaned?
The American Dental Association recommends going in to see your dentist for professional cleaning and examination at least once a year. However, there are numerous exceptions to this rule.
Because oral health is so deeply connected with other body systems, individuals with certain health conditions may need to see their dentist more often. For example, if you know that you have gum disease, you may need to undergo a cleaning two or more times a year. The same holds true if you have a heart condition or diabetes.
How Should I Prepare for My Appointment?
If this is your first appointment with your dentist, take a little time to gather information about your medical history. You may be able to go online and download new patient documents that you can complete at home. Completing paperwork in advance gives you time to ensure that the information you provide is correct and can speed things up at the time of your appointment.
You should also include information about any medications that you are currently taking or if you’ve been diagnosed with a health condition. If you know that you have a strong family history of certain medical conditions, such as heart trouble or diabetes, you should bring this up during your appointment. Your dentist and hygienist can use this information to modify your dental treatment and to provide you with accurate information about treatment options.
If you are aware that you have a heart condition, mention this when you call. Your dentist may want to prescribe an antibiotic for you to take before undergoing an examination and cleaning. This is because oral bacteria can get into your bloodstream during exams and cleaning; something that is normally not dangerous for people with a healthy heart but that can present problems for those with cardiac conditions.
I’ve Been Told That I Need a Deep Cleaning. How Is This Different from a Standard Cleaning?
During your appointment, your dental hygienist may test your gums to see if any pockets have formed. Pockets are spaces between your teeth and gums, and bacteria can settle into these areas, contributing to periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay.
If your dentist believes it is necessary, he or she will recommend a deep cleaning, sometimes also called scaling or root planing. This is a different process from standard professional cleanings, and your hygienist will need to use specialized tools to clean your teeth under your gum line. Deep cleaning teeth takes time and will require local anesthesia.
Please note that you may not need to have a deep cleaning throughout every area of your mouth. Hygienists typically perform a deep cleaning one quadrant of your mouth at a time, and you may only need the procedure in one, two, or three of these sections.
I Have a Diagnosis of Gum Disease. What Now?
Talk to your dentist. He or she will explain the severity of the disease and offer treatment options, which may include a deep cleaning. Your dentist may also recommend more frequent professional cleanings that can help stop the progress of your gum disease, as well as the need for future deep cleaning procedures.
What About Costs?
Many patients are concerned about costs. Regular cleanings are significantly less expensive than deep cleanings, which is why it is more cost-effective to schedule regular dental checkups.
At Gentle Dental, our staff is trained to assist you in managing costs. We can explain your treatment options, and help you maximize your insurance benefits. In addition, our staff can provide information on financing options that allow you to get the dental care you need.
Clean teeth can be achieved through a regimen of brushing, flossing, and regular dental consultations is one important way of taking care of yourself. Contact your Gental Dental office today to set up a consultation.