It’s that time of year again; time to open our windows, let the sunshine in, and delve into the spring cleaning. Even the Martha Stewarts among us tend to collect some junk, gunk, and debris over the long winter months. The same can be said when it comes to our oral hygiene habits and the health of our gums and teeth.
Unlike our homes, however, the small space that is our mouth requires a little more attention than an annual cleaning. Even with superb brushing and flossing habits, the development of plaque and tartar on teeth is inevitable, much like the nooks and crannies of our homes that collect debris at the hand of our busy schedules. Missed a spot? That deposit of plaque ultimately calcifies into a hard deposit known as tartar, or calculus, which can no longer be removed with a toothbrush. This is where your dental hygienist steps in with their expertise and specialized dental instruments. The longer these deposits are left to fester, the larger and more tenacious they become to remove.
Further, calculus deposits contribute to gum disease, bone loss, and tooth decay. Routine cleanings not only reduce your risk of developing such conditions, but in the long run, also reduce the amount of time you spend in our chairs.
Truth of the matter is that routine dental cleanings are the most undervalued appointments in the dental office. Your dental hygienist does a lot more in that hour appointment than just power-wash your teeth and scan for cavities. Oral cancer screenings, periodontal disease assessments, and a thorough examination of the teeth are only a few of the components of a routine dental cleaning. Besides, good oral health is about more than just fresh breath and pearly whites; your oral health plays an integral role in your overall health. Considering that the majority of the population visits their dental hygienist more often than their physician, we are at the forefront of identifying and controlling a number of conditions associated with oral health including diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, sleep disorders, and stress.
So how often should you see your dental hygienist? The interval between your dental cleanings is based on individual oral health needs, medical conditions, and a risk factor analysis that includes smoking, diabetes, and genetics. According to recent studies in the Journal of Dental Medicine, patients exhibiting one or more risk factors— which represents over half the population— should schedule cleanings at least twice a year, or even more often in some cases. In my experience working as a dental hygienist, I’ve found that an optimal dental cleaning regimen is closer to a seasonal than annual frequency.
Make a visit to your dental office a part of your spring-cleaning list. Don’t hesitate to discuss your individual oral health needs with your dental team. We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have and share our recommendations for how often we’d like to see you and your healthy, pearly white smile.