How many times have you heard that you should visit the dentist for a cleaning every six months?
It’s probably more than you can count on two hands, right?
But have you ever wondered why?
It actually started as a marketing campaign for a toothpaste company after World War II. The slogan said to use the toothpaste every day and to visit your dentist twice a year. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Should I get my teeth cleaned every six months?
The six-month intervals between cleanings is not supported by science and it’s far longer than optimally healthy for many adult patients.
New research has allowed dentists and other medical professionals to understand the link between gum disease and other systemic diseases. If you have a chronic illness or disease, your body’s ability to heal and prevent infections is reduced. On the other hand, if you have a chronic infection in your mouth, the bacteria is breathed in, swallowed, and can flow through your bloodstream, potentially worsening your chances of contracting a disease.
Are there health conditions or lifestyle choices that would cause me to have to visit the hygienist more often?
There are certain groups of people who are more at risk of contracting diseases. If you are in one of these groups, you should schedule regular visits with your dental hygienist to improve your oral hygiene.
Patients With Periodontal (Gum) Disease
This is a chronic condition, like diabetes. While there is treatment, there is not a cure. It must be managed on a routine basis to keep it under control.
If you have diabetes, you know that you are more likely to get all types of infections. Once you have one, it is harder to get rid of it and harder to control your blood sugar. Diabetic patients also have poor circulation in their extremities (fingers, toes, gums, etc) which increases your chance of developing infections in those areas.
Patients With Heart Disease
Poor circulation makes it harder to clear infections, and infections in the gums can be carried in the blood and damage the heart
Patients Who Have Had a Stroke
Studies have shown that your risk of a stroke may double if you have gum disease.
Patients With Arthritis
If you have arthritis, your limited use of your hands may make it difficult to clean your mouth thoroughly. Visiting a professional can help you keep your mouth clean.
Pregnancy gingivitis is a low-grade infection that can develop due to hormonal changes in your body. This infection can be carried through the blood vessel membranes and into the placenta. There is also evidence of low birth-weight babies in mothers with gum disease.
AIDS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and patients in treatment for cancer are a few examples.
Patients With Orthodontics
If you’ve had braces, you know how hard it is to keep your teeth clean.
Patients Who Have Had Prosthetic Reconstruction:
If you’ve had major dental work such as fillings, crowns, or dental implants, you should be doing all that you can to protect your investment.
Patients Who Need Prosthetic Reconstruction
Old fillings that don’t fit the teeth well anymore can hold onto bacteria-filled plaque and calculus.
Patients Who Smoke or Use Drugs
Whether you’re a heavy or a recreational smoker, you should see your dentist 3-4 times a year.
You should also see a dentist more frequently if you use drugs, especially if you smoke your drug of choice. Many patients have missing and/or rotted teeth, and once the tooth is compromised, it can be difficult and expensive to have it replaced with an implant.
Patients Who Chew Tobacco
While frequent cleanings won’t necessarily reduce your risk of getting cancer from tobacco and/or drug use, visits to your hygienist can lead to early detection of cancer lesions which could save your life.
Patient Who Develop Rapid and Heavy Stains on Their Teeth
This is a sign of higher-than-average levels of bacteria in your mouth, which is a sign that more frequent cleanings are needed.
Patients With Dry Mouth (including when due to medications)
Lower salivary flow increases your chances of gum infection or systemic infection because your body can’t clean the gum areas around your teeth. People with dry mouth are also more likely to get root decay, which is often the beginning of the end of the tooth.
Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy or Radiation
Any visits should be scheduled closely with your oncologist. The reasons are the same as for immunocompromised patients and patients with dry mouth.
Patients With High Numbers of Cavities and Poor Oral Hygiene
Regular cleanings help to restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth. This makes it easier to take care of your teeth and avoid more problems down the road.
Patients With Bulimia or Acid Reflux
The acids in your mouth break down fillings faster than normal. Your teeth can also become worn down, and when your whole mouth is acidic, it is harder to prevent cavities and gum disease.
Patients With Halitosis (Bad Breath)
Bacteria is the culprit behind your bad breath. Your dentist and hygienist can help you find the cause and treat you regularly.
Patients Who Don’t Floss (yes, that probably means you…)
If you don’t have the best oral hygiene all the time, you are more susceptible t