How Often Should You Get Your Teeth Cleaned – Facts and Myths about Dental Cleaning

How Often Should You Get Your Teeth Cleaned
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Oral health plays an important role in overall well-being, but there’s often confusion about the best practices for dental cleanings. How often should one schedule a dentist visit? Is there such a thing as too much cleaning? This article aims to clarify these questions by providing evidence-based answers. Many are familiar with the concept of dental cleaning, but a deeper understanding of its benefits, processes, and potential concerns can lead to better oral health decisions.

Why Regular Dental Cleanings Are Important?

For optimal dental health, regular teeth cleanings are crucial. These sessions not only remove plaque and tartar, which if neglected can lead to decay and gum disease, but also address surface stains from beverages, tobacco, and specific foods, ensuring your teeth retain their natural shine. Here’s why regular dental cleanings are essential for oral health:

Removal of plaque and tartar build-up

Plaque is a sticky film that forms on your teeth, consisting of bacteria, food debris, and saliva. If left untreated, plaque can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. 

Tartar can lead to various dental issues, including gum inflammation, tooth decay, and bad breath. Regular dental cleanings help remove plaque and tartar before they cause severe problems to your oral health.

Prevention of gum disease and cavities

Routine dental cleanings are essential to maintain healthy teeth and gums. They help prevent the onset of gum disease and cavities by removing bacteria, plaque, and tartar buildup on the tooth surfaces. Moreover, regular cleanings ensure that you maintain good oral hygiene, as neglecting oral care can lead to more severe dental problems.

Worth Knowing

Dental caries is the most prevalent chronic condition worldwide. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that in 2018, dental care expenses in the United States reached almost $136 billion, accounting for 3.7% of the nation’s total healthcare spending.

Early detection of potential dental problems

Dental cleanings also provide an opportunity for dentists to examine your teeth and gums thoroughly. Detecting potential dental problems early, such as cavities, gum recession, or oral cancer, allows for timely treatment and prevention of more severe complications.

The Dental Cleaning Process – What Does It Look Like?

Understanding the importance of dental cleaning is one thing. Now, let’s explore the specifics of the procedure itself.

1
Initial Examination

A dental hygienist begins by conducting a preliminary examination of the patient’s mouth. Using a small mirror, they inspect the teeth and gums for any signs of gingivitis or other concerns.

2
Removing Plaque and Tartar

The hygienist uses the mirror for guidance and a scaler to eliminate plaque and tartar around the gum line and between the teeth. The time taken for this step often depends on the amount of tartar present.

3
Toothpaste Cleaning

Once tartar is thoroughly removed, the hygienist employs a high-powered electric brush to brush the patient’s teeth. The toothpaste used, typically grittier than regular kinds, serves as a mild abrasive to polish the teeth.

4
Expert Flossing

While many individuals floss at home, a professional flossing session by the hygienist ensures deep cleaning between teeth and the identification of areas where gums might bleed.

5
Rinsing

The patient then rinses their mouth, clearing out any lingering debris. The rinse often contains liquid fluoride.

6
Fluoride Treatment

Concluding the cleaning, a fluoride treatment is applied to the patient’s teeth. This treatment, which can be a foamy gel or sticky paste, acts as a protective barrier against cavities. Depending on the treatment type, it may be placed in a mouthpiece or painted directly onto the teeth.

How Often Should You Get Your Teeth Cleaned?

Regular dental cleanings are essential for maintaining good oral health. The frequency at which you should have your teeth cleaned varies depending on your individual needs. Generally, it is recommended to visit the dentist for a cleaning once every 6 months. Visiting the dentist twice a year ensures that potential oral health issues are detected early and treated promptly. 

However, some individuals may require more frequent cleanings, especially those with existing oral health conditions or at higher risk for developing them. Factors that may contribute to an increased cleaning frequency include a history of gum disease, genetic predisposition to oral health issues, and lifestyle habits. In such cases, your dentist may recommend more frequent visits to cater to your specific needs.

Health Factors Influencing Cleaning Frequency

Dental health history: Individuals prone to cavities or gum disease

Individuals with a history of cavities or gum disease may need more frequent dental cleanings. Their dental professional might recommend dental check-ups and cleanings every three to four months to prevent further issues.

Lifestyle factors: smoking, diet, and oral hygiene habits

Lifestyle factors, such as smoking and diet, can impact dental health. Smokers and people who consume sugary or acidic foods more often might require more frequent cleanings. Additionally, those with poor oral hygiene habits may need to visit the dentist more regularly for teeth cleaning.

Worth Knowing

The World Health Organization reported that in 2020, 22.3% of the global population were tobacco users, with the breakdown showing 36.7% of men and 7.8% of women engaging in tobacco use.

Medical conditions such as diabetes

Individuals with medical conditions like diabetes may experience changes in their oral health. These changes can increase the risk of gum disease and other dental issues, necessitating more frequent dental cleanings.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women may experience hormonal changes affecting their oral health, making them more susceptible to gum disease. It’s recommended that they maintain regular dental cleanings throughout their pregnancy to prevent complications.

See also: Dentist and Pregnancy: Is It Safe to Go to the Dentist When Pregnant?

Worth Knowing

The study published in BMC Pregnancy Childbirth revealed that only 20% of the women surveyed underwent an oral examination before becoming pregnant, while 38.5% did so intentionally after confirming their pregnancy. 24% of the participants cited a lack of awareness regarding the importance of maintaining proper oral hygiene during pregnancy.

Wearing braces

People wearing braces may find it challenging to clean their teeth efficiently. Their dental professional might suggest more frequent cleanings to ensure the health of their teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment.

Signs You Need to Visit a Dentist Sooner

Taking care of dental health goes beyond regular cleanings and check-ups. While routine visits to the dentist play a crucial role in maintaining oral health, there are instances when one may need to see a dentist sooner than anticipated. Recognizing the early signs of potential dental issues can prevent minor problems from escalating. Below are some indications that it might be time to make an unscheduled visit to your dental professional.

Unexpected pain or sensitivity

If you experience sudden or unexplained tooth pain or sensitivity, it may be a sign that you need to visit the dentist sooner than your next scheduled appointment. Such discomfort can indicate tooth decay, fractures, or even gum disease. Don’t wait for your regular dental visit to address this issue, as early intervention can help prevent more severe problems.

See also: Toothache or Earache: Identifying and Treating the Pain

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth

Constant bad breath or a lingering bad taste in your mouth could be signs of a more serious dental issue, such as gum disease, an abscess, or an oral infection. A dental professional will be able to identify the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment so that your mouth feels fresh and clean again.

Noticeable changes in bite or the alignment of teeth

If you notice a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite or a shift in the alignment of your teeth, this could indicate a dental or jaw issue that requires attention. A dentist can check for any underlying issues, such as teeth grinding or TMJ disorders, and recommend appropriate treatment.

Swollen, red, or bleeding gums

Swollen, red, or bleeding gums are often signs of gum disease or infection. It’s important to visit a dentist as soon as possible if you’re experiencing these symptoms, as untreated gum issues can lead to more serious dental problems, including tooth loss. Regular dental cleanings can help prevent gum disease and keep your mouth healthy.

Does regular teeth cleaning have any disadvantages?

While regular teeth cleanings are important in maintaining optimal oral health, there may be some disadvantages worth noting. One potential drawback involves the potential for damage to tooth enamel. In some cases, abrasive cleaning techniques or excessive frequency may lead to enamel wear, resulting in heightened tooth sensitivity and a higher likelihood of cavities or tooth decay.

In addition, individuals may experience discomfort or pain during the cleaning process, especially those who have sensitive teeth or gums. Overzealous cleaning can also lead to gum irritation or bleeding. However, these risks can generally be mitigated by trying a gentler cleaning approach and discussing any concerns with a dental professional.

Finally, cost can be a concern. The expense of routine dental cleanings might be prohibitive for some people, particularly those without dental insurance. In these instances, it is important to consider the long-term benefits of preventative dental care and to weigh the cost of routine cleanings against the expenses associated with more severe dental issues.

How to Take Care of Teeth Between Teeth Cleanings

Maintaining proper oral hygiene between professional teeth cleanings is essential for overall dental health. By following these guidelines, you can keep your teeth clean and healthy between dental visits.

  1. First and foremost, it is important to brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and before bedtime. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria effectively. Don’t forget to brush your tongue as well to eliminate bad breath and bacteria buildup.
  1. Flossing daily is another crucial step in maintaining oral hygiene. Gently glide the floss between each tooth, reaching below the gumline to remove any trapped food particles and plaque. This practice can significantly reduce the risk of gum diseases and cavities.
  1. Incorporate a mouthwash into your daily routine to kill bacteria and keep your breath fresh. Choose an alcohol-free mouthwash containing fluoride to further strengthen your teeth’ enamel and prevent tooth decay.
  1. In addition to daily oral care practices, maintaining a balanced diet can contribute to better dental health. Limit sugary and acidic foods, as they can lead to tooth decay. Instead, consume foods high in calcium, such as dairy products, leafy greens, and nuts to keep your teeth and gums strong. Drinking water throughout the day helps in washing away food particles and bacteria.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get a deep cleaning with braces?

Yes, you can get a deep cleaning with braces, but it can be a more intricate process. Braces, with their brackets, wires, and bands, create numerous nooks and crannies that can trap food and plaque, increasing the risk of gum disease and cavities. 

When braces are present, the dental hygienist needs to be especially careful to navigate around the hardware effectively. While it’s challenging, it’s essential for patients with braces to maintain optimal oral hygiene, and deep cleanings can be a crucial part of that regimen.

How long do I have to wait for teeth whitening after deep cleaning?

After a deep cleaning, it’s advisable to wait at least two weeks before undergoing teeth whitening. Deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing, can leave the gums sensitive and more susceptible to irritation. Teeth whitening procedures, whether done professionally or with over-the-counter products, often involve chemicals like hydrogen peroxide that can irritate sensitive gum tissues. Giving your gums time to heal and recover from the deep cleaning minimizes potential discomfort and ensures a more effective whitening procedure.

How long does deep cleaning take a dentist?

A dental deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, typically requires more time than a regular cleaning due to its thorough nature. The duration depends on the extent of the plaque and tartar buildup and the size of the areas affected. Generally, deep cleanings are split into two sessions, with each session treating one half of the mouth. Each session can last between 45 minutes to an hour, so the entire procedure might take about 1.5 to 2 hours in total. However, in cases with severe gum disease or extensive tartar buildup, more visits might be needed.

Why do my teeth feel loose after dental cleaning?

After a dental cleaning, especially a deep cleaning, it’s not uncommon for patients to feel that their teeth are slightly loose. This sensation often arises due to the removal of tartar and plaque that have built up around the teeth and gums. This buildup can sometimes act as a splint, holding teeth firmly. Once it’s removed, teeth may feel temporarily more mobile. Additionally, inflammation from gum disease can cause teeth to feel loose. As the gums heal post-cleaning and inflammation subsides, this feeling should diminish.

How to relieve pain after teeth cleaning?

Relieving pain after a teeth cleaning involves simple yet effective measures. Rinsing with warm salt water can reduce inflammation and soothe sore gums. Over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can alleviate discomfort, but it’s crucial to use them as directed and ensure they don’t interfere with any other medications. Avoiding hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks can help minimize sensitivity. Soft-bristled toothbrushes and gentle brushing techniques can prevent further gum irritation.

How to relieve gum pain after dental cleaning?

Relieving gum pain after dental cleaning can be achieved through several measures. First, consider rinsing your mouth with warm salt water, which acts as a natural disinfectant and can reduce swelling and discomfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can be helpful, but always use them as directed. It’s also beneficial to avoid foods and drinks that are very hot, cold, or sugary, as they might aggravate sensitive gums. Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently to prevent further irritation. If gum pain persists for more than a few days, it’s crucial to contact your dentist to ensure there aren’t any underlying issues.

Can I drink alcohol after deep cleaning?

After a deep cleaning, it’s advisable to avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours. Consuming alcohol can irritate freshly cleaned areas, especially if there are open pockets or exposed root surfaces. Additionally, alcohol can interfere with the healing process by causing dehydration, which can slow down recovery. If your dentist used a local anesthetic during the procedure, alcohol might interact with any residual medication in your system. Furthermore, alcohol can increase bleeding and swelling in the gums.

What happens if I drink alcohol after deep cleaning?

Drinking alcohol after a deep cleaning can have several implications. Firstly, alcohol can irritate freshly cleaned areas, especially if there are exposed root surfaces or open pockets. It can lead to increased sensitivity and discomfort. Secondly, alcohol acts as a diuretic, which can cause dehydration. Dehydration might slow down the healing process of your gums. Additionally, if there’s residual local anesthetic in your system, alcohol can potentially interact with it. There’s also a risk of increased gum bleeding and swelling due to alcohol’s vasodilating properties. For optimal healing and to avoid potential complications, it’s best to wait before consuming alcoholic beverages after a deep cleaning.

Smoking after deep cleaning – Can I smoke after a deep cleaning?

After a deep cleaning, it’s advisable to refrain from smoking. Smoking restricts blood flow to the gums, delaying the healing process. The toxins in tobacco can also increase the risk of post-procedure infections. Moreover, smoking promotes further plaque and tartar build-up, which counteracts the benefits of deep cleaning. Furthermore, the act of smoking can introduce irritants directly to the freshly cleaned areas, potentially leading to discomfort or prolonged inflammation. For the health and rapid recovery of your gums, it’s best to avoid smoking for a significant period after a deep cleaning or consider it as an opportunity to quit altogether.

How long after teeth cleaning can I vape?

After a dental cleaning, it’s best to wait as long as possible before vaping, ideally at least 24 hours. While vaping doesn’t produce tar like traditional cigarettes, it can still introduce chemicals and irritants into the mouth, which could interfere with the healing process or irritate freshly cleaned areas. The act of drawing on a vape device can also impact sensitive areas. If you recently had a more intensive procedure like a deep cleaning, you might want to wait even longer.

What is the best age for first dental cleaning?

The best age for a child’s first dental cleaning is closely tied to when they get their first tooth. The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommend that a child’s first dental visit should occur within six months of the appearance of the first tooth and no later than the child’s first birthday. This early visit is more about getting the child acclimated to the dentist’s office and checking for any potential dental problems. Actual dental cleanings can then become part of routine dental care as more teeth emerge. Starting dental visits and cleanings early helps set the stage for a lifetime of good oral health habits.

Can I eat before the dentist’s cleaning?

Yes, you can eat before a dental cleaning. However, it’s courteous and considerate to eat foods that don’t leave a strong odor or residue in your mouth. After eating, it’s a good idea to brush your teeth or at least rinse your mouth with water to remove any lingering food particles. This not only makes the dental hygienist’s job a bit easier but also ensures a more comfortable cleaning experience for you. If you’re having other dental procedures done, such as extractions or surgery, your dentist might provide specific guidelines about eating beforehand.

Sources

Moussa, D. G., Ahmad, P., Mansour, T. A., Siqueira, W. L., Current State and Challenges of the Global Outcomes of Dental Caries Research in the Meta-Omics Era. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2022; 12: 887907. DOI: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.887907. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9247192/

Thompson, T. A., Cheng, D., Strobino, D., Dental cleaning before and during pregnancy among Maryland mothers. Matern Child Health J. 2013 Jan;17(1):110-8. doi: 10.1007/s10995-012-0954-6. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22311579/

Crocombe, L. A., Brennan, D. S., Slade, G. D., Loc, D. O., Is self interdental cleaning associated with dental plaque levels, dental calculus, gingivitis and periodontal disease? J Periodontal Res. 2012 Apr;47(2):188-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0765.2011.01420.x. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21954940/

Iza Wojnarowski

Content contributor

Iza is a dedicated content contributor for Toothific. Having worn braces twice and currently using Invisalign to correct a mild overbite, Iza brings a unique perspective to her writing. She spends her time staying updated on the latest dental trends and treatments, ensuring her readers have the most current information for their dental care needs.

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