We’re supposed to go to the dentist for a routine teeth cleaning every six months. Why? What benefit does this serve? It is actually really important for reasons you might not expect. Getting a routine teeth cleaning protects your gums, your teeth, and your risk of other surgeries, along with other oral health aspects.
More Than Brushing
Cleanings are supplemented by regular brushing and flossing as recommended by dentists. This keeps your teeth clean generally and removes materials that can build into harmful plaque and bacteria-laden areas.
Routine teeth cleanings go more in depth on your teeth. Plaque can harden onto your teeth even with routine flossing, just with the nature of how plaque develops. Dentists scrape the hardened plaque off so that it doesn’t build and cake up on your teeth.
Cleanings also allow dentists an opportunity to check on the status of your teeth and gums. It allows them to see if any decay is developing, and if so, where the decay is so it can be addressed properly. This is especially important for areas in and under the teeth and gums.
Also, if you are brushing and flossing incorrectly, this gives dentists an opportunity to explain how to do so properly to avoid tooth and gum damage. Brushing and flossing too hard can cause gum bleeding and receding, exposing more of your teeth to bacteria and lessening the effectiveness of your toothbrush.
Ensures Healthy Gums
One of the most important parts of your oral health is actually your gums. They are the part of your mouth that will obviously show if any damage is occurring, either by swelling up and showing redness or by pulling away or down from your teeth.
These symptoms of issues with your gums can be signs of deeper and pressing issues going on. Either in between your teeth or underneath by your bone, bacteria can build up and cause infection.
Everyone knows about cavities at this point, the bacteria-caused holes in your teeth that decay over time. Plaque in your mouth will build up against your teeth and make places for bacteria to rest, especially if food stays stuck between your teeth. This bacteria is intending to eat your teeth.
Having cavities can irritate your gums by holing up bacteria from sugar to eat at your teeth. It sits above, against, or below teeth, so the nearby gums get quickly impacted. This can cause swelling, redness, and pain, especially when eating and drinking.
If this redness and swelling is left untreated, it can lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis is the next step of gum disease, where your teeth will bleed frequently and swollen gum tissue. It can also trigger an immune system reaction against your gums, because the bacteria is causing problems. This can lead to your gums receding down your teeth as they are attacked. Bad breath will also become a chronic problem at this point.
As this worsens, it becomes a full blown disease. Periodontal disease has its own medical procedure needed as it is likely to cause further problems with your teeth, including tooth loss and even bone loss under the teeth.
This will also cause changes to the look of your teeth. Your teeth can be very discolored, yellow and/or brown, and will build up tartar. Tarter can look white, or it can look like mold on your teeth.
Periodontal disease can even increase your likelihood of a stroke or heart attack, among other diseases. It can still be prevented and reversed by regular brushing and cleaning.
As it gets longer since cleanings, the pain can be very acute and lead to other problems. This bacteria can get under the gums and cause pockets of bacteria inside and underneath your tooth. It can cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and intense tooth decay. To address many of these issues, surgery is needed. Some of the surgeries prevented by routine teeth cleanings are:
Fillings, known as “restorations” by dentists, are the step after cleanings to prevent dental decay. Once a dentist identifies a cavity eating away at your teeth, the dentist can schedule an appointment for the minor surgery to scrap out all the bacteria from your tooth and cover the area so bacteria won’t enter.
This can be prevented by routine teeth cleanings so that dentists can keep an eye on places likely to develop cavities, as well as give you instructions on what you can do to help prevent cavities (link to an article i’ll write about this.)
Once a tooth decays enough, it can form an abscess. This is the next step of a cavity, when the bacteria eating through your tooth has made it to the soft stuff inside your teeth and infected it, sometimes down to the nerves. This can kill your tooth, and it will cause intense pain, more swelling, and even nausea and a fever.
Sometimes, antibiotics can be needed to treat the inflammation and bacteria in the mouth. To be able to fight infection and resulting fevers and other issues, antibiotics can be prescribed.
One step to try to save the tooth is a root canal. Your tooth has roots attached to it which gives it the long leg shapes underneath your gums. Inside the center of your tooth and down these roots are areas where the soft pulp of your tooth is, called root canals.
The procedure, root canal, scrapes out all the infected tissue from these canals inside your tooth, reshaping the canals that have been damaged, and sealing off the canals from further damage. Because the root of the tooth goes all the way down into your gums, and the infection can go even further down, this is a notorious and painful surgery
Getting a crown is a process of sealing off a root canal surgery. This additional surgery is needed in bigger and more used teeth, like molars.
Instead of being able to fill a small area where the decay began, a crown is used to cover three-quarters to the entire exposed area of the tooth. This can be done in a variety of materials and will act as a replacement for the normal protective covering of a tooth.
Bone and Tissue Grafts
If the infection goes far enough, as mentioned about periodontal disease, it can destroy the actual bones beneath the teeth. Because of this, new bone and new gum tissue can need to be grafted in.
In this heavy surgery, new bone - whether natural or synthetic - is added with mesh to your existing tissue so that it can grow back to where it is supposed to be. This has to be checked over time, like any graft, to ensure the tissue takes properly and grows properly.
Good Looks and Smells
Probably the least immediately threatening, but the most obnoxious to your daily life, is the effect of routine teeth cleaning on the smell and look of your breath, tongue, and teeth. Bad breath, or halitosis, is caused and increased by bacteria in your mouth.
Leftover bacteria in plaque, and leftovers from whatever enters your mouth, smells bad. It’s decaying, after all. It will also discolor your teeth because of this. Although teeth have a natural slightly yellow color, increased teeth yellowing and browning can start with increased mouth bacteria. It will also put a film over your teeth over time, reducing shine and
Tartar, an extreme buildup of hardened-on plaque, is even more discolored. It can look grey and green as well as the brown and yellow colors of regular build-up.
Bleeding gums and redness also cause discoloration and halitosis. The dark color can stain teeth over time, especially near the areas that are actively bleeding. With gingivitis, this can be a recurring problem.
Get Your Scheduled Cleanings On Time!
It is important to get biannual, routine teeth cleanings because they reverse the damage caused throughout the six months, which can be extensive or minimal depending on the actions and situation you have. If you haven’t been in a while for a regular cleaning, and you’re having symptoms of the issues listed, it would be good to go in and find out what can and needs to be done for your oral health. You can click here to make an appointment!