A professional teeth cleaning is recommended by the American Dental Association as a means to prevent gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontitis, is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults over the age of 40; however, tooth loss is not the only issue. Gum disease has been linked to other health problems, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases, and more. So, it is clear that getting a professional teeth cleaning on a regular basis is enormously important.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 68% of adults in the United States had a teeth cleaning in 2008. While this figure may not sound dismal, dentists would like for the percentage to be much higher. After all, every adult is expected to get his teeth cleaned at least once – if not twice – per year.
Experts speculate that there may be several reasons why so many adults are neglecting to go to the dentist for routine appointments like teeth cleanings. Many people are lacking health insurance these days, including dental insurance; therefore, they are only attending to emergency medical and dental matters. Additionally, some people are fearful of getting dental procedures done. And, of course, lack of knowledge about dental health can keep people from heading to the dentist.
Many specialists believe that the last reason – lack of knowledge – is a problem that can be managed and that can lead to more people heading to the dentist. They think that by giving people facts about how to maintain their oral health, more people will come to understand the importance of regular dentist visits. This, in turn, can also help to alleviate dental anxiety and fear. And, while it may not help provide health insurance for anyone, it will let people know that preventative dentistry is far better than waiting until a dental emergency has sprung up. Therefore, by dealing with people’s lack of knowledge about teeth cleaning and general dental health, more people will begin heading to the dentist on a regular basis.
Perhaps the first step in educating people about regular dental visits is to paint a mental picture of what a typical regular appointment is like, and to tell them why these appointments are so necessary. Since teeth cleanings are probably the most important recurring type of dentist visit, it would be best to show people exactly what to expect from that type of appointment.
Of course, there are different methods of teeth cleaning; however, no matter which method is chosen the office visit follows the same basic steps. Here is what happens on a typical teeth cleaning dental appointment:
- The dental hygienist or dental assistant may or may not take x-rays of your teeth. This does not hurt at all and only takes a few minutes.
- The dental hygienist or dental assistant will generally take between 15 and 60 minutes to work on your teeth and gums (the exact time depends upon both the amount of decay present and the teeth cleaning method chosen). She will use a variety of cleaning tools, including a scaler, to remove the tartar and plaque from your teeth. The hygienist will then polish and floss your teeth. None of this is usually painful unless the person has gum disease – in that case, it may be just a bit uncomfortable. If it is too uncomfortable, a desensitizing gel may be used.
- Now, if a dental exam has been scheduled as well, the dentist will come in next. Otherwise, the procedure is finished.
A professional teeth cleaning should not be looked upon as optional. It is quite necessary because it is only through these procedures that dental plaque and tartar can be completely removed. If a person skips these routine dental appointments, tartar and plaque can build up, causing gingivitis and gum disease – and these can eventually cause tooth loss.
Why Professional Teeth Cleaning is Essential
Many people notice bleeding in the gums when they brush their teeth; this indicates that the person has gingivitis. However, a great number of these people fail to heed this warning sign. It is all too frequent for dentists to see patients who have full-fledged periodontitis. These patients previously had gingivitis and either ignored it or did not treat it with enough seriousness. And now, these people have put themselves at risk for further health issues.
Experts believe that if people really understood the health significance of gingivitis and periodontitis – and how thorough teeth cleanings can prevent these diseases – they would not neglect their dental care.
Studies have shown that gum disease puts a person at risk for bacterial endocarditis, which is an infection in the lining of the heart or the heart valves. The bacteria in the gums can travel through the bloodstream and infect the heart. Other studies have linked gum disease with bone loss, strokes, oral cancer, diabetes, and more. In most cases – as far as studies have shown – gum disease needs to be in an advanced form in order to cause other health issues; however, there is much that is yet to be studied about gum disease.
Nearly 80% of the population has some form of gum disease, whether it is the early stage known as gingivitis or the advanced form of periodontitis. Because it so often goes unnoticed, it is a good idea to review its signs and symptoms:
- Red and/or swollen gums
- Bleeding in the gums not caused by direct injury to the gums (bleeding may occur while brushing, flossing, or eating)
- Frequent halitosis (bad breath) or a bad taste in the mouth
- Tooth sensitivity or sore gums
- Loose adult teeth
- Abscessed teeth or gums pulling away from the teeth
- Changes in the way the teeth fit together or dentures fitting poorly
- Pus between the gums and teeth or sores in the mouth
- Tooth loss
Upon noticing any of these signs, people should immediately head to the dentist for a teeth cleaning. While brushing and flossing at home can get rid of up to 70% of the plaque and tarter on the teeth, it will not get rid of gingivitis or periodontitis. These are serious diseases and need direct dentist attention – and a teeth cleaning is the first step.