Yearly Dental Cleanings – Are They Enough?

Dental ClenaingFor decades, the blanket recommendation for all dental patients was to come in for a dental cleaning twice a year. A few years ago, a study published in the Journal of Dental Research suggested that some patients with exceptionally healthy teeth and few risk factors might only need to come in once a year for a dental cleaning and checkup.

Since seeing your dentist regularly has a major impact on your oral health overall, it’s important to understand the factors that influence how frequently your dentist will ask you to come in for a visit.

Factors influencing the frequency of recommended dental cleaning visits

  1. Smoking or other tobacco use. Tobacco is a major factor in developing conditions that include serious gum disease and oral cancer, so if you can’t quit, your dentist will want to see you more often. It also leads to an increased buildup of dental plaque, which boosts  your need for dental cleanings.
  2. Diabetes. This systemic health challenge puts patients at higher risk of gum disease and fungal infections in the mouth.
  3. Gum Disease. The health of your gums is directly influenced by your overall oral health. Dental cleanings remove plaque that can cause or accelerate gingivitis or periodontitis, and once gum disease has reached a certain level of severity, it can ONLY be treated by a dentist, through the scaling and root planing procedure or gum surgery.
  4. Dentures. Even if you have NO natural teeth in your mouth remaining, you still need to come in for a dental visit once a year. At this visit, your practitioner will check the fit of your dentures, examine the health of your gums and jawbone, and screen you for oral cancer.
  5. Dry mouth. This condition, also known as xerostomia, is often a side affect of a host of prescription medications. Because dry mouth can cause low saliva flow and impact the rate of tooth decay, it’s important for your dentist to see you frequently to check on your teeth.

The American Dental Association issued a statement after the publication of the Journal of Dental Research article, which reinforced the idea that patients should consult with their dental providers to determine the proper frequency of their visits. “The ADA encourages people to work closely with their dentists to identify any potential risk factors that would determine the need for and frequency of follow up visits to enhance the outcomes of preventive care,” the statement said.

Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist with a practice in central Phoenix, agrees with the ADA’s conclusion.“Regular dental cleanings are crucial to promoting good oral health,” she says. “And your dentist has the expertise to make a recommendation about the frequency of your visits that’s best for you.”

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