Dental Cleanings: One Size Does Not Fit All

By Dr. Shannon Mills

By Dr. Shannon Mills

What are the benefits of regular professional dental cleanings?

Regular professional cleanings to remove plaque and hard deposits such as calculus (tartar) and stains are important for maintaining good oral health and can help prevent the progression of periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that infect the soft tissues and bone that support the teeth and can lead to active infections and tooth loss. There is also evidence that periodontal disease may be linked to medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease and low weight, preterm birth. Risk factors for periodontal disease include age, medical conditions such as diabetes or HIV infection, inadequate personal hygiene practices and smoking.

How often should I get my teeth cleaned?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that healthy children and adults should have their teeth cleaned at least once every 12–24 months. If you have more rapid accumulation of calculus or stain or have other risk factors for periodontal disease or caries (tooth decay), however, you may benefit from more frequent cleanings. Your dentist may also apply fluoride if you are at high risk for caries. If you are being treated for periodontal disease, your dentist will set up a regular schedule for periodontal maintenance that includes cleanings and re-evaluation.

Talk to your dentist and hygienist to get the care you need.

To decide how often you need to have your teeth cleaned, your dentist must take into account your overall health, assess your risk for periodontal disease or caries, and consider your wants and needs. Using this information, he or she will work with the dental hygienist to develop a customized plan tailored for your specific needs.

To make it easier for the dentist to provide the right number of cleanings for each patient, many of our Northeast Delta Dental benefit plans now include the option of having up to four cleanings each year. Unless your dentist determines that you have a higher risk for periodontal disease or caries, however, you will probably gain little benefit from additional cleanings.

Whether one, two, three or four cleanings per year, one size does not fit all. At your next dental visit, we encourage you to take the time to discuss your preventive care needs with your hygienist and dentist to make sure that you are getting the right number of cleanings to maintain optimal oral health.

Dr. Shannon Mills, DDS, FAGD, FICD, is Vice President of Professional Relations for Northeast Delta Dental—New Hampshire Local Government Center (LGC) HealthTrust’s partner in providing comprehensive dental benefits for more than 20 years.