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Teeth cleanings are essential not just for clean teeth, but a healthy mind and body as well. But for such a routine visit, there’s lots that people don’t know about. Here’s what you should know and what you should expect out of your next teeth cleaning.
What Is a Teeth Cleaning?
A professional teeth cleaning is done by the hygienist at a dentist’s office. The hygienist uses tools to remove tartar from your teeth — both above and below where the gum meets the tooth.
Before You Go
Many people see the mouth as separate from the rest of their body. But the reality is that it’s all connected — and problems in your mouth can cause or even act as an indicator of disease in other parts of your body — including dementia and heart disease.
Teeth cleanings are an essential part of keeping your mouth, and the rest of your body, disease-free. We’ve designed this guide to give you everything you need to know to get a quality teeth cleaning, get your money’s worth, and what to expect.
Understand Why Teeth Cleanings Are Necessary
We need teeth cleanings for two reasons:
The mouth is an area that’s completely different from the entire body, and it takes quite a beating from the food we eat and the talking we do all day long. And this unique environment requires special care.
Teeth cleanings remove the buildup of plaque and tartar. This buildup is for the most part natural — kind of like how a boat picks up barnacles just by being in the ocean. But too much buildup leads to gum disease.
The reason tartar needs to be removed is because your body sees it as a foreign invader. As with any other foreign invader, like a flu bug or an infection, your body “sends in the troops” using the immune system to fight off the infection. There is a battle in your mouth at all times, and the war is never over. Teeth cleanings level the playing field by keeping things in check.
Gum disease is when your body’s immune system is responding to this tartar buildup with inflamed and bleeding gums. The immune system response is successful at killing off invaders like infection and flu bugs, but at a cost: like a war, there are innocent bystanders that get slaughtered. As gum disease progresses, so does the destruction to your bone and tissues in your mouth.
Your immune system is meant only to fight off infection for a short period of time — chronic activation of the immune system means it can get worn out and it won’t be as strong to fight off an illness. Chronic activation of the immune system can lead to diseases in the rest of your body.
That’s why preventing gum disease reduces risk of stroke, heart disease, and dementia.
At a certain stage, this damage is irreversible, so prevention is the best way to maintain overall health and keep beautiful teeth for a lifetime — and teeth cleanings are a critical piece of this prevention.
Find Out Your Family History
You might know if there is cancer or heart disease in your family in case your doctor asks — and gum disease family history is just as important. Find out what type of gum disease and how severe.
I know it’s not exactly dinner time conversation but it doesn’t hurt to ask. There’s a strong genetic predilection for gum disease and this information can help your dentist with your teeth cleanings and overall care.
Find Out If You’ll Need an Antibiotic
We all have bacteria in our mouths and certain dental treatments can allow that bacteria to enter the bloodstream (called bacteremia). For most of us, this isn’t a problem. A healthy immune system prevents these bacteria from causing any harm.
When you have a teeth cleaning, the bacteria that are in your mouth can get into the bloodstream after the proceure. This is very common, well-known, and safe — if you’re healthy.
For certain groups of people, there is concern that this bacteremia could cause an infection elsewhere in the body. An antibiotic makes sure you cover all your bases.
Know the Different Types of Teeth Cleanings
There are different types of teeth cleanings, depending on how healthy your gums are. Make sure you’re not over-treated or under-treated.
No Gum Disease
This is the best and what you should aim for at each teeth cleaning. There’s no bleeding when the dentist flosses your gums or puts the probe inside your pockets to measure them.
Treatment: Maintain, maintain, maintain. It is infinitely easier (and healthier) to maintain good health and prevent disease than it is to become unhealthy and to have to seek treatment. Ask your dentist how to maintain this good health. You will still need regular teeth cleanings, but in exceptional cases, you might be able to get a cleaning once per year, and this is perfectly fine.
Having no gum disease for a lifetime will reduce your risk of heart disease, dementia. If you have diabetes, it will reduce complications. The reduced inflammation in your body will make you better at fighting infection and maybe even make it easier to lose weight. Keep up the good work!
Type I: Gingivitis
Gingivitis is very common. Around 80% of people in the United States have gingivitis.
If you have gingivitis, your gums bleed when you floss them or when the dentist measures your pockets. There might be some redness along the edge of the gum where it meets the tooth.
Gingivitis means your gums are reacting to an infection and they’re diseased. Healthy gums don’t bleed when touched.
Treatment: you’ll need to be doing better at home with flossing and brushing and you might need to increase your frequency. Ask your dentist or hygienist for a demo of proper brushing and flossing technique. You might also need different instruments — gum disease can be aggravated by a toothbrush that is too old.
Type II: Early Periodontitis
At this stage, you’ve had gingivitis for some time and it has progressed to something more serious. Your dentist might tell you that you have deep pockets. Your gums are bleeding when flossed or probed. It’s possible you may even have some ligament damage to the place where your gums attach to your teeth.
Gum recession is also common at this stage. Gum recession is when gums pull down, away from the tooth, after healing from inflammation. Receding gums aren’t pretty and they lead to tooth sensitivity because the root of the tooth starts to become exposed as the gum pulls down. Gum recession is 100% irreversible. It’s permanent and no surgery can fix it.
Treatment: Early periodontitis is the beginning of a very dangerous path. If you’re at this stage, I would recommend a deep cleaning, called a scale and root planing.
A root planing is required at this stage because there’s so much tartar buildup that brushing and flossing on your own will be inadequate now. With this much tartar buildup, it’s impossible to clean down to the surface of the tooth — until it’s removed by a professional in a deep cleaning.
Ask your dentist which sections of your mouth are affected because you might not need the deep cleaning everywhere. Scale and root planings are done in quarters — upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left. You will need a deep cleaning in one, two, three, or all four of these quadrants.
A scale and root planing gives you the chance to prevent the tartar from building up and taking hold again. This is why follow through is critical after the deep cleaning. Ask your dentist for a demo of the proper flossing and brushing technique you’ll need to use at home.
Type III, IV, and V: Moderate to Severe Periodontitis
At this stage, you also have deeper pockets and bleeding gums. As the severity increases, it gets more and more difficult to get healthy again. In these severe stages of periodontitis, you begin to tempt your fate with a point of no return — as in, the point where your gums will no longer respond to treatment. Surgery is frequently required in these stages.
Treatment: You’ll need multiple scale and root planings (read the section about Type II: Early Periodontitis above for information on the scale and root planing procedure). I would recommend considering a second opinion from a periodontist as well, who specializes in these more advanced and serious stages of gum disease.
Contact Family Care Dental Clinic for your consultation today!
We at Family Care Dental Clinic offer our clients a wide range of comprehensive dental services for the whole family. Our dentists can help everyone in your family understand the importance of proper oral hygiene over time and the positive effects it has on your health. At Family Care Dental Clinic, we treat our clients to a soothing environment where they can receive quality dental care no matter what their needs are. Call (604) 987-3545 or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with a member of our excellent team!