Dr. Haight’s Helpful Hints

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Why Should I Get A Cleaning Every Six Months???

How often do you get your haircut?? Every 6 weeks? Every 8 weeks? Whenever it gets too long? Or how often do you get your oil changed or your tires rotated? Every 3,000 miles? There’s a schedule for that right? Well just like everything else, there is a schedule for taking care of your teeth as well. But who decided that every 6 months was the hard and fast rule for how often you get your teeth cleaned? I mean I don’t necessarily need to get mine cleaned as much since I brush and floss regularly right?

Wrong.

We as dentists have decided that 6 months is that sweet spot for checkups. It’s not too long and not too short but just right for almost everyone. Now there are some exceptions to this rule, but generally twice a year is perfect. Now I know very few people enjoy the scraping and flossing, but let’s just review why we all need to force ourselves to take up this twice yearly visit and make it a habit.

There are two parts to every cleaning, or prophylaxis as we in the dental world refer to it. First, is the cleaning itself. It’s tempting to think that brushing twice a day, flossing and using mouthwash like crazy can accomplish the same thing as a dental cleaning but let’s slow down just a bit and think about how much more a hygienist does at a cleaning. Really, we don’t brush your teeth at all do we? Nope, that’s your job, ours is to do what we call scaling. Scaling is the noise you hear as we scrape off all of the build up around the gumline that you think you have been getting when you brush your teeth. You see, plaque has this way of sticking right beneath your gums and doesn’t come off with just the stroke of a brush. After scaling, yes, we floss just like you, but the effectiveness is much more after having removed all the buildup. In addition to cleaning these hard to reach spots, we polish. The grainy paste we use to clean at the end is specifically designed to remove stains and tarter and really brighten your smile after we get done with all the dirty work.

Now if the cleaning we do wasn’t convincing enough, lets look at the second part of a cleaning. The checkup itself. This portion consists of the dentist looking at the x rays in conjunction with a clinical exam to determine the health of not only your teeth, but everything in and around them including your gums, tongue, tonsils and more. We will take a close look at any and everything you may have going on that is out of the norm or not quite what we would consider up to par as far as oral health is concerned. A checkup is not only a time and place to determine if things are wrong or broken but also crucial for monitoring things that may need to be revisited every so often. One example might be an abnormal lesion or sore on your tongue. While this can lead to oral cancer, it is often something that may be monitored for any changes before jumping to that conclusion. As dentists, we can often be the first to see signs or symptoms of other health issues as well, as many diseases arise with symptoms orally.

So what is my recommendation? 6 months of course! But more specifically, talk to your dentist as he or she knows you and your health better than anyone. Visiting the dentist is just as important as any other preventative/maintenance measure you take in your life, so remember that next time It’s Monday morning and you’re tempted to cancel that 8 am appointment.