We sometimes see a patient who hasn’t been to the dentist in years. His or her logic? “I brush twice daily and I even floss…sometimes. What else are you going to do in your office that I can’t do at home?”
In reality, good dental hygiene is a partnership between home care and professional cleanings. And those professional cleanings (we use a fancy term, prophylaxis) should happen twice each year.
Here’s why you need prophylaxis twice yearly.
Tartar is the real culprit
Professional cleaning by our Gentle Dental hygienists removes plaque, calculus (tartar), and stains from the teeth. Can’t this happen at home? While you can, and do need to, remove plaque with your home hygiene, it is almost impossible to remove it all. What you don’t/can’t get at slowly turns into tartar. This is the hard light-colored stuff that builds up particularly on the inner bottom teeth. Tartar cannot be removed with home care. No matter how well you brush or floss, once tartar has taken hold it can only be removed by a professional hygienist or dentist. That’s where dental picks come into play.
What’s the big deal with a little tartar? Once formed, tartar keeps growing because brushing doesn’t remove it. If you let it keep expanding, it will eventually begin to expand down under the gumline, causing irritation. This irritation is called gingivitis and is the precursor of gum disease.
What professional cleaning does that you can’t
So, what does a prophylaxis at Gentle Dental involve? First is a scaling and polishing procedure that removes normal plaque buildup, calculus, and stains. What’s scaling? That’s where the hygienist chips away the layer of tartar that has formed in your usual spots in your mouth. Various picks have different characteristics that help the hygienist break the grip of the tartar. Once the grip is loosened, the tartar releases and can be removed.
Once the tartar is removed, the teeth are professionally polished. We utilize a special paste with more grit than typical toothpaste that helps remove stains and polishes the teeth. This polishing also makes the tooth surfaces more smooth and difficult for plaque and debris to adhere to, at least for a couple days.
Twice each year
We often get asked about the deal with cleanings and exams every six months. Some people assume it’s like the oil change scam of needing it done every 3,000 miles despite the fact that the automobile manufacturers say it’s not necessary until every 5,000 miles. The six-month timeframe isn’t arbitrary — six months is the time it takes for tartar to take hold in your usual build-up locations. And once it builds up it needs to be removed.
Is it time for our hygienists to do sometime about that tartar on your teeth? Sounds like it’s aboutsix months since last we saw you. Call us at (732) 549-5660 to schedule your next cleaning and exam.