It’s funny that people fail to realize that their mouth is their “front line” to the outside world. Every other part of the body has something that serves as a protective barrier to germs and harmful and corrosive substances—your skin obviously protects your body from invasion by harmful substances, and even your eyes have membranes that protect that organ from invaders. But since we need food to live, our mouths and the teeth in it have to handle food and the infectious agents that inevitably accompany that food and prepare it for the stomach. There, the powerful gastric juices our body produces will prepare that food for digestion, but in the mouth, all we do is break up the food and pass it along to the stomach. Yes, there is a little chemical digestion that takes place in the mouth, but not much, and some food particles remain in the mouth long after the memory of what you ate is forgotten—it’s unavoidable—and that means the germs that hide in the gums, between teeth and in the tooth sockets, and even under the plaque that builds up on the surface of the teeth have plenty to work with in attacking your mouth.
Unless you walk around with a mobile dental office all day, you have two defenses against this perpetual attack on your “front line,” your teeth and gums:
1. Take good care of your teeth on a daily basis—floss, brush and rinse with mouth wash every morning and every evening, and do it right. Our team will make sure you know how and show you why doing it right makes all the difference. But even if you take proper home care of your teeth and gums, there’s something else you must do if you’re going to win the battle, and that is…
2. Come in regularly for a teeth cleaning. By “regularly” is meant every six months—don’t let the month in which you’ve scheduled your cleaning go by without coming in to the office and having this procedure. And that is what a proper teeth cleaning is—it’s much more than a simple surface cleaning. When done properly—and you can be sure the professional teeth cleaning done in a dentist’s office is done the way it’s supposed to be done—you’ll see why many dentists wish a more serous word than “cleaning” was used to describe it. The state and insurance companies have guidelines and standards for what a “teeth cleaning” should consist of, and but many dental practices exceed those standards. But none of that can be done if patients don’t come in and keep that appointment, so let’s look at the seven reasons it is important for everyone to have regular cleanings.
Reason 1. To get the food and “stuff” even the most conscientious home dental care just can’t get. Food particles can get stuck in the crevices and recesses of the mouth for a long time—sometimes a really long time. Who hasn’t experience a piece of food that just stayed and stayed and avoided all attempts to dislodge. But the situation is worse: Our teeth create a covering called “plaque” that would protect our teeth, only nearly always germs get caught under the plaque and that only makes them more dangerous. So the first thing that will be accomplished at a cleaning is that the mouth, teeth and gums will be cleaned thoroughly, including scraping off the plaque and getting rid of any of the germs that have found a safe haven there.
Reason 2. To care for the deep sockets and the gums. The hygienist and the dental team will teach you how to really clean and floss deep into the sockets, but even then, there will be places that are simply beyond the reach of home-care tools. A cleaning is where all that material will be cleaned out. It’s only then that it is possible to assess how your gums are faring. Unhealthy gums, typified by frequent bleeding (a condition called “Gingivitis”), will only get worse if left untreated, and that will lead to tooth loss. But this can be treated and reversed, and that begins with the cleaning.
Reason 3. To detect and start treating dental problems early. As part of the cleaning, a dentist will examine the teeth and gums themselves and determine if there are any signed of more serious dental problems. Some use special equipment (an intra-oral camera) that shows the patient just what the dentist and hygienist are seeing, which allows them to discuss with the patient the options for care. Human teeth are such a durable wonder that most people never think anything in their mouth will ever change. But it does—because we change as we age, or just because different events happen to us day to day. (That bone we chewed on that was tougher than we thought; or that cold that laid us up for a few days and caused us to neglect our oral hygiene.) The cleaning is the best opportunity to get a thorough check-up for your teeth and mouth.
Reason 4. To check for—and prevent—more serious health problems. It is now well known that there are more serious health problems that begin with the mouth and that these need to be looked for and prevented. First, the entire mouth area should be checked for signs of oral cancer—something that is very treatable if it is caught early. A thorough cleaning will also prevent the problems that many people have elsewhere in their body that begins with an infection in the mouth. Recent research has confirmed that a significant percentage of heart problems and even strokes are linked to gum disease left untreated. In the modern dental office, this is how tooth care should always be approached: a clean and healthy mouth is good for the entire body.
Reason 5. To help you keep your teeth longer—much longer. Dental science has created many effective ways of replacing teeth, but the simple truth is, the best thing is for you to keep your own teeth as long as you can. Studies show that regular and thorough cleanings can increase the adult years that you have your own teeth by 20 to 30 percent. That means good oral hygiene and the regular cleanings that go with that can mean extra decades of healthy and useful teeth.
Reason 6. To prevent bad breath and oral problems that can affect your appearance and speech. Studies have shown that the majority of bad breadth problems (known as Halitosis) begin in with poor dental hygiene. Most people have experienced periods where an injury or sore in their mouth or with their teeth has altered their appearance or their speech, even for a short time. These episodes can be drastically cut, if not eliminated entirely, with the sound oral hygiene that a cleaning provides and sets in motion.
Reason 7. To keep that signature smile of yours shining and beaming. For most everyone, a smile becomes an identifying feature of their face and their personality. (Just ask Julia Roberts if it’s not true that smiles can be infectious.) Maintaining a healthy and bright, clean and shining smile affects how everyone around you reacts to you and how they respond to your face. With a white and healthy-looking smile, you’ll look younger, more vibrant, and better. People who work in dental offices and clinics see that all the time: the patient who leaves the office after a cleaning looks great—better by far than the one who came in.