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Alejandro Romero DMD
Orthodontist/General Dentist

Romero Orthodontics & General Dentistry
and Contributing Writer

Brushing And Flossing Daily Isn't Enough. Dental Cleanings Are A Necessity!

July 26th, 2011

I was recently surfing the internet when I came upon an online article called something like “Are dental cleanings obsolete’’. In his article, the author mentions how he started thinking that dental cleanings were equivalent to “rust-proofing” a dealer-bought car (something considered almost useless with modern cars).


He goes on to mention some research that was done to prove whether or not dental cleanings offer us any benefits, with its mixed results. His article is enjoyable because it poses an interesting point: What would happen if we just maintain a good oral hygiene regiment and forego a visit to the dentist to do this?


Dental cleanings are known by different names: Prophylaxis, dental cleaning, dental scaling. Dental cleanings, a medical procedure, involve removing the substances that accumulate in our mouths such as plaque, calculus and debris. Calculus (or tartar as it is sometimes called) is formed after plaque (a biofilm rich in bacteria in our mouths) hardens and sticks onto the surfaces of the teeth.


When a patient visits the dentist for a cleaning, the procedure should involve removing all calculus above the gum line; this is done with specialized instruments and with no anesthesia. There should be little or no bleeding and minimal discomfort with dental cleanings. After all these substances have been removed from the dental surfaces, a special paste polishes the surfaces of the teeth to smooth out any roughness. A modern office will probably do this procedure with ultrasonic instrumentation. This results in more comfort to the patient and enables the dentist to do the procedure much quicker.


The objective of this scaling and polishing procedure is to remove all those substances because they are cause for irritation. Every time we eat or drink, more of these substances can accumulate on the dental surfaces. The normal bacteria of our mouths stick onto the calculus, as well as saliva, minerals and all sorts of food residue. If they are not removed, they will keep accumulating and growing in size, every day. This irritates the gum and can lead to gingivitis or even worse: periodontitis or gum disease. Also some of these bacteria have been linked to heart disease and mothers giving birth to premature, low weight babies.


If we try what was mentioned in that article and just keep up our oral hygiene with brushing 2 or 3 times a day, we would still get accumulation of calculus. Tooth pastes that have ingredients to deal with tartar but do not eliminate it; some might help patients accumulate it slower, but the patient would still get tartar. Some patients use pressurized water jets to clean and remove plaque, but calculus would still form.


Even if the patient flosses every day and uses mouth washes and rinses, calculus will keep building up, because minutes after we clean our mouths, bacteria start to invade the mouth once again. Therefore removing calculus is extremely important and useful to keep our gums and dental bones as healthy as possible.


The best recommendation is to have a dental scaling session about every 6 months for healthy adults. Depending on the speed of calculus accumulation, some patients might require a cleaning every 3 or 4 months, especially patients with braces.


So then what would happen if we just maintain a good oral hygiene regiment and avoid the dentist? The answer is that we would still accumulate calculus and not removing it can lead to irritation, discomfort and possibly gingivitis and gum disease. Sorry folks, unlike evolving modern cars, our mouths still accumulate tartar and we still need dental cleanings like years ago!

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