Every 6 months!
It is common thinking that when there is no pain there are no problems. Why should I go to the dentist and get teeth cleaning every 6 months when everything seems fine to me? The major problem is that we are dealing with an invisible enemy. The cause of the most common oral problems is bacteria which are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. They only become visible when there is a significant number of them doing damage to your teeth and gums.
When you are cleaning your teeth and you miss an area, a soft white deposit containing food and millions of bacteria called plaque forms. The bacteria in the plaque eat the food and release acids as a by-product which in turn damages the teeth and gums. If you leave this plaque there for some time, it forms a hard deposit called calculus or tartar as minerals from your saliva get incorporated into it. This in turns causes more damage to the teeth and gums as the acidic attack from the bacteria continues, with the hard deposit also causing soft tissue irritation and breakdown.
The major problem is that calculus is very hard and sticks to the teeth very well and cannot be easily removed with brushing and flossing. It needs to be removed by a dentist during professional teeth cleaning with a special ultrasonic cleaning instrument. That’s why it is so important to have your teeth professionally cleaned at the dentist every 6 months.
Why 6 months you say?
Even the most proficient brushers and flosses leave a little bit of plaque and calculus under the gum-line and between the teeth. The most important factor is time. When that little bit of plaque and calculus is only left there for a short period of time, the damage is negligible and reversible. The teeth may have lost a little bit of mineral but your saliva has been replenishing it so there is no great loss. The gums may become a little redder, swollen and bleed every now and then in what is commonly called early gum disease or gingivitis. If the teeth and gums are professionally cleaned in a timely manner then the gums return to a pinker, firmer state with little or no bleeding. Years of research has determined that the window of opportunity is generally 6 months. If plaque and calculus is cleaned off every 6 months there is usually not enough time for it to cause permanent damage to the teeth and gums. However, there is great risk of permanent damage if the plaque and calculus if left longer than 6 months.
Imagine if it wasn’t just a little bit of plaque and calculus but large deposits throughout the whole mouth and this was left there for a long time. The continual acid attack from the bacteria would cause the teeth to break down a lot faster than your saliva could replace the lost mineral. Cavities would form in the teeth in what is commonly known as tooth decay. The gums would also break down and allow the bacteria to attack the bone supporting the teeth, resulting in advanced gum disease or periodontitis. Unlike gingivitis which is reversible, periodontitis means irreversible loss of gum and bone. Once it is gone, gum and bone will not grow back so it is essential to preserve what you currently have.
One of the main issues is that you may not have any symptoms until the tooth decay and gum disease is quite severe. Because of this, many patients don’t realise they have a problem. By the time you do have symptoms, it may already be too late to do simple preventive teeth cleaning or even fillings and more complex treatments such as root canal treatment and crowns may be needed to save the teeth.
But I know someone who doesn’t clean their teeth and gums at all and they have no problems but I brush and floss twice a day and still get tooth decay and gum disease! Some people are just lucky and are born with good genes for strong teeth and gums that are more resistant to breakdown. However, if they don’t maintain what they are born with, it will eventually deteriorate over time. Isn’t it better to keep the good times rolling and stop this from happening by looking after yourself? Conversely some people are unlucky and are born with genes for weaker teeth and gums and are more prone to tooth decay and gum disease. All the more reason to brush and floss twice a day and get professional teeth cleaning by a dentist every 6 months to hopefully prevent or at least delay dental problems.