You probably already know that dentists recommend regular dental cleanings. You might be told you need dental cleanings twice a year, or even four times a year. Very rarely, a patient will be told they only need a yearly cleaning – and if that’s you, you are doing an excellent job of brushing and flossing your teeth.
And that brings us to the question that might be on your mind – if brushing and flossing clears off plaque, why do we need dental cleanings at all? And what’s the big deal with plaque, anyway? We all know it doesn’t look nice, but can it really cause any harm to your mouth?
These are the questions we’re going to answer – by the end of this article, you’ll fully comprehend the importance of regular dental cleanings.
A calculated risk
To understand dental cleanings, you first have to know what dental plaque is. Plaque is what we call a biofilm, and without getting too technical, that means it’s basically a layer of bacteria that lives on your teeth. They eat sugars in your mouth, and those sugars secrete acid, which can then begin to erode your teeth and cause cavities.
As plaque continues to form on your teeth, it merges with minerals in your saliva, forming a hard substance known as tartar or calculus. Tartar is too hard to brush away with a toothbrush. It provides an excellent surface for more plaque to develop on, and it irritates the gums. This can lead to gum disease, as well as a higher risk of cavities.
Dental cleanings performed by licenced dental hygienists are the safest and most effective way of removing tartar. That’s why dental cleanings are so important – without them, your chances of developing cavities and gum disease skyrocket.
Why can’t I just brush away plaque before it becomes tartar?
In a perfect world, you could! Tartar is hardened plaque, after all, so if you can manage to brush away every millimetre of plaque on your teeth, you won’t ever need a dental cleaning.
Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, and that means that even if you’re extremely meticulous about your oral health routine, you’ll eventually develop tartar. Think about how many surfaces each tooth has, and how many teeth you have. Are you going to be able to get all the plaque on the fronts, backs, and sides of your teeth, everytime? Even your molars?
It’s doubtful. But if you are still confident that you could clean all of those surfaces perfectly twice a day, there’s still the problem of subgingival plaque – that’s the plaque that’s found below your gums. Getting rid of that with just a toothbrush and floss is basically impossible.
Regular cleanings are an essential part of good oral health
Now you understand why some people only need cleanings once a year – they have an excellent oral health routine, and they may be less prone to plaque buildup for other reasons. But even dental hygienists get their teeth cleaned at least once a year – and they know how to clean teeth better than anyone!
Now that you know how important regular cleanings are, you might want to book one. Our dental clinic is located on the U of A campus, so if you’re a student, faculty member, or staff member, we can help you out. Want to learn more about what we’re doing to better serve the U of A community? Find out here.