In the dental office, dental health care providers are often asked “How often do I need to have my teeth cleaned”? This all depends on the health of the individual’s gum tissue and bone support around their teeth. There is no set standard in how often an individual should return to their dental office for hygiene visits. The dentist or hygienist will determine the frequency and treatment needed depending on the individual’s personal needs based on a clinical exam.

During an examination with a dentist or dental hygienist, your chief complaint will be discussed, your medical and dental histories will be reviewed, x-rays may be taken and a clinical exam will be performed. One part of the clinical exam includes periodontal screening. This involves placing a measuring tool between the tooth and the gum tissue to determine the health of the bone and the gums supporting your teeth. You will be diagnosed with healthy supporting tissues, gingivitis, or periodontal disease. Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease that is reversible with professional treatments. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease is often a silent, common, condition in adults effecting a single tooth or several teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can result in loss of teeth.

A regular cleaning is recommended for those people who do not have bone loss, periodontal disease, or infections around their teeth. This means removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth surfaces. Regular cleanings can be performed two to four times per year depending on a person’s individual need. If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, this disease can be treated in a general dental office or by a referral to a periodontist. One of the first steps in treatment of this disease includes periodontal therapy which involves meticulous removal of toxins and bacteria from root surfaces of the teeth which will allow the body’s immune system to begin the healing process. Treatment usually requires several appointments.

Following periodontal therapy, periodontal maintenance will be performed three to four times per year. This is different from a traditional cleaning in the fact that the root surfaces and the crown of the tooth must be instrumented. As in many other chronic diseases or conditions, successful long-term control of the disease and prevention of tooth loss depends on continual, possibly lifetime maintenance.