A third of Americans do not even have a full examination by a dentist even once a year, while the American Dental Association points out that this is important twice a year, because small cavities or slightly bleeding gums can lead to the loss of a tooth or the need for gum surgery very quickly. Dr. Cluff can also check for signs of a dislocated jaw, oral cancer, or sleep apnea (which can disturb sleep with serious consequences).
The ADA Recommends Semi-Annual Cleanings
But in addition to a dental exam, the ADA also strongly recommends a semi-annual professional cleaning by your dental hygienist. Even if you are diligent about brushing for two minutes after breakfast and dinner and flossing before you go to bed, you may not know the optimum methods of doing these. Your hygienist can show you how.
Brushing needs to be from the bottom to the top of each tooth on both sides and the chewing surfaces. Floss should be held against both sides of each tooth at the bottom and pulled to the top, while moving the string each time to avoid contaminating other teeth and the gums that support them with periodontal bacteria (which develop around food particles that are not cleaned off).
A hygienist also has tools and techniques that can do a better job than anyone can for themselves. She can test whether gum pockets are seriously infected, reach hard-to-clean areas at the back of your mouth, scrape off tartar (the film of bacterial plaque after it hardens if not cleaned off within a few days), remove plaque that is below the gum lines, and inject an antibacterial solution to combat a serious infection.
The Cleaning Experience is Painless
Fortunately, we have a variety of anesthetics that can make cleaning painless, so let your hygienist know how sensitive you are as she tests your gum pockets.
How long should a hygienic cleaning take? If you have excellent brushing and flossing habits, have added a water flosser, dental picks for tight areas, and a dentist-approved mouthwash, it might take just 45 minutes twice a year. But if you have serious oral health problems and have not had a professional cleaning in a long time, count on 90 minutes in the chair and the need to repeat this every three months until the infection is under control.
The good news is that no matter your condition, improving your dental hygiene and getting regular cleanings, you can achieve full oral health again.