Ask a Hygienist: Why Do Regular Cleanings Matter?
Have you ever wondered why you really need to come in for your cleaning? One of our awesome hygienists, Erica Monroe, took the time to answer some questions about regular cleanings and check-ups (also known as recall appointments). Here’s what she had to say.
Why isn’t excellent home care enough?
Excellent home care is important because that is done daily. Since most patients only see us every six months, it does make a huge difference. But patients don’t know what they are looking for when it comes to a head/neck exam, which is done at every recall visit. Periodontal disease (gum disease), which is also checked yearly, can be caused by more than just poor oral hygiene. Also, it’s almost impossible to get around tartar buildup on the inside of the lower front teeth because every time you talk and chew, your tongue presses up against that area leaving debris that turns into buildup, which can only be removed at the dental office.
Why do patients need to come in for their personal, recommended recall cycle? (Like every three months as opposed to the usual six months?)
After checking for periodontal disease, we may recommend a shorter cycle if there is more bleeding, inflammation, buildup, poor oral hygiene, or 4 millimeter pockets between the teeth and the gums (indicating early gum disease). Coming in more often will allow us to flush out more bacteria from the gums and oxygenate the tissues. The bacteria that promotes gum disease is anaerobic, meaning they live in the presence of no oxygen. Since usually patients cannot reach into more than a 3 millimeter pocket with their regular home care routine, it is best if the hygienist can get into the pockets more frequently to flush out that bacteria, and typically the tissues improve within the next couple of cycles. Studies show that the anaerobic bacteria build up to unhealthy amounts in about three to four months if not cleaned out and can cause damage to the supporting structures (bone tissues), which is like the foundation of the mouth and teeth.
Do you have an example of a successful result from recall appointments?
We see very good results with patients who keep up with their recommended recall and have good home care. Missing recalls can result in an unsuccessful program for the patient and usually causes larger problems instead of catching things when they are small or early. Compliance is key to good oral hygiene and oral health.
How does Smiles for Life differ from other offices in our recall appointments?
At Smiles for Life, our providers are very detail-oriented and are constantly studying or taking continuing education courses to find new products or new technologies to benefit the patient. We always start with a head and neck exam and an intra-oral exam. We always check blood pressure, periodontal disease, and inflammation, and we are able to take pictures to show patients what we see in their mouth. We take the time to do it right and love our jobs. We want our patients to be happy and healthy. Suggestions are always welcome, and we can adapt to all situations. We just want healthy, happy patients. For us, it’s not just a job.
How do recall appointments support the five-year warranty we offer on the work we do?
The recall appointment allows us to check over previous dental work and make recommendations for hygiene and home care if needed. Fixing smaller problems is always easier and more successful for patients than trying to fix problems that have gotten out of control. Our doctors are meticulous and provide excellent restorations. If there is anything wrong, they have no problem making it right.
What would you tell a patient that thinks recall appointments aren’t necessary for them?
I would tell that patient that oral cancer is on the rise in ALL age groups, including non-tobacco users. Also, heart disease and diabetes are linked to periodontal disease. I would say “take care of you.” It feels good to have your teeth cleaned, and it can give you peace of mind about your oral health. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth, and hygienists love to clean it out!
So, obviously, getting your cleaning and check-up on your recommended recall cycle matters, but we understand that some people are still going to put off their recall appointments. The dentist’s office can be a scary place! At Smiles for Life, our goal is to make you as comfortable as possible. We want to take care of you, and we’ll do everything possible to make your visit an awesome experience. If you have any fears or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call us.