Did you know that twice yearly cleanings with your dentist or dental hygienist may not be right for everyone? Visits twice a year are a great place to start if you’re not sure what your oral health needs are, but you should discuss the right frequency with your dentist. Some patients with low risk factors may do just as well with only one visit a year. Other patients, especially those with some of the risk factors addressed below, may need to keep a more frequent schedule. If any of these apply to you, consider discussing quarterly cleanings with your dentist to see if it helps you manage your oral health better.
It is especially important to see your dentist for regular cleanings and exams if you live with a systemic disease like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or cardiovascular disease. These diseases can compromise your immune system and lead to greater inflammation. Inflammation can make your gums more swollen and susceptible to gum disease. Regular cleaning can preserve your natural teeth and also help keep inflammation down in your body by getting rid of persistent bacteria in your mouth.
Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to develop periodontal disease. There are several reasons why smoking increases your risk of periodontal disease. The first is, smoking reduces the flow of saliva in your mouth. Saliva is essential for regularly cleaning your teeth and washing away bacteria and food particles. Additionally, the harsh chemicals in cigarettes, vape pens, chew, and other tobacco products irritate the soft tissues in your mouth. They also reduce the blood flow to your gums, which means gums have a harder time healing from the damage. The sooner you stop smoking, the better for your health.
As with most of your health, genetics plays a key role. We all have higher risk factors for certain diseases through our genetic lottery. There have been several studies proving this to be true for periodontal disease. If periodontal disease runs in your family, you should discuss with your dentist whether a more frequent cleaning schedule might benefit your long term oral health. More aggressive and frequent cleanings can help you preserve more of your natural teeth. It can also reduce the severity of periodontal disease as you get older.
Whether it is a major life event or the barrage of smaller but persistent daily stressors, stress has a negative effect on oral health. When you are stressed, your body has an endocrine response to stress. Your endocrine system regulates the hormones in your body which adjust appetite, mood, growth and development, sleep, and tissue function. When you’re stressed, your body produces hormones that alter how your gums react to bad bacteria in your mouth. It’s not totally understood whether this is an important function of this hormone, or whether it is an unfortunate side effect. Additionally, people who are stressed are also less likely to perform the regular maintenance of oral hygiene, compounding this issue.
Periodontal disease is more prevalent in older patients. This is likely at least in part due to the gradual loss of fine motor skills in oral hygiene routines. We typically encourage older patients to consider switching to electric toothbrushes and flossers to counter-act this loss of motor control.
If you’re concerned about your oral health, please make an appointment to come see our friendly dentists! We’d love to discuss your unique situation and help you make a plan for better oral health!