Finally! You just had your teeth cleaned–your smile is smooth and fresh again!
“We’ll see you in six months!” and quicker than you can say, “How much do I owe you?” your dentist disappears into the next room to tend to another patient. The origins of the six-month cleaning recommendation are a matter of debate and as dentists and the academic institutions that train them refine their methods, the phrase “evidence-based dentistry” is becoming more prevalent. There have been many editorial, research, and news articles that give their own opinions, but the fact of the matter is that—to my knowledge—there is not yet a study that has been conducted that meets the standards of researchers and clinicians.
Now you might be thinking, “so…Dr. Majeed, why do you make me come back every six months???”
The short answer:
Because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The long answer:
Catching a soft tissue (gum, tongue, lip, cheek, throat) or a hard tissue (teeth, bone) lesion early means less potential for expense, pain, and disease for the patient. Having an exam every six months gives the dentist an opportunity to evaluate the hard and soft tissues in your mouth to make sure that you have no active disease (gum disease, cavities, oral cancer, etc.) and to make sure that there are no conditions that would facilitate disease. Specifically, the cleanings that are done every 6 months help to keep plaque levels low. There is no doubt that low levels of plaque significantly reduce the risk of cavities, gum disease (periodontal disease, gingivitis), and, in general, keep inflammation to a minimum.
One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that dentists need to consider a patient’s specific needs when making recommendations on frequency of cleanings for patients. Personally, I would prefer to have my teeth cleaned every 6 months. So many changes can happen in a short window of time; diet, medications, and hygiene habits can all contribute to problems with your teeth. The earlier those problems are identified, the earlier they can be corrected and the easier it is for you, the patient.
Like I said, better to be safe than sorry.
Disclaimer: No advice/information distributed via this post (or any other post) can substitute for an in-person examination of any dental related issues. If you think you need dental attention, click our contact link.
- 2013 Dec 19;(12):CD004346. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004346.pub4. 2013 Dec 19;(12):CD004346. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004346.pub4. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24353242)
- Nature Reviews Disease Primers volume 3, Article number: 17030 (2017) (https://www.nature.com/articles/6400135)
- Richards, Derek. The six-monthly dental check. Evidence Based Dentistry. 2002/09/20/online. Vol 3, 61. Nature Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ebd.6400135 .