There are billions of bacteria found in the human mouth. We often go to the dentist when we have a problem we need addressed, but we don’t think about what could’ve led up to us having this problem. The hygienist in the dental office is the one who helps with removing the bacteria out of the patient’s mouth. The reason we have to go to the dentist at least twice a year for dental cleanings is because the bacteria found in the mouth can be very destructive if it is left for a long period of time. We can get gingivitis, lose bone around the teeth, and ultimately lose teeth.
Gingivitis is the first part of the inflammatory process where the gums may appear red, swollen, and bleed easily. So what causes gingivitis to start in the first place? There is a biofilm that forms on the teeth called plaque. Plaque is what can be cleaned off everyday with our toothbrush and floss. It is a very soft substance and that is why it can be easily removed. However, if we are not able to remove it, then “tartar” or “calculus” can form on teeth. The calculus is no longer able to be removed by a toothbrush and floss and a professional dental cleaning has to be done at this point. If the calculus is left behind then it will start to eat away at the surrounding structures around the tooth and can cause the bone to be lost. Bone is what anchors our teeth into the mouth and keeps them strong and sturdy. Once bone has been lost - it is permanent damage and it can not return. If we lose too much bone around the tooth then a tooth can become loose and...worst case scenario... fall out. This is why it is so important to care for your gums before they get to that point.
Cavities are what forms when the plaque bacteria is able to get through the tooth enamel (which is the first layer of the tooth). Tooth enamel is very strong, but it can be broken down by plaque. Once the decay reaches the dentin (which is the second layer of tooth), then a filling must be done to stop the process. Decay left untreated will make its way towards the center of the tooth (where the nerve is located) which can cause extreme discomfort and often leads to infection.
In all, dental cleanings are absolutely necessary for the longevity of the teeth. It’s important to remember that many dental problems stem from plaque bacteria - which can be properly removed daily at home (with brushing and flossing) and any plaque that hardens into calculus/tartar must be removed at your dental office. So, to avoid restorative dentistry and replacing teeth - be sure to prioritize your routine dental cleanings.
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