As the old saying goes, you only have to clean the teeth you would like to clean. Every day brushing and flossing are needed to removing the plaque and tartar accumulation that can discolor and even damage your teeth. Plaque and tartar harbor hazardous bacteria that not only contribute to cavities and gum disease but can also increase the risk of tooth loss. Although daily cleaning is essential, biannual prophylaxis, or professional dental cleaning, is also extremely important. A professional dental cleaning is a preventive treatment that can help you avoid expensive treatments such as fillings or periodontal treatments.

The food you eat and the beverages you drink combine with bacteria to create a colorless film on your teeth called plaque. The bacteria harbored in plaque then produce an acidic byproduct, which can weaken the enamel on your teeth and develop into cavities. Gingivitis and gum disease can develop when the bacteria infect your gums, and gum disease has been linked to serious health conditions, including stroke and heart disease. Plaque and tartar often get into hard-to-reach areas, such as along the gumline and between your teeth. Your dentist or dental hygienist can remove this buildup at your biannual cleaning.

Your dentist or hygienist will check your oral health using dental X-rays and visual exams. These will allow him or her to determine the current state of your oral health and identify any signs of decay or gum disease that need to be addressed. Your dentist will then scale your teeth, or remove any plaque and tartar from the surfaces and from along the gumline. You cannot remove tartar on your own at home, however your dentist can by using special tools. Once any buildup is removed, your teeth will be polished and flossed.

A professional cleaning can also be a valuable opportunity for you to glean information about ways you can enhance your dental hygiene routine and new treatment options for any dental health conditions from which you may suffer. Prophylaxis can also help polish your teeth, a procedure which removes superficial stains and leaves your teeth looking brighter and cleaner.

Most patients need professional dental cleanings every six months along with their regular checkups. However, pregnant women, smokers and those who have periodontal disease may need more frequent cleanings. If you have a heart condition, your dentist may suggest you use antibiotics before a cleaning in order to prevent complications.

Talk to your dentist about any changes in your health at each dental exam. If you are taking any new prescription or over-the-counter drugs, have any new health conditions, or are pregnant or lactating, your dentist may need to make alternative treatment arrangements.

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