Are 6 month dental cleanings really necessary?

Your dentist says your teeth look great but wants to see you back in 6 months for a cleaning and check up. Your spouse also doesn’t have any cavities, but the dentist wants to see them 4 times per year. So what gives? How often do you really need to get a checkup?

The fact of the matter is, there is no magic number of visits you should schedule per year. The industry standard dictates that for most healthy patients twice per year is optimal, however if you are prone to periodontal issues you may require more frequent cleanings to maintain optimal oral health. Dental cleanings remove built-up plaque, the daily debris that we keep under control with proper brushing. Plaque can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria that cause periodontal or gum disease, an infection of the tissue that holds your teeth in place. With time, teeth may loosen and be in danger of falling out. Smoking, systemic diseases including diabetes, pregnancy, and the use of oral contraceptives can all increase the risk of gum disease. If your gums bleed when you clean your teeth, or are tender, swollen or red, see a dentist immediately.

Timing of dental visits can also be driven by your insurance plan, if you have one. There are people we want to see every three to four months, but their coverage is lacking so they ask to stretch the check-ups out a bit, but it isn’t wise to let insurance dictate treatment. Periodontal issues can advance quickly if left un-treated and the result can be devastating and irreversible.

With growing evidence linking oral health with general health, only you , your hygienist and your dentist can determine how many visits are best. As a general rule, go a minimum of twice per year, but more frequently if you have specific problems. Our best tip for reducing trips to the dental chair? Keep on flossing.

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Diabetes and Your Oral Health

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. We are all aware that Diabetes is a growing epidemic in our nation, but do you know exactly what Diabetes looks like? For those that have been afflicted with the disease, they understand that it is more than just an inconvenience, it is a life altering, and in many cases, preventable disease. Diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Here are just a few of the recent statistics on diabetes from the American Diabetes Association:
• Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
• Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
• The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $174 billion.
Type 1 (formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes) is a genetic disease in which the body does not produce its own insulin. Insulin is the hormone that changes the sugars you eat into the energy that your body needs. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease, it is not preventable, but is treatable with insulin injections.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown, although excess weight and inactivity seem to be contributing factors. Over 80% of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, and those that exercise less than 3 times per week are 3 times more likely to develop the disease. Though the types of food you eat do not actually cause diabetes, what you choose to eat is directly related to your health and  your weight. If your diet is high in calories and unhealthy foods (sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats), your diet could be contributing to your diabetes risk. It is a common myth that diabetes is not a deadly disease, but that is far from the truth. Many serious complications such as heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease and neuropathy are associated with the disease. For more information on detection and prevention of Diabetes, visit http://www.diabetes.org.

So what does it mean for your dental health if you are diagnosed with diabetes?
According to the American Diabetic Association, if your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control. Other oral problems associated to diabetes include: thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.
People with diabetes have special needs and your dentist and hygienist are equipped to meet those needs – with your help. Keep your dentist and hygienist informed of any changes in your condition and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control and make sure to visit your dentist at regular 6 month intervals or more frequently if your dentist recommends that for you.

Periodontal Disease = Heart Disease? Maybe Not.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease. Many researchers have suggested that gum disease can be a cause of heart disease, and that treatment of gum disease and good oral hygiene can reduce a patient’s risk of getting heart disease. As a result of this research, certain companies have marketed their products like toothpaste as being good for the heart.
The American Heart Association has reviewed hundreds of papers and studies and in a scientific statement concluded that so far there’s no conclusive evidence that gum disease is a contributing factor of heart disease. Confusing isn’t it? While we know that it is plausible for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and affect the heart, there is only enough evidence to show correlation between the two diseases, but not causation. We do know that diseases of the mouth and of the heart share many of the same risk factors including smoking, age and diabetes, and that may explain why they occur simultaneously in some people. It is possible that future research may find a cause and effect between these two diseases, but maybe not.

While it is comforting to know that periodontal health does not affect heart health, it is still important to maintain good oral hygiene. Most adults have some degree of periodontal disease and it is the most common cause of tooth loss. The condition ranges from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Symptoms can range from bad breath to bleeding gums, and in the worst cases, teeth are lost. That in itself should be reason enough to make good oral health a priority. Dr. Glass recommends routine dental cleanings every 6 months to maintain good oral health. If you receive a diagnosis of periodontal disease he may recommend more frequent visits to return your mouth to good health and prevent further progression of the disease.