Why does everyone seem to have perfectly white, glistening, teeth? It’s because they go to the dentist on a regular basis. Yeah, you know. The dentist. The person who sits you down into that weird reclining chair and scares you half-to-death with all those tools that look like they belong in a torture chamber.
Here’s why you need to go and exactly what happens during the entire process.
Why It’s Necessary
You need teeth cleaning for two very important reasons. First, it can prevent diseases in the rest of your body – diseases like heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other really nasty stuff. You see, bacteria don’t just reside in your mouth. They’re all over your body, and even inside your body.
When you don’t brush and take care of your teeth, and you don’t get your teeth cleaned regularly, what happens is this bacteria may start to form plaque and harden on your tooth’s surface. It does this all over the tooth, but especially at and below the gum line.
When it happens below the gum line, it irritates the gum, and causes it to become inflamed. The inflammation is actually your immune system trying to fight off what it perceives to be an infection.
When this happens, your gums can bleed, but that’s not all. That bleeding means there’s an open route to your bloodstream. When bacteria eventually make their way into your blood, they can migrate to various parts of your body – places they’re not supposed to be. This is what causes disease.
Another reason to get your teeth cleaned is to prevent tooth loss. As bacteria build up, they crowd out the space needed for your teeth. It can actually uproot them if the plaque and calculus is severe enough.
Teeth cleanings remove the buildup of plaque and tartar, and calculus. This buildup is mostly natural, sort of like how a boat picks up barnacles just by being in the ocean.
So, assuming you’re convinced of the need, how do you pay for it all? Well, you can buy individual dental plans that cover teeth cleanings or you can pay out of pocket. Both options work, but insurance tends to be cheaper if you get multiple cleanings per year, especially for a family.
Getting Checked In
When you go to the dentist, you will have to fill out a bunch of paperwork. Most of this is medical information, but some will be payment information – whether you’re “self-paying (i.e. cash) or whether you have insurance.
Once you’re checked in, and have an appointment to see the dentist, it’s time for a basic diagnostic procedure.
Most dentists do x-rays of your teeth as a preventative measure. They want to know that you have no cavities before they start. They also want to know what areas they need to focus on, if there are any existing problems, and what the general approach with your case should be.
The Pocket Reading
When you step into the dental assistant’s chair, he or she will give you a pocket reading. It’s basically a small tool, that sort of looks like a pick. The tool measures the gap between your tooth/teeth and the gum.
You see, where the gum and tooth meet isn’t actually where the tooth is attached. The tooth is rooted much further down. This naturally creates a pocket, sort of like a moat around a castle.
The size of the pocket can change if collagenase (an enzyme produced by the body when it thinks it’s under attack by pathogenic bacteria) is released or if the top flap of the pocket grows because of inflammation.
This is definitely a time when bigger is not better. The bigger your pockets, the more risk you have for pretty much any nasty chronic disease that can afflict the human body.
When You Have No Gum Disease
This is the ideal, and what you should be aiming for. Unfortunately, few people are in this position. However, if you can get to a state of what is essentially perfect health, your best bet is to maintain, maintain, maintain. By not having gum disease, you dramatically reduce your risk for heart disease, dementia, and diabetes.
Type I Gingivitis
About 80 percent of people in the U.S. have gingivitis. If you have it, your gums will bleed when you floss or when the dentist does a pocket reading.
There is also usually redness along the edge of the gum line. Gingivitis means that that there is an infection in your mouth. The solution is for you to do a better job cleaning at home between dentist visits.
The dentist will let you know what the state of your health is before you leave.
More Serious Problems
If you have more serious problems, like early periodontitis, moderate or severe periodontitis, then you will have deep pockets and lots of bleeding.
This is not good.
You will require a deep cleaning called scale and root planing. You will also have moderate to severe gum recession, which is permanent damage from the disease.
During and After the Cleaning
The cleaning process itself is pretty straightforward. The assistant scales and polishes your teeth, flosses, and brushes your teeth with special tools.
Once finished, you’ll get a report, and a copy of your x-rays. You’ll also be asked to make a followup appointment in 6 months.
Whiter Teeth At Home
If you want to make sure your teeth are looking clean AND white before your next teeth cleaning, get an at-home whitening kit like the NEW Platinum Whitening Kit ($29.99) from CVS/pharmacy, which whitens your teeth and removes years of stains in just one 20-minute treatment! So when you are watching The Bachelor on Monday nights or waiting for your clay mask to dry, you can simultaneously whiten your teeth!
The kit includes a soft mouth tray that doesn’t hurt like those stiff plastic mouth trays. Plus it’s ready to use right out of the box because it doesn’t require boiling or molding. The tray comes pre-filled with the whitening mixture for a mess-free application. You’ll enjoy the fresh minty flavor and comfortable whitening experience since the formula includes potassium nitrate to minimize the discomfort/tooth sensitivity usually associated with teeth whitening. For an even whiter smile or touch-ups, the kit comes with two bonus treatments pre-filled in an easy-to-use syringe! Whitening your teeth has never been easier.