Most patients will say, ”Every six months. That is what my insurance will pay for.” However, for most adults, every six months is not enough to maintain healthy teeth and bone. More often than not, a professional cleaning is indicated every 3-4 months.
Several factors are considered when determining a preventive recall frequency. Your dentist and hygienist use xrays, periodontal evaluation, and consider your individual needs to determine the most appropriate frequency. X-rays also determine if bone loss is present and to what degree. We can track changes from one xray to another over the years.
At least yearly, we perform a Periodontal Evaluation to measure the sulcus, the space from where we see the gum tissue to where it is attached to the tooth. A healthy sulcus measures 1-3 millimeters with no bleeding. Most people can efficiently clean 1-3 millimeters with their toothbrush and floss. When there is gingival bleeding or the sulcus reaches 4 millimeters and above, it is an indication of inflammation or progression of bone loss.
We also consider the patients individual needs such as medical concerns, current medications, family history and home care. Some medical conditions can make it difficult for the body to heal properly or fight off infection. If that’s the case, opportunistic bacteria can cause gingival inflammation and/or permanent bone loss. Certain medications can decrease the salivary flow, putting patients at risk for xerostomia (dry mouth) and decay (cavities). Genetics can factor in as well. In order to assess your risk, we may ask for a family history and see the level of tartar build up at your visits. Homecare compliance is a significant influence in maintaining healthy teeth and bone. Proper brushing along with proper flossing on a daily basis is a great foundation for homecare. Some patients may need other hygiene aids, that can be determined at your preventative appointment.
Patients needs change over a lifetime. Preventive dental visits are individualized based on the presentation of gingival tissues and bone levels at the time of each appointment. To sum it up, if you have firm,pink,healthy gingiva with no signs bleeding, a 6 month interval may be indicated. However, if your gums bleed and/or your measurements are 4 millimeters or greater with bone loss on the x-rays, and/or you produce a heavy amount of tartar you are most likely to indicated a 3-4 month interval of dental cleanings.