How often should I go to the dentist to clean my teeth?

Brushing is crucial to avoid tooth decay. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

It is a healthy exercise, which involves the removal of dirt from both the teeth and gum

Someone might ask if they really need to have their teeth cleaned in the first place or whether it is even important. 
There are many theories around teeth cleaning. It is a healthy exercise, which involves the removal of dirt from both the teeth and gum. The dirt, which accumulates overtime cannot be removed using a toothbrush. 
The dirt commonly referred to as “tartar” becomes dangerous to the teeth and gums if not removed as recommended. This same tartar also decays a tooth and you might experience sensitivity or pain as it builds up. It also recedes the gum, weakening support to the teeth and sometimes, teeth start to shake. 

Depending on a number of factors, the buildup of tartar varies from person to person and this dictates how often you need to clean the teeth. On average, the recommended period is six months, a time usually combined with a routine dental exam. 
If you are at higher risk of more tartar buildup, then the frequency usually increases, depending on the timeframe recommended by your dentist. 
However, having the procedure done too often could make your teeth more sensitive or damage your tooth enamel. In addition, repeated teeth cleaning is costly. 
The best way to keep your teeth healthy between cleanings is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day as well as flossing once a day. The following are steps to effective brushing:

Step 1: Start with the outer surfaces of your teeth. Take your time and gently brush your upper and lower teeth. Going tooth by tooth can help you slow down and not miss any spots.
Step 2: Tilt your brush at a 45° angle. Brush against the gumline to get rid of any trapped plaque or food debris. Gently move the brush back and forth using short, tooth-wide strokes.
Step 3: Brush the inner surface of your teeth. Because the insides of your teeth are not as visible, skipping them is tempting, but these inner surfaces are just as vulnerable to plaque. Use a 45° angle to brush back and forth to clean the inside surfaces of the teeth.
Step 4: Clean the chewing surfaces of your teeth. Do not forget to use short back and forth strokes to brush the tops of your back teeth, where food can easily get trapped.
Step 5: Brush your tongue. For fresher breath, brush your tongue to remove odour-causing bacteria.

The author, Dr John Paul Okim is dental  surgeon


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