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Spring clean your teeth

Add a dental visit to this year's spring cleaning list. A professional dental cleaning at least twice a year can improve the state of oral health, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

"A prophylaxis, also known as a 'prophy' or professional dental cleaning, reinforces the at home oral health regimen," says Academy spokesperson Anne Murray, DDS. "It is designed to preserve health, and prevent the spread of disease and gives the dentist an opportunity to locate other areas in the mouth that may need attention."

It is strongly recommended that a dentist or hygienist perform a dental cleaning every 3-6 months, says Dr. Murray. She discourages consumer use of over-the-counter tooth polishing instruments.

"People with healthy teeth and gums typically do not experience soreness after a cleaning," says Dr. Murray. Those with less than perfect oral hygiene habits may experience discomfort or heightened sensitivity during a dental cleaning. The dentist can use a topical anesthetic before the cleaning to alleviate pain.

What is a dental cleaning? Diagnostic services may include:
  • Reviewing and updating medical history; including heart problems, cancer treatment, pregnancy, diabetes, joint replacement, medications taken, surgeries or any other major changes in health history
  • Blood pressure check
  • Oral cancer examination and screening
  • Evaluation of your gum tissue
  • Checking biting, chewing and swallowing patterns
  • X-rays, examination of teeth to detect decay
  • Treatment planning
  • Referral to specialists for specific treatment
Preventive services may include:
  • Removal of plaque and tartar
  • Stain removal
  • Fluoride application
  • Sealants
  • Polishing of fillings or crowns
Educational services may include:
  • Tooth brushing and flossing instructions
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Recommendations for future treatment: when to return for following hygiene treatment, periodontal concerns, restorative options, etc.
  • Evaluate possible cosmetic enhancements
  • Evaluate self-care effectiveness
  • Tobacco cessation counseling

Source: Academy of General Dentistry.