Healthy gums should determine how often your teeth are cleaned. This patient has a beautiful, healthy mouth, and she has her teeth cleaned every 3 months!

This post is a response to a New York Times article titled” Rethinking the Twice-Yearly Dentist Visit” . It reports on a study that seems to indicate that not everyone should have twice a year cleanings, but instead each patient should possibly have a treatment schedule that is tailored to their individual risk factors for developing periodontal disease. I was not surprised to read later in the New York Times article that “Two authors of the study own shares in Interleukin Genetics, the company that makes the genotype test for interleukin-1. The company helped  finance the study along with the National Institutes of Health.”

While it is likely that some people do not actually require twice a year cleanings, how are we to determine who that patient is? I am sure that many dental hygienists do not need two cleanings a year and some of my patients who have tip top dental hygiene may also not require two cleanings a year, but most of my paitents do benefit from seeing the dentist and the hygienist at least twice a year and unfortunately many of my patients do not find their way into a dental office frequently enough.

Furthermore, people’s immune systems are not a steady state, but can vary from year to year depending on a whole host of issues. I really do not believe that every patient should be tested to determine whether they need a twice a year cleaning. If anything, I believe that twice a year cleanings should be covered by medical insurance, since poor dental health is correlated with other health problems! In fact, the majority of adult patients we see in practice benefit from a visit with our hygienist up to 4 times per year, with a dental examination by the dentist once per year. This helps keep bacteria in the mouth at bay, which is so important as your mouth is the window to the rest of your body.

In my opinion, there is a problem with much of our research on health in general, since its funding often comes from commercial companies seeking to use the results of the study for financial gain. This doesn’t necessarily invalidate the results of their studies, but there clearly are a lot of potentially great studies not being done because there is no funding for the research.

We all know that diet, exercise and our personal habits have a tremendous bearing on our health, but most research is oriented to finding the newest wonder drug or treatment to treat diseases. In our office, we always specifically tailor appointments to a patient’s individual needs.  Patients come to see us at 3-month, 4-month, 6-month, 9-month intervals depending on a variety of factors, with the goal being choosing the interval that keeps each patient healthy.  In fact, our dental team each has a dental cleaning every three months; if it’s longer than that, we start to have bleeding gums…and we have EXCELLENT oral hygiene!

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!