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  • Writer's pictureChris Salierno, DDS

How many cleanings should I get each year?

Most people visit their dental office twice a year. The hygienist cleans their teeth, perhaps takes a few x-rays, and then the dentist comes in for the check-up.

That frequency works really well for the majority of patients. If your risk for tooth decay and gum disease is normal, then having your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year will be just what you need to remove the accumulating bad stuff that your missing when you brush and floss at home. Your dentist will also be able to find any tooth or gum problems while their still small and easier (and less expensive) to fix. You'll also get other benefits like routine screenings for oral cancer and other pathology.

But sometimes your dentist and hygienist will recommend more frequent visits. This will usually be because they think you're higher risk for gum disease. If you build up a lot of tartar, have a history of gum disease, and/or have problems keeping up your oral hygiene at home, then having an extra professional cleaning or two per year may be the best way to prevent bigger gum problems down the road.

In my practice, we will try three cleanings a year for someone with a higher risk for gum disease. We'll bump that up to four cleanings per year if a patient is at really high risk.

The key is for you, your dentist, and your hygienist to customize the best solution for your specific situation. And that can take some time. It can take several visits over a period of time to get a good sense of your risk for gum disease. Each time, your dental team will looks at things like the severity and location of your tartar build up, whether or not your gums bleed when gently touched (a sign of inflammation, also known as gingivitis), how deep the space is between your gums and your teeth, whether your teeth have some looseness, and if there's signs of bone loss around your teeth, among other factors.

That's a lot of things to evaluate, but your dentist and hygienist work together to figure that all out. And if your gum problems get really severe, they may refer you to a periodontist, which is a a dentist that specializes in helping the gums and bone that support your teeth. Your dentist and your periodontist might even suggest to alternate cleanings between their offices to make sure that you get the best care possible.


Disclaimer: ToothQuest is for informational purposes only and is not to be taken as dental, medical, or legal advice.  Please consult with your dentist or other appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions that would affect your health.

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