No matter how well and regularly you brush your teeth, there will be areas of your mouth that you can’t reach. Bacterial plaque can build up in these areas and beneath your gum line. Whenever you eat sugary or starchy foods, the bacteria release acids that attack your teeth. Because plaque is sticky, the acids are trapped and stay in contact with your teeth and can eat through the enamel over time.
If plaque is not removed from teeth it can harden into rough deposits of tartar. Tartar can collect above and below the gum line and cause gum disease — first gingivitis (bleeding gums) and then, if left untreated, periodontitis. Periodontal disease causes the gum to detach from the tooth, allowing bacteria to attack the bone supporting it and ultimately resulting in the loss of the tooth.
The bad news doesn’t end here, however, as a growing body of evidence points to links between inflamed gums and other serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and an increased risk of dementia. Equally as concerning are links between gum disease in pregnant women and preterm or low birth weight babies.
The good news is that these outcomes can be prevented by visiting a hygienist at least twice a year to have your teeth professionally cleaned. During a scale and polish, the hygienist will reach the areas that brushing can’t, removing plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline and drastically reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
As well as removing bacteria that put your teeth at risk, the hygienist can remove a certain amount of superficial staining from your teeth and leave you with a fresher smile. Hygienists can also apply topical treatments to your teeth such as fluoride paste (as directed by your dentist) and apply sealants to fissures.
With the Health and Safety Executive estimating that 90% of adults in the UK have some degree of gum disease, the importance of good oral hygiene can’t be overstated. You can do a great job of maintaining your teeth by brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash but to ensure that your teeth are fully protected, visits to the hygienist at least twice a year are a must.