TEETH CLEANING, or

DENTAL PROPHYLAXIS

A woman having her teeth cleanedA dental prophylaxis, or simply dental cleaning, is a common procedure typically performed twice yearly by a dental  hygienist. Absolutely essential for long term dental health, it is quick (30-45 minutes) and painless. Lack of cleanings guarantees the initiation of gum disease. Most or all teeth will be lost if the disease is left untreated for 10-15 years.  

Note that gum disease is alive and well in the world – the tragedy is how easily its prevented with regular cleanings. (A more effective health care treatment is hard to imagine.) Note that while fluoride and modern toothpastes will delay the onset of gum disease, its virtually guaranteed afflict 95-98% of all patients who never have regular cleanings.  In most countries, and many areas of the U.S.A., where regular dental cleanings are either not available or ignored, the following scenario results.  

 TYPICAL LIFETIME PROGRESS OF PATIENT WITH NO DENTAL CARE

          AGE:  (Ages are approximate)

  • 4-7:   Tartar, a hard bacteria filled crusty deposit, begins forming on teeth. It builds slowly but constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Tenacious, it can only be removed by a trained dental professional – otherwise it will stay on the tooth forever. 
  • 10:    With no professional care, a significant tartar deposit has accumulated. 
  • 16:    Tartar continues to “snowball”; gums typically infected, some tooth decay very likely. 
  • 25:     Initiation of bone resorption as bacteria infects  supporting bone surrounding teeth. 
  • 30:    Disease firmly established; bone resorption aggressive. Bad breath and bleeding, swollen gums. Extensive tooth decay. Occasional foul taste as sacs of active bacteria released into mouth.  Massive tartar deposits – tartar that formed at age 4-7 still present. 
  • 40:    Back teeth start to loosen as most of bone “eaten away”. Initiation of extractions as teeth become painful. 
  • 50:    All  teeth loosening, gums tender. Repeated painful gum infection episodes – patient forced to seek treatment. Unfortunately there is currently no treatment which can effectively replace bone lost to gum disease.
  • Summary/tragedy:    Full mouth extractions  with denture or implant  reconstruction is only option. Thus patient suffers 28 extractions ( $300 each) and a set of dentures ($1800 – $3500), or full reconstructive implants ($30,000 – $50,000). The tragedy: Tartar is the culprit. Regular cleanings beginning at age 5 would have  prevented this scenario, with virtually 100% certainty.