How Important is Your Regular Dental Hygiene Visit? Keeping Your Mouth Healthy Versus I Thought This Was Just a Buff and Shine Visit.

Most people visit their dental hygienist more frequently than they see their regular physician.  This gives the dental office the opportunity to weigh in on each patient’s health by reviewing their recent medial health, medications, hospitalizations, discuss blood pressure and heart rate and how they are feeling that day.  If something is suspicious, the result of the evaluation may be a referral to a physician for further evaluation.

People with healthy gums and teeth usually see their hygienist twice a year.  Some patients who have issues with gingivitis (inflamed gums), periodontal disease (loss of gum and bone), decay (cavities) or those with health problems need to be seen more frequently.  The dentist and dental hygienist will consult with the patient and sometimes with their physician and will recommend how often they should be seen to maintain optimal oral health.

Along with gauging ones general health, a dental visit will focus more precisely on dental health: gums, jaw bones, teeth, airway and soft tissues.  The hygienist will remove plaque (soft accumulations) and calculus (hard accumulations) and stain from teeth.  These accumulations of soft and hard materials can lead to gingivitis, periodontal disease and cavities.  Stain can be unsightly but by itself is not a health risk.  When a patient has had some change in their status medically or dentally there may be a need for a change in the hygiene visit.  For instance, a patient who comes in every six months but has a new medical diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome or diabetes may need to move to more frequent visits because these medical changes can affect dental health.  A patient who normally comes in every six months but now has new cavities or deepening periodontal pockets will also need to be seen to treat these issues and will need more frequent hygiene visits going  forward.

The hygienist will employ various means to remove the soft, hard and stain accumulations on teeth.  Hand scalers are the most commonly used instruments but other means are also available.  Power scalers that vibrate and spray water are very effective in disrupting the soft accumulation and removing hard and stain accumulations.  For some patients with sensitive teeth, power scalers may be irritating.  Powder/water sprays may also be used to remove stain and soft accumulations and are less irritating but are not effective removing hard accumulations.  Lasers can also be used to remove accumulations.  Lasers are used more for the treatment of periodontal disease, they are effective in deep pockets which may avoid surgery.

Your regular visits to the dental office are an effective means to monitor health.  These visits are more than a buff and shine.  If there are changes in health it is important to take action to address any medical or dental concerns based on the recommendation of your dentist and dental hygienist.


Dr. Robert A. Gallegos is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, he is on the faculty of Spear Education, a member the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and the American Dental Association.  Dr. Gallegos practices dentistry in Middleburg, VA.

Dr. Gallegos