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Dental Cleaning Services Icon DENTAL CLEANING & EXAMS

Photo of dentist cleaning a dental patient's teethHow often should I have my teeth cleaned?

Everyone is different, so Dr. Welch recommends recall frequency on a patient-by-patient basis. Most of our patients come every six months, and it's clear that skipping a six-month checkup can cause a lot of issues down the road.

Twice a year is easy to remember, but there's no solid science behind that number—in fact, the twice-yearly recommendation is the result of a Pepsodent® toothpaste marketing campaign in the 1950s. At our practice, we (and our families) have our teeth cleaned every three to four months. With new information emerging every year about the link between inflammation of the gums and overall health, we think it is smart.

The science has always shown that most people will have enough calculus (also known as tartar or hardened dental plaque) on their teeth by three or four months to need a cleaning. Remember, plaque is a soft film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. It can be brushed or flossed away. However, if you don't practice good oral hygiene, which helps limit the amount of plaque on your teeth, the plaque hardens into calculus (also called tartar).

Here's a scary statistic: the amount of calculus (or tartar) on your teeth doubles each month. That means that at four months after a professional cleaning, you will have twice the amount you had at three months. The longer you wait to have the tartar removed from your teeth, the worse it gets—if you wait until seven months to get your teeth cleaned, you'll have double the amount of calculus you had at six months when most everyone has a fair amount of calculus! The more hard tartar you have on your teeth, your visit with us is more complicated.



Common Questions Icon COMMON QUESTIONS

Our patients often ask questions on various topics, and we have listed some of the most common questions for your interest. If you don't see the information you're looking for, give us a call at (336) 288-4499 so our team can help you get your questions answered.

Whether your gums bleed at home when you floss or at the dental office when being cleaned or examined by the dentist and/or hygienist, it's usually not a good sign: bleeding gums are an indicator of inflammation at the gum line. Inflamed gums are definitely more likely to bleed when worked on or around — like when our hygienists are flossing and scaling your teeth.


The short answer is, "no." The most common cause of bleeding gums is inadequate brushing and flossing, which leads to accumulation of bacterial plaque (which hardens to tartar) where the teeth meet the gums. In this case, inflamed gums are referred to as gingivitis, which is treatable and controllable. A regular routine of at least twice-daily brushing and flossing daily will most likely keep plaque at bay, and your gums won't get irritated. If you keep up that good routine, you're not likely to notice bleeding at your next checkup.


If left untreated, though, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a condition in which tissue is so seriously inflamed that it results in loosening and potential loss of teeth.

There are other causes of bleeding gums, some more serious than others:

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes and leukemia
  • Pregnancy and puberty
  • Malnutrition or iron overload
  • Medications such as aspirin, heparin, or other blood thinners
  • Regular cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing
  • Extremely high stress levels

Your health and safety are our top priorities at Scott A. Welch, DDS, and we follow sterilization and cross-contamination avoidance processes recommended by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). To ensure that saliva- and blood-borne pathogens — viruses and bacteria — don't spread from patient to patient, we follow strict sterilization procedures and use disposable tools and supplies whenever possible.

Tools like mouth mirrors, dental scalers, and forceps are sterilized according to ADA recommendations using an autoclave, which disinfects with high-pressure, saturated steam. We place equipment needing sterilization into a special sterilization pouch, which looks like paper on one side and has a clear window on the other. The pouch is then put into an autoclave for a set period of time for sterilization. These special bags have color indicators that change color when items within are sterilized, ensuring we never use unsterilized equipment on a patient. (Our autoclave also is monitored externally by UNC — we send test strips weekly for assessment to be sure the machine is working correctly.)

Some kinds of tools have single-use components to ensure their sterility. For example, the suction device that pulls saliva out of your mouth and the air/water syringe both have replaceable tips, which are disposed of after use for a single patient. Gloves, syringe needles, cotton rolls, and other items likewise are used for one patient, then disposed of in the safest possible manner, again according to ADA guidelines.

Are other things in the dental exam room sanitized, too?

I've seen my hygienist adjust the light while working in my mouth.

We know that the cleanliness of our practice isn't limited to the equipment and supplies we use. Our exam rooms and common areas are kept organized and tidy and stay clean with regular professional cleaning. As dental professionals, we are all trained in safety and hygiene procedures, and we wear sterile protective gloves, surgical masks, and face shields to eliminate the likelihood that we could transmit illness from one patient to another.

Commonly used areas such as counters, door handles, faucets, light switches, and so on are routinely cleaned with hospital-grade disinfecting solution. The handle on the light we use to get a better view of your mouth is wrapped in a plastic cover, as are the dental chair and any electric cords that may come in contact with patients. These plastic covers are replaced and all surfaces are wiped down with a disinfectant after each patient leaves the exam room to ensure the room is sterile before the next patient arrives.

If you have specific questions about sterilization or any other aspect of the safety procedures we have in place, please ask Dr. Welch or your hygienist at your next visit. We'll be happy to show you our processes and answer any questions you have.

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If you have any questions, or would like to make an appointment, call our professional dental team at (336) 288-4499.