What are the advantages and disadvantages of professional teeth-cleaning?
Many dentists offer professional teeth-cleaning for the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease. It can also be done after treatment for periodontitis in order to prevent the inflammation from returning. But there is currently no evidence that professional teeth-cleaning achieves these goals any better than the standard dental check-ups and treatments do.
The aim of cleaning your teeth thoroughly is to remove the sticky bacterial film known as plaque from all of your tooth surfaces. The bacteria and their waste products can attack the teeth and gums, causing tooth decay or a gum inflammation ( gingivitis). If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis over time. In periodontitis, the inflammation has spread to the soft tissues and bone that support the teeth (the periodontium).
You can sometimes feel plaque when you run your tongue over your teeth: The surface of the teeth might feel “furry” or rough. You can remove plaque yourself by regularly and thoroughly brushing your teeth and cleaning the gaps between your teeth. If plaque isn’t removed properly, it can turn into a hard substance known as tartar (calculus). Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional, for instance during a check-up appointment. This is also known as “scaling.” In Germany, the costs of removing tartar are covered by statutory health insurers once a year in general, and twice a year in people who are in need of nursing care or have a disability.
In addition to removing tartar as part of the standard check-ups, dentists offer professional teeth-cleaning in their practice. There are two possible aims of this procedure:
- In people who have a healthy mouth, the aim is to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
- In people who have periodontitis, the aim is to increase the chances of successful treatment and prevent the inflammation from returning after treatment.
Professional teeth-cleaning involves “scaling and polishing” your teeth: The dentist removes plaque and tartar, as well as stains from coffee, black tea or smoking. But no good-quality studies have proven that professional teeth-cleaning has any advantages. It isn’t generally covered by statutory health insurers in Germany, so you normally have to pay for it yourself.