Across the U.S., there are dozens of dental insurance companies. Most dental insurance plans cover two cleanings and exams each year. If you have dental insurance, you’re going to follow what your policy covers. If you don’t have dental insurance, you will likely decide how many cleanings you can afford each month.
How many cleanings and exams will a dentist offer to a patient? Is there a limit? Can you get your teeth cleaned more often than twice a year? It’s a tough question to answer, and it comes down to your dental health history and habits. There’s a chance you could qualify for up to four cleanings and exams per year.
How Is Your Gum Health?
Two dental cleanings and exams is the typical goal, but people with gum disease may need to go more often. For people with a high risk of gum disease or who have gum disease, cleanings every three or four months may be recommended.
When you last went for a dental cleaning, what did your dentist say? Did you have a lot of tartar and plaque build-up around the gums? If there was an excessive amount, you may not be brushing well enough. Or, you could have more risk factors, such as dry mouth, smoking, or diabetes, that increases the risk for gingivitis and gum disease. How is your general health? People with certain diseases and conditions may need to see their dentist more often.
Those risk factors are important in determining how often you should go for professional cleanings. If you have dental insurance, you might find that you’re authorized for more than two cleanings per year. Some dental insurance programs offer benefits that you gain throughout the year to increase the number of cleanings or add-on dental services you can get.
Areas of Concern to Address With Your Dentist
Have an honest discussion with a dentist. If you haven’t seen a dentist in a while, as hard as it may be, it’s time to get caught up on dental care. Things have changed a lot, so don’t let past experiences keep you from scheduling a dental cleaning. When you’re deciding how often to go for dental cleanings and exams, be prepared to discuss these points with your dentist.
- How often do you brush and floss?
Do you brush at least twice a day? Are you flossing each day? If not, your risk of tooth decay can be higher, especially if you tend to eat sugary foods and drink beverages with natural or added sugars. Even some healthier foods, such as raisins can increase the risk by sticking in the grooves of the teeth.
If you often forget to brush your teeth after a busy day, you may end up with inflammation and gingivitis. You may need to go for more frequent cleanings and exams until your oral health improves.
- Do you smoke or use chewing tobacco?
Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco do more than discolor the teeth. It can also increase inflammation, slow healing, and increase the risk of oral cancer. People who smoke have a higher risk of gum disease. Even after quitting, the higher risk levels remain. More frequent cleanings and exams may be necessary to diagnose tooth decay and gingivitis in the early stages.
- Are you diabetic?
High blood sugar levels can increase the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. People with diabetes often heal more slowly than others, which impacts how quickly infections are treated. They also experience dry mouth, so the saliva isn’t available to continuously flush bacteria from the teeth and gums.
Managing blood sugar levels is important, but regular oral care is just as essential. If you have diabetes, talk to your dentist about how often you should go for cleanings. Twice a year may be enough, but if there are signs of gum disease, it may be better to go every few months to prevent or treat gum disease.
- What have your gum pocket measurements been in the past?
When you last had your teeth cleaned and examined, what was the pocket depth measurement? A dental hygienist will use a tool to measure the depth of the pockets in your gums. If they’re 4 mm or greater, it can be a sign of gum disease. It’s important to discuss the next steps in a treatment plan.
- Do you experience bad breath?
Bad breath can be a sign of infection. If your breath is unpleasant all of the time, talk to a dentist about more frequent exams. If it’s not related to your teeth, other health conditions can cause bad breath, so you’ll know if it’s time to see your general practitioner.
- Do your gums bleed when you floss or brush your teeth? Are they inflamed?
If you’ve noticed your gums always bleed when you floss or they’re inflamed, you may be dealing with the early stages of gum disease. It’s important to go for an oral exam and discuss the next steps for improving your oral health.
- Do you have a chronic health condition that impacts your ability to properly care for your teeth?
Some chronic health conditions make it hard to properly brush and floss your teeth. The medications or treatments for some may also impact oral health. If you have dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to ask the dentist how often you should go for cleanings and exams. Rheumatoid arthritis is another condition where brushing and flossing is problematic.
- How many cleanings does your insurance plan allow?
You might want to ask your dental insurance company how many cleanings your plan allows. Most plans allow for two cleanings and exams in 12 months. But, some plans offer special benefits through things like oral wellness benefits. Each cleaning and exam you go for awards extra cash to put towards additional cleanings and other dental procedures related towards oral health.
If you have cancer and are undergoing chemo or radiation, you may need more frequent cleanings. While these treatments are important for a cancer patient, they can affect the healthy cells in the mouth and increase the risk of dry mouth. That increases the risk of infections and tooth decay.
The best answer to how many cleanings you should get each year starts with a conversation with your dentist. If you haven’t been in a long time, take the step and get back to routine visits. Dr. Jody Jones DDS specializes in all aspects of dentistry, including dentistry for people with dental anxiety. Schedule an appointment online or call our office.