While we value that trust at Willow Pass Dental Care, that is not always the case with other dentists. I do believe most dentists are ethical, but it's also smart to remember that a degree on the wall isn't a guarantee of honesty. According to James Quiggle, a spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, dental scams sink their teeth into unsuspecting patients every year.
While most dental scams are about inflating insurance claims or phantom services that the dentist never delivered there are also some who feel teeth cleanings may fall into the category of a scam.
My goal is to look at the claim and then evaluate the facts.
"Professional cleanings as executed by a trained hygienist and supervised by a dentist or prosthodontist, often involve a more thorough cleaning than patients are able to do themselves."
--- DR. REZA KHAZAIE, DDS. PROSTHODONTIST
Facts About Dental Cleaning
Routine dental cleanings, often referred to as dental checkups or dental exams, have long been regarded as critical components of a person’s dental health. Visiting a dentist for a checkup and professional cleaning twice a year has become an expected healthcare mantra.
The science, however, has shifted in recent times similar to the current questioning of the efficacy of flossing and the benefits of fluoridating water (and science clearly supports water fluoridation). Regular visits to the dentist’s office have also come under some scrutiny.
A handful of studies, in particular, a Cochrane review titled “Insufficient evidence to understand the effect of routine scaling and polishing” cites a lack of evidence to support routine professional dental cleanings. However, lack of evidence to support a position does not invalidate that position.
Despite flashy headlines that generate clicks and increase viewership, also known as clickbait, it is important to understand the difference between unproven and disproven. Studies that have questioned the efficacy of routine professional cleanings also suffer from well-documented flaws.
For example, excessive weight is often assigned to randomized control trials. As a result, Cochrane reviews usually give no weight to non-randomized clinical studies and tend to overvalue randomized studies.
What Science Says Regarding Professional Dental Cleaning
So what does science say about regular dental cleanings? While there may be insufficient evidence to prove (or disprove) that routine dental cleanings are essential for oral health, there is certainly enough evidence to strongly suggest that it does.
On a basic level, one only has to look at what a dental cleaning entails to understand that it is probably quite beneficial for your teeth. If bacterial buildup in the form of plaque is the enemy, then removing it will benefit teeth. That’s precisely what a professional cleaning does.
Better yet, professional cleanings as executed by a trained hygienist and supervised by a dentist or prosthodontist often involve a more thorough cleaning than patients are able to do themselves.
Another aspect of professional cleanings that is too often overlooked is the opportunity for patient education. Routine dental cleanings give patients face time with me or a dental professional who can point out problems or dental concerns that the patient is unaware of.
This is beneficial for several reasons. First and foremost, you can’t treat what you don’t know. During a routine cleaning, dentists can make a diagnosis or identify potential concerns and recommend treatment plans well before the dental problem gets out of hand. In other words, the small price of the routine cleaning session is more than paid back in full if it helps the patient avoid a much costlier, more time-consuming procedure such as a root canal or tooth extraction.
Also, studies including the Cochrane review cited previously, only take into account certain aspects of a dental cleaning while ignoring other vital components. In the case of the Cochrane review, only dental scaling and polishing were studied. However, routine cleanings typically involve other essential elements such as x-ray imaging, professional flossing, and application of fluoride paste that also play essential roles in diagnosing, treating, and maintaining a patient’s teeth in the long term.
Ultimately, while the science can’t definitely, one hundred percent prove that regular dental cleanings are beneficial to oral health, it does heavily imply that it is indeed the case. Dentists, who study, treat, and diagnose dental conditions every day, will recommend regular professional dental cleanings.
Dental Cleaning vs. Deep Dental Cleaning
Some of the confusion about the effectiveness of regular dental cleanings may lie in comparing two completely different dental procedures:
- Routine dental cleanings
- Deep dental cleaning procedures
To the average person, the two can be easily confused.
What is a deep dental cleaning procedure?
Deep cleaning treatments, also known as scaling and root planing, involve the use of specialized tools to remove or debride plaque, tartar, and calculus at and below the gumline. This is followed by smoothing, or planing, of a tooth’s roots to discourage bacteria and biofilm from attaching in the future.
Unlike deep cleaning, a typical dental cleaning procedure will not involve root planing or extensive debridement below the gums.
While deep cleaning procedures have an essential place in the treatment of periodontal disease and advanced gingivitis, the technique may get a bad rap from both overzealous or unethical dental practitioners who may overprescribe the procedure to generate additional revenue.
Deep Dental Cleaning: Dental Scam or Necessary Procedure?
Deep cleaning is an essential tool in a dentist's arsenal for combatting periodontal disease, gum disease, and advanced gingivitis. When utilized appropriately, and judiciously recommended by a trained dentist, not a hygienist, for the treatment or prevention of periodontal disease, deep dental cleanings are important and necessary.
For patients that do indeed have periodontal disease, deep cleaning procedures may not only be necessary but an ongoing regular occasion. Due to the difficulty of completely eradicating bacteria beneath the gumline once periodontal pockets have formed, patients may have to undergo multiple deep procedures over a period of time to keep the periodontal disease in check. However, they are not useful and, in some cases, can even be harmful towards regular teeth cleaning patients who do not have periodontal disease or advanced gingivitis.
How to Avoid Dentistry Scams
Like any profession, the majority of dentists and dental clinics are upstanding individuals and establishments who operate as medical professionals with the goal of improving their patients’ health.
However, there are also some, albeit a very small minority, which may be tempted to cut corners or overprescribe treatments. These unethical individuals and businesses rarely last long, since dentistry is a referral-driven profession. Even if they do not ultimately succeed in the long-term, unethical practices can still do untold damage not only to patients but also to trust between the public and medical professionals.
Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing a dentist, many people make simple mistakes that end up unnecessarily costing them a lot of money and in some cases their natural teeth as well.
Choosing a good dentist can be a daunting task. If you perform a Google search for a dentist in Concord, CA you will find over a million results! Good luck!
I have provided a comprehensive checklist to make choosing a quality dentist much easier.
How Often Should I Get a Professional Cleaning?
The vast majority of dentists and dental professionals recommend that patients visit a clinic for a routine cleaning every six months to a year. This is considered a rule of thumb by most dental professionals.
The best way to determine how often to get a professional dental cleaning is to see your dentist for a dental examination. Since genetics does play a role in determining dental health, there are some patients who are blessed with unusually good dental health. After consulting with a dentist they may only need to get a routine cleaning once a year. Others with particularly bad teeth, dental disorders, or a penchant for developing cavities may need to be monitored more carefully. These higher risk patients may require a professional tooth cleaning two and in some cases three or four times per year.
Also, check out my article on Dental Exam: What You Can Expect. This will provide you with a lot of helpful information.
Willow Pass Dental Care is the leader in dentistry in Concord, CA
Willow Pass Dental Care is dedicated to providing the best dental care. I (Dr. Reza Khazaie. DDS, Prosthodontist), am a board-certified prosthodontist, and our practice is dedicated to serving your dental needs. Whether it is a dental cleaning or a complete smile makeover, we have the dental professionals and team to help you.
If I can help answer any questions please contact my office at 925-326-6114 or click the schedule an appointment button below. We are open Monday through Friday 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM and we have Saturday appointments available as well.
We are here for you.