Dental Education Lecture: Cleaning Like Haircut?

As men, we rarely take care of our hair after haircut about once a month.  Back in China several years ago, what we did after haircut was to take shower and wash hair once a week.

For dental care, we need to see a dentist every six months if our gum condition is not so bad or every three months if our gums are not so healthy.  But this is far from being enough.  In addition to professional cleaning, we need to brush teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once daily.  These two tasks are called home care.  When we do these tasks, we should pay 100% attention to them.  We need to know how to do them properly.

Most people think that daily brushing is tedious, not so important.  Flossing is not necessary.  They go to see a dentist because they have purchased dental insurance which provides free cleaning.  After professional cleaning, self cleaning (brushing and flossing) is not free at all.  They do not have any motivation.  In one word, they regard professional cleaning as haircut.  In this way, their gum disease is getting worse gradually.  They will lose teeth, like their parents and grandparents, probably a little bit later.  It is very disturbing to see this trend as a dental professional.  Losing teeth when we get old is quite normal in China.  However, if we take care of ourselves, our teeth at least majority of them will stay with us until we die.  This is normal in modern society.

Mr. Jiang visits dental office because of gum bleeding whenever he brushes.  His gum disease is pretty severe.  The gums of one of his teeth are reddish and swollen (black arrowheads in Fig.1).  The fragile gums bleed when lightly touched (red arrowhead in Fig.1).

After deep cleaning (one kind of professional cleaning), Mr. Jiang doubles his home care effort, brushing and flossing diligently.  Three to four months later, his gums look healthy (Fig.2).  He does not experience any more gum bleeding when he brushes.  We feel so proud of him.  He must not think that dental cleaning is similar to haircut.

Xin Wei, DDS, PhD, MS 1st edition 12/30/2010, last revision 01/01/2011