How Often: Dental Cleanings & Check-ups

Hi Ellie,

I’m wondering what you feelings are re: how often people should see their dentist for a cleaning / check-up. My dentist, who is a great guy, a good friend and someone I’ve seen now for 20+ years, seems to think I need to come in every 4 months! He says that’s because I have an implant (tooth no. 30, I believe), which he did 7-8 years ago, but this is the first time I’ve heard this reasoning. When I had a cleaning last August, it had been 3 years which I admit is probably too long but even then (due to using your system, I believe) I had pretty minimal plaque and my gums (although there are some areas of recession, nothing new or more pronounced) were deemed very good. I think once a year is probably enough. I haven’t had any new cavities in quite a few years now! 

My dentist specializes in high-end ($$) cosmetic work. In some ways I feel guilty for not getting cleanings on the schedule he says I need, but I truly don’t think I need cleanings that often. I know the ADA recommends cleanings every 6 months…but frankly, I rather think that it’s because that schedule benefits dentists at least if not more than their patients. I think cleaning schedules probably vary, based on the patient and the condition of his or her teeth and gums.

Based on your experience and what I’ve told you about my teeth and gums, what would you recommend? I’m 52 now, in case you were wondering about my age range. I know I may be asking you a lot since you haven’t examined my teeth yourself.

I appreciate any advice and supporting info you can tell me, which I may use when I talk to my dentist.

Thanks so much, Ellie!



I like to base any answer by looking at Evidence Based Dental Research.

There are a lot of questions about diagnosis and when treatment is truly needed.

The “old days” were weighted on the side of treatments but dentists need to move away from these old days. The problem is that treatment is HOW dentists make money  and some have a difficult time figuring out what is the right thing to do!

The National Institute of Health held a symposium in 2001 that looked at a number of issues for example:
1) The use of a dental explorer: Should this instrument be pointy and sharp (like in the old days when they dug this point into teeth to see if they were soft )or blunt and rounded to trail over a tooth surface to gently feel for demineralization so you can go away are reverse the damage yourself?
2) When does a cavity needs filling? ..( 60 percent of fillings are unnecessary according to research on this) etc..etc…

My chapter in Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye discusses this problem and asks ….”what KIND of dentist do you WANT?”

It is not so much about dentists being good or bad but as a patient YOU need to decide what YOU want your dentist to do for YOU.

Some people want their dentist to “look after their teeth”….so they (the patient) have no responsibility. Other patients want the least treatment possible, and are prepared to take ownership.

Taking ownership means you need a system of care that will keep your teeth healthy, reverse cavities and prevent problems. Unfortunately “brush and floss” instructions do not provide enough protection for teeth so people who tried to look after their own teeth (without the benefits of my Complete Mouth Care System) fail eventually. I think your dentist is expecting you to fail if you try to look after your teeth by yourself.

My system is the best system I know to look after your own teeth….however….it is important to understand that you are taking responsibility for your teeth. If you don’t follow my system you will not have enough protection. You need twice daily rinsing and sufficient xylitol.

To some people this is scary and usually they are nervous until they discover that my system really does work. People gain confidence as they get congratulations from their health professionals who notice that their oral health improves year after year.

My job is to help those who want to take responsibility. I can help them be successful. At the dentist I suggest they ask questions and find out:
Do they have pocketing if so, what are the “numbers” and on how many teeth?
Do they have any sign of gum inflammation where?
Has their general oral health got worse since last year?
Is there any “incipient” caries on X ray if so, has this got worse/better/stayed the same since last year?

Whatever your issues my system does not vary.
>Use the mouth rinse routine morning and again last thing at night (approximately every 12-18 hours apart).
>Use 100 percent xylitol to protect your teeth after anything acidic or sugary any drink, coffee, meal or snack. This will give you the frequency you need ( about 3-5 exposures a day preferably after meals).
>You need about 6-10 grams of xylitol a day but frequency seems even more important.
If you want a little “insurance” against dental disease dissolve an packet (4 grams) in water and sip it between meals.

If you do these things, you will be successful, and you will be able to look after your own teeth.
Then the amount of professional supervision you need will be safely reduced without any risk to your teeth.

I have a dentist friend who understands this.
This dentist even understands when patients ask ” please only do a cleaning if I really NEED it”.
Some patients do not ever need a cleaning.This dentist “gets” this…….
He understands that in place of his hygienist doing a “cleaning” FOR YOU every four months – YOU are doing an effective cleaning and prevention ALL day, EVERY day!!

Hope this helps!

26 Corporate Woods
Rochester, NY 14623

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  • Ron Bruce says:

    I've worked out going for once a year cleanings and feel pretty good about that a my teeth are okay. However I'm doing Dr. Ellie's CWT regime as best I can to see if there is an improvement. In Canada though I've not been able to find ACT/Fluorigard so have gone with the Oral B fluoride (no alcohol) mouth rinse. I can't find RetarDex here anywhere. What is close to this does anyone in Canada/elsewhere know? What about Therabreath? Should I just stick with a salt water rinse? I really want to do the full CWT thing if possible.

  • Dr. Ellie says:

    Ron — I am happy you are looking for ways to improve your dental health.We do now ship to Canada, so that may help you out – the link is here for the whole kit: here is the link to the "alternatives" I recommend for the Canadian an European users. Best of luck, and feel free to send me an update at any time.

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