Monday, November 10, 2014

Signs Teeth Need a Dental Cleaning

Gingivitis gingival bleeding in need of dental cleaning
Bleeding Gums

So it's been a little while since you or your kid had your teeth cleaned.  Do the teeth appear more "yellow?"  Are the gums feeling itchy?  Do your gums bleed when brushing?  You may be wondering what's going on with your teeth and gums.  Today we'll discuss some of the common signs you may benefit from a dental cleaning.


If you notice your gums bleed when brushing, it may be a sign of gingivitis or periodontitis.  If it's due to gingivitis (gum inflammation), then sometimes a simple course of oral hygiene instructions and regular dental cleanings (usually every 6 months) would help reduce gingival bleeding when brushing.

If bleeding gums are due to periodontitis, you may have hardened plaque and buildup beneath your gumline.  If such is the case, you may benefit from a deep cleaning, where the hygienist or dentist would generally apply local anesthetic.  They would then scale and clean areas beneath the gum line to remove hardened plaque deposits (calculus) that may be causing the gums to bleed and also subsequent bone loss. 

If you notice your gums bleed when you floss, the same treatment apply above as with bleeding gums.  Patients sometime will let me know their gums bleed when they floss, and they stop flossing as a result.  My recommendation would be to continue flossing on a daily basis, along with twice a day brushing.  Gums that bleed when one flosses is the body's sign that the gums are irritated by bacteria and/or hardened plaque.  By continuously flossing this allows repetitive bacterial removal, and eventually the bleeding will stop.


Such factors may include:
  • Scurvy (lack of vitamin C)
  • Pregnancy
  • Leukemia
  • Brushing and/or flossing excessively hard
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Improper fitting denture
  • Systemic infection
  • Tooth infection


If you noticed a gradual darkening of your teeth, this is called extrinsic staining.  Oftentimes due to foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, red wine, and blueberries may cause certain parts of the teeth to have dark or grey streaks and spots.

Your dental hygienist or dentist may use a scaler or cavitron to physically debride and remove such stains.  Be advised though if the teeth have been internally grey, such stains are called intrinsic stains and cannot be removed with a dental cleaning.  Such stains may require teeth whitening or possible porcelain veneers depending on the severity of the staining.


If you notice you have bad breath, also called halitosis, it may be due to two factors:
  • Bacterial buildup on the tongue - Look at the top surface of your tongue and see if you notice a white, grey, or dark coating.  A normal tongue should be bright pink and red.  If such is the case, this dark coating is an abundance of bacteria that usually causes bad breath, and needs to be removed.  I recommend brushing the tongue with a tongue scraper to remove the bacteria.
  • Bacterial buildup around and beneath the gums - If you notice a soft white and/or yellow buildup foam/film around the gums, this foam is a buildup of bacteria and remaining food particles.  You may benefit from a re-evaluation of your brushing/flossing habits, along with a possible dental cleaning.
In certain cases a referral to a periodontist (gum specialist) may be required.  If you have any questions on bleeding gums, be sure to consult your family dentist or dental hygienist.

From your gentle family and kids dentist in Bellevue,
Dr. Peter Chien
(425) 614-1600