The COVID-19 situation disrupted our regular schedules and routines, including getting regular dental cleanings.

But dentists want to make sure patients remember to reschedule those missed cleanings to keep teeth and gums healthy.

'Missing one cleaning, while not recommended, has some implications that are reversible with treatment. But missing two and three cleanings can result in serious oral problems that can affect your overall health,' said Dr. Richard Armstrong, a Waco, Texas, dentist.

While brushing at least twice per day every day and flossing at least once per day plays a significant role in keeping the mouth healthy, professional dental cleanings can remove the sticky plaque that brushing and flossing cannot budge.

'When dental plaque is not removed from the teeth and gums, it can contribute to decay and gum disease,' Armstrong said.

Tooth decay and gum disease can develop because the bacteria that cause tooth decay and negatively affect gum health live in plaque.

'Dental plaque is full of bacteria that cause cavities and gum inflammation,' Armstrong said.

When these conditions develop and go untreated, patients are at risk of more serious issues, including dental abscesses, tooth loss and advanced periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a form of gum disease than can result in tooth loss, infection and risks to overall health, such as diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and heart valves.

'In untreated gum disease cases, bacteria can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body and cause inflammation and illness,' Armstrong said.

Dental checkups are also an opportunity to have an examination to ensure that teeth, gums and other tissues are healthy.

'Dentists can visually inspect the mouth and can identify things that may need further attention or treatment,' said.

The bottom line is, although your dental cleaning schedule may have been disrupted due to COVID-19, you shouldn't let it continue to disrupt future cleanings.

'Stay on schedule or get back on your cleaning schedule as soon as possible,' Armstrong said.

In the meantime, don't slack on your at-home oral hygiene routine.

'Brush and floss as recommended, avoid highly acidic foods and drinks, and eat a healthy diet,' said Armstrong.