Good oral hygiene habits are essential to optimal dental health, and proper cleaning at home – though very important – is only your first line of defense. To ensure that your teeth look their best now and for years to come, you also need to have your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Professional cleaning removes plaque – the sticky, bacteria-filled film that adheres to the surface of your teeth. Plaque that gathers along the gum line and other hard-to-reach spots can irritate the gums and lead to gingivitis (signs include red, swollen, or bleeding gums). If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to the irreversible gum disease called periodontitis.