Dental Essentials - Cleanings, X-rays, Exams and More!
Prevention is always better than treatment. By actively preventing disease and decay through regular home care, professional dental cleanings and regular exams, you will maintain a healthy, beautiful smile. In addition, effective prevention can help you avoid costly treatments in the future to remove decay, restore teeth and treat gum disease. Regular prevention is truly your best investment.
- Protect normal pits and grooves on the chewing surface of back teeth
- Stop small amounts of decay from growing larger
Normal pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of back teeth can trap food that can’t be removed by brushing or washed out by water or saliva. A sealant is a tough, plastic material designed to bond (stick) to tooth enamel. These clear or tooth colored sealants are painted onto the tooth surface to “seal” the pits and grooves and protect against decay. They are generally applied to children’s first permanent back teeth. They can also be useful for adults in certain situations.
Sealants are an excellent way to protect chewing surfaces of teeth from decay. They are a much better financial investment than treating decay after it has started.
Sealants are not permanent. They generally last about five years with normal wear, but can wear off or chip off earlier in certain instances. Also, sealants do not prevent decay between teeth or the onset of gum disease, so regular home care and dental visits are important.
There are no appropriate alternatives to sealants. If a tooth has decay, it will need a filling or other restoration.
Gum disease (Periodontal Disease) is responsible for about 70 percent of adult tooth loss. It is characterized by swollen, inflamed gums surrounding the teeth. Plaque, a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria gets inside the space between the gum line and the tooth. If not removed, plaque hardens into a substance called calculus or tartar that is very difficult to remove. Eventually, the bacteria in the plaque and tartar eat away at the fibers that hold the gums to the teeth, creating deep pockets. As bacteria spread, the pockets become deeper until the bacteria finally eat away the bone that holds the tooth in place. Think of it as if bugs are eating away at the soil around a tree trunk. Eventually, they eat away all of the soil and part of the tree’s roots, causing the tree to collapse.
Gum disease is diagnosed through a process that measures the depth of the pockets around each tooth. Pockets that are greater than 3 millimeters in depth are considered hazardous and will generally require treatment. The early detection and prevention of gum disease is another reason to see your dentist regularly.
Gum disease is treated by carefully removing the bacteria and substances that form in the pockets around the teeth. The removal of this material occurs on a microscopic level and requires great skill. Our dental team has had advanced training regarding how to effectively remove all of the bacteria. This process of removing the bacteria usually requires several visits to our office. Once the bacteria has been removed, the pockets must be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis by your dentist. Otherwise, the bacteria will return.
Keep in mind that once you have contracted periodontal disease, you will always have the disease due to the damage that it does to your body. Careful daily hygiene and regular dental visits to clean your pockets are required to keep the bacteria from returning. After the initial dental appointments to remove the bacteria, you will be placed on a regular appointment schedule called “periodontal maintenance” to keep your pockets free of bacteria. Remember, it is always better to prevent disease than to treat disease.
How do Radiographs Help?
Dental x-rays or radiographs are very important. They allow the dentist to see things about your oral health that cannot be seen by the naked eye. These items include cysts (sacks of fluid that form on the roots of teeth), cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, invisible decay that occurs between teeth, and the location of teeth that haven’t grown all the way in.
By using an x-ray to diagnose these problems, we can help save you money in the long run from surgeries or other treatments that might become necessary if we didn’t find the problem. In some cases, where dental x-rays show the location of tumorous growths, x-rays can be responsible for saving your life.
Advantages of Digital Radiography
Digital x-rays have many advantages when compared with old fashioned film-based machines, including:
- Reduced radiation exposure (up to 90% less than traditional systems)
- Enhanced ability to refine image quality
- Instant viewing (no waiting for films to develop)
- Environmentally friendly (no toxic chemicals)
Best of all, it’s easy for you to see what the doctors see. Your digital x-ray can be seen on a computer screen located next to your dental chair. This helps you understand your needs and make and informed choice about any treatment.
Professional cleaning, also known as dental prophylaxis, is done by a dentist or a hygienist to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. During a dental prophylaxis, the dentist or hygienist removes plaque from the teeth. Plaque forms inside the mouth when foods containing carbohydrates are eaten and residue remains in the mouth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on this food and produce acids after ingesting it. If not removed, this acid destroys tooth enamel leading to tooth decay and gum disease. During a professional cleaning, your dentist will perform the following:
- Remove plaque on the teeth.
- Remove tartar/calculus found above the gum line. When plaque hardens on the tooth surface, it develops into calculus, which is quite difficult to remove.
- Remove stains and polish the teeth.
Dental examinations are essential to help diagnose a disease before it worsens and dramatically affects a person’s health. Plus, regular visits to the dentist can help you save money in the long run, since problems are addressed while they are still small and less expensive to repair. Dental examinations will include the following:
- Gum disease evaluation
- Oral cancer screening
- Visual examination of dental decay
- Evaluation of existing restorations, such as fillings, crowns, etc.
- Examination of diagnostic test results, such as X-rays, to detect tumors, cysts, hidden decay, and other dental problems that the naked eye cannot see
Regular dental checkups should be as important as visits to your regular doctor or dermatologist. Scheduling, and keeping, regular twice-yearly cleanings and checkups is a key to preventive dentistry and good oral health.