Cleaning and Prevention
Regular dental exams help protect your oral health and general well-being. A dental exam gives your dentist a chance to provide tips on caring for your teeth and to detect any problems early — when they're most treatable.
During a dental exam, the dentist will check for cavities and gum disease. The dentist will also evaluate your risk of developing other oral health problems, as well as check your face, neck and mouth for abnormalities. A dental exam might also include dental X-rays (radiographs) or other diagnostic procedures.
During a dental exam, the dentist will likely discuss your diet and oral hygiene habits and might demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques. Other topics for discussion might include lifestyle factors that can affect oral health and possible cosmetic improvements to your teeth.
Dental x-rays, also known as radiographs, are an essential part of any dental care treatment plan. They are diagnostic, but they can also be preventative, by helping the dentist diagnose potential oral care issues in a patient’s mouth before they become a major problem. An x-ray is a type of energy that passes through soft tissues and is absorbed by dense tissue. Teeth and bone are very dense, so they absorb x-rays, while x-rays pass more easily through gums and cheeks.
We utilize many types of x-rays, including:
- Intraoral X-rays are the most common type of radiograph taken in dentistry. They give a high level of detail of the tooth, bone and supporting tissues of the mouth. These x-rays allow dentists to find cavities, look at the tooth roots, check the health of the bony area around the tooth, help diagnose periodontal disease and see the status of developing teeth
- Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth on a single image and include all teeth on both upper and lower jaws. This type of x-ray requires a special machine that captures the full, broad view of the jaws on one film, moving in a set path. Devices attached to the x-ray machine hold your head and jaw in place. All this may look and feel intimidating, but the process is very safe. It often uses less radiation than intraoral x-rays.
- Cone-beam computed tomography (CT) provides three-dimensional images. You stand or sit while the machine rotates around your head. The beam is cone-shaped, instead of fan-shaped as in a standard medical CT. A cone-beam scan uses less radiation than a medical CT scan but far more than any standard dental X-ray. The cone-beam CT is particularly useful for dental implant selection and placement.
A dental cleaning — or prophylaxis — is a cleaning treatment performed to thoroughly clean the teeth and gums. Prophylaxis is an important dental treatment for stopping the progression of gingivitis and periodontal disease.
The benefits include:
- Plaque removal: Tartar (also referred to as calculus) and plaque buildup, both above and below the gum line, can result in serious periodontal problems. Unfortunately, even with a proper home brushing and flossing routine, it can be impossible to remove all debris, bacteria and deposits from gum pockets. The experienced eye of a dentist or hygienist using specialized dental equipment is necessary to catch potentially damaging buildup.
- A healthier looking smile: Stained and yellowed teeth can dramatically decrease the esthetics of a smile. Prophylaxis is an effective treatment in ridding the teeth of these unsightly stains.
- Fresher breath: Bad breath (or halitosis) is generally indicative of advancing periodontal disease. A combination of rotting food particles (possibly below the gum line) and potential gangrene stemming from gum infection, results in bad breath. The routine removal of plaque, calculus and bacteria at our facility can noticeably improve halitosis and reduce infection.
Prophylaxis can be performed by a general dentist or dental hygienist. We recommend that prophylaxis be performed twice annually as a preventative measure, but should be completed every 3-4 months for periodontitis sufferers. It should be noted that gum disease cannot be completely reversed, but prophylaxis is one of the tools used to effectively halt its progression.