Routine dental exams are important to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. They can help to avoid the financial costs associated with large treatment plans later on. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends checkups twice a year for people of all ages. At this frequency, most problems can be caught while they remain in an early stage.
How it’s done
The dentist first examines your mouth visually, using dental equipment such as mouth mirrors, dental picks, and high intensity lights. They will look for cracked and decayed teeth, as well as review other important items such as:
- Medical history review: The dentist will assess how any new medical conditions or illnesses may affect your dental health.
- Examination of tooth decay: with the help of xrays, we are able to assess the presence of decay in between your teeth and under existing fillings. Our instruments will also aid in detecting cavities starting in the pits of teeth and around the margins of existing restorations.
- Oral cancer screening: The face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums will be checked for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: Your gums and bone around the teeth will be checked for any evidence of periodontal disease.
- Examination of existing restorations: Current fillings, crowns, and other restorations are made sure to be in good order.
Additionally, your dentist will take diagnostic x-rays to reveal any other hidden problems, especially in the areas below the gums. Bitewing x-rays are typically taken every 12-24 months (to detect the presence of cavities in between teeth and under existing fillings) and a panographic x-ray, which revolves around the head, is taken every 3-5 years (to assess the location and eruption pattern of adult teeth and to assess the entire head for possible lesions).
Routine dental cleanings are important in maintaining good oral hygiene. Professional cleaning by a hygienist can remove mineralized plaque (called calculus or tartar) that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, particularly in areas that are difficult to reach. The overall health of the gums (based on clinical pocket depths) and the amount of calculus present will dictate how often it is recommended that you go in for a cleaning. Your dentist and hygienist will recommended what interval is right for you, whether it is to come in every 3 months, 4 months, 6 months or 9 months.
How it’s done
You can expect your dental cleaning to last between 30 minutes and an hour. Typically, a trained hygienist will do the cleaning and a dentist may come in for an exam at the end. Most people find that dental cleanings are painless, and do not cause any discomfort.
There are two important steps to a dental cleaning.
- Scaling or root planing the teeth, whereby the hygienist will remove the plaque and tartar from the tooth surfaces both above and more importantly, below the gum line. This is performed by hand and/or electric scalers depending on the hygienist’s preference.
- Polishing to remove any final plaque and stains from the teeth.
The health of the teeth and gums is dependent not only by regular maintenance with your hygienist but with continual home care as well.