Cleanings and Prevention:
Prevention is a cooperative effort between the patient, dentist, and dental staff. The goal of prevention is to preserve the natural dentition and supporting structures by preventing the onset, progress and recurrence of dental diseases and conditions.
Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. It is continued in the dental office by the efforts of your dentist and hygienist to promote, restore, and maintain your oral health. This includes regular dental exams, cleanings, and x-rays (at least once a year). Sealants and fluoride are also great preventative treatments used with our younger patients to help protect the teeth.
Prevention is key to helping avoid serious and costly dental problems and promotes a beautiful healthy smile.
- Dental Exams
- Professional Dental Cleanings
- Dental X-Rays
- Fluoride Treatments
- Home Care
At your first visit a complete head and neck exam will be done along with a thorough examination of your mouth. At this time we will determine what type of cleaning is best for you and if any further dental work is necessary. At regular check-ups your dentist and hygienist will include the following procedures:
- Oral Cancer Screening: The dentist and/or hygienist will check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum Disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
- Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
- Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
Professional Dental Cleanings
Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are performed by a Registered Dental Hygienist. Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam and the following:
- Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is the hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special instruments.
- Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease.
- Teeth Polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
Dental radiographs (x-rays) are essential preventative diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular visual dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately diagnose hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without an x-ray, problem areas may go undetected leading to unnecessary pain and discomfort. Detecting and treating dental problems early saves you time, money and your teeth!
Digital X-Rays are the latest technological advancement for dental professionals. This innovation substantially reduces your exposure to radiation from x-rays, making your visit to our office safer, faster, and easier than ever. Our office has been using digital x-rays for several years.
X-Rays are essential and may reveal:
- Decay between teeth.
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
- Abscesses or cysts.
- The presence of bone loss.
- Development abnormalities.
- Poor tooth and root positions.
- Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Are dental x-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of x-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources.
Dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions including the use of a lead apron and using digital technology.
How often should dental x-rays be taken?
The need for dental x-rays depends on each patient's individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, age consideration and risk for disease.
A full mouth panoramic is recommended for new patients and is usually good for 3 – 5 years. Bitewing x-rays (x-rays of the top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at check-up visits and are recommended at least once every 12 months.
Fluoride is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is the mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health and professional organizations.
Fluoride works in two ways:
- Topical fluoride strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surface of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to decay. We gain topical fluoride by using fluoride containing dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and gels. Dentists and dental hygienists generally recommend that children have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental checkups.
- Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. It is also available as a supplement in drop or gel form and can be prescribed by our dentist or physician. It is very important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition known as fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.
Your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
- Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of the teeth
- Exposed and sensitive root surfaces
- Fair to poor oral hygiene habits
- Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake
- Inadequate exposure to fluorides
- Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications
- Recent history of dental decay
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is important to brush at least two times a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit your dentist on a regular basis.
A sealant is a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars, and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth. More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing the deep grooves creating a smooth easy to clean surface. Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits.
Reason for a sealant:
- Children and Teenagers – as soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16.
- Adults – tooth surfaces without decay that have deep grooves or depressions.
- Baby teeth – occasionally done if teeth have deep grooves or depressions and the child is cavity prone.
What do sealants involve?
Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or dental hygienist and the process takes only a couple minutes per tooth. The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth. The teeth are then rinsed and dried. Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves. Depending on the type of sealant used the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light.
Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.
Our trained staff will show you the best way to maintain your oral hygiene by showing you how to effectively brush and floss your teeth.
Tooth Brushing – Brush your teeth at least two times a day (especially before going to bed at night) with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste.
- Place the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums and gently brush using a small circular motion, ensuring you always feel the bristles on the gums.
- Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside of the front teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
Electric toothbrushes are also recommended and available to purchase at our office. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job – several teeth at a time.
Flossing – Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
- Take 12 – 16 inches of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches of floss between the hands.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
- Curve the floss into a "C" shape around each tooth and under the gum line. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
Rinsing – It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it is a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you.