Because we’re committed to preventive dentistry, Expressions Dental recommends that all of our patients see us for routine cleanings and examinations at an interval specifically designed for each individual’s needs. These periodic visits play a critical role in your preventive care program. It’s the best way for you to prevent advanced dental and health problems and will minimize the time and money you spend in the dental chair.
Routine Oral Examination
Our dental hygienists are highly trained and licensed oral health professionals who can provide you with educational, clinical, and therapeutic services to enhance your oral and overall health. During your appointment, we will review and update your medical history and listen to any concerns you may be experiencing. We’ll screen for oral cancer, examine your restorations, and evaluate your bite and jaw joints. Your hygienist will thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth, removing bacterial plaque and tartar deposits and stains from above and below your gum line. She will evaluate the health of your gums and bone, and may be involved with the specialized treatment of periodontal disease, which includes procedures such as scaling and root planning.
Our hygienists may also take digital radiographs to help detect any concerns that cannot be detected clinically. Your hygienist may also explain the relationship between your diet and dental health, offering suggestions about which foods and drinks to select and which to avoid. She may apply fluoride gels or varnishes, and show you how to select and use homecare products that will effectively help you maintain excellent oral hygiene.
Even if you brush and floss your teeth faithfully, it is important that you have your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis. (Of course, if you aren't quite so meticulous about your oral hygiene, it's even more important!) After a thorough cleaning, your teeth will feel smooth and squeaky-clean, and they will probably look a lot brighter too. But professional teeth cleanings aren't done for looks alone.
Why do your teeth need this kind of attention? Essentially, it's because over time they tend to build up a layer of plaque (a sticky, bacteria-rich film) and hard deposits (called tartar, or calculus) that are very difficult to remove without special tools. When these deposits are allowed to remain on the tooth surfaces or below the gum line, they provide ideal conditions for bacteria to grow and multiply. The acids produced by some bacteria cause tooth decay and gum disease; if left uncontrolled, this can lead to inflammation and infection of the gums, and possibly influence systemic (whole body) diseases.
Dentists have a special term for preventive procedures like tooth cleaning: prophylaxis, from the Greek word meaning to protect or guard against. In this case, the focus is on preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Performed in conjunction with a routine dental examination, a professional cleaning can go a long way toward controlling these two common maladies. While your teeth are being cleaned, it's also a good opportunity to take a close look at your oral health in general and check for a few specific problems.
The Professional Cleaning Procedure
Teeth cleaning is often performed by a dental hygienist — a highly trained technician who uses a special set of tools designed just for this purpose. Because everyone's teeth are a little different, your cleaning will be tailored to your particular needs. However, many cleanings follow a similar pattern.
First, the dental hygienist will do an oral examination to evaluate the health of your oral tissues. Then the cleaning will take place using either an ultrasonic scaler or metal instruments referred to as curettes to remove the plaque and calculus from the tooth surfaces. The ultrasonic scaler is a hand-held tool with a tiny tip that vibrates at a very high frequency. Hardened deposits are broken up by the rapid movement of the tip, which does not damage the tooth. A constant stream of liquid (called lavage) serves to cool the tip and aid in plaque removal; at the same time, it also washes away the debris.
Some hygienists prefer curettes, which are hand-held instruments that are curved and tapered to fit around and in between the teeth. If your teeth are sensitive, using hand-held instruments may be more comfortable for a professional cleaning. In the capable hands of a hygienist or dentist, it takes only moderate pressure to remove any stubborn buildup and scrub the teeth clean, regardless of which instruments are used.
Finally, your teeth are polished with a low-speed rotary brush fitted with a soft rubber tip. A slightly gritty, toothpaste-like gel is applied, and the tip spins around and polishes the teeth, making them smooth and shiny.
A Requirement for Good Oral Health
Most people don't feel any noticeable discomfort during dental cleanings; some even report they enjoy the experience — especially the dramatic results when it's done! If you haven't had a cleaning in a while, however, it may take you a few moments to get used to getting your teeth cleaned. If you experience any discomfort, however, it may be possible to apply a topical numbing gel or another type of anesthetic.
If your gums are irritated due to bacterial buildup, they may become sore or bleed slightly during the cleaning. It may be possible to prevent this from occurring in the future with oral hygiene measures you can perform at home (such as improved flossing techniques or special mouth rinses); it might also indicate that you need more frequent in-office cleanings. This type of regular maintenance will help you avoid more involved dental procedures down the road — and it will give you the best chance of keeping your teeth for life!
The dental hygienists at Expressions Dental are excellent resources that can help you and your family keep your healthy smiles for a lifetime! Call us today!