Cleanings and Prevention
Dental x-rays reduce 80-90% of radiation when compared to traditional x-rays and are an essential diagnostic tool that provides valuable information not visible during a dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and to complete an accurate treatment plan. Without x-rays, caries and pathologies may go undetected. Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage may save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and ultimately your teeth.
Fluoride is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present 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.
Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. 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 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, or recent history of dental decay.
It is important to note that fluoride alone can not prevent tooth decay. It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, limit sugary drinks to meals, and visit your dentist on a regular basis.
Oral Hygiene Aids
Regular dental check ups are important for maintaining excellent oral hygiene and providing a chance for early detection of potential problems, but can not prevent caries alone. Thorough oral homecare routines should be practiced on a daily basis to avoid future dental problems.
Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease and periodontitis) is the leading cause of tooth loss, and is completely preventable in the vast majority of cases. Professional cleanings twice a year combined with daily self-cleaning can remove most disease-causing bacteria and plaque.
There are numerous types of oral hygiene aids on the store shelves and it can be difficult to determine which will provide the best benefit to your teeth. Here are some of the most common oral hygiene aids for home care and their use:
Dental floss - helps remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth. Vigorous flossing with a floss holder can cause soft tissue damage and bleeding, so be careful. Floss should normally be used twice daily before brushing. The following are steps to ensure proper flossing:
Cut a piece of floss to around 18 inches long.
Wrap one end of the floss around the middle finger of the left hand and the other end around the middle finger of the right hand until the fingers are 1-2 inches apart.
Work the floss gently between the teeth toward the gum line.
Curve the floss in a U-shape around each individual tooth and carefully slide it beneath the gum line.
Carefully move the floss up and down several times to remove interdental plaque and debris.
Do not pop the floss in and out between the teeth as this will inflame and cut the gums.
Interdental Cleaners - are gentle on the gums and very effective in cleaning the contours of teeth in between the gums. Interdental brushes come in various shapes and sizes.
Mouth Rinses - There are two basic types of mouth rinse available: Cosmetic rinses which are sold over the counter and temporarily suppress bad breath, and therapeutic rinses which may or may not require a prescription. Cosmetic rinses are not meant to help with caries control. Therapeutic rinses however, are regulated by the FDA and contain active ingredients that can help reduce bad breath, plaque, and cavities. Mouth rinses should generally be used after brushing.
Oral irrigators - like Water Jets and Waterpiks have been created to clean debris from below the gum line. Water is continuously sprayed from tiny jets into the gum pockets which can help remove harmful bacteria and food particles. These should not be used instead of brushing and flossing but in conjunction.
Tongue cleaners - are special devices which have been designed to remove the buildup of bacteria, fungi, and food debris from the tongue surface. The fungi and bacteria that colonize on the tongue have been related to halitosis (bad breath) and a great many systemic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and stroke. Tongue cleaning should be done prior to brushing to prevent the ingestion of fungi and bacteria.
Toothbrushes - Electric toothbrushes are generally recommended due to being much more effective than manual brushes. The vibrating or rotary motion helps to dislodge plaque and remove food particles from around the gums and teeth. A manual brush can do the same but more effort is needed. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months due to worn bristles becoming ineffective over time. Soft bristle toothbrushes are far less damaging to gum tissues and tooth structure than the medium and hard bristle varieties. Choose an appropriate sized ADA certified toothbrush and brush after each meal, or minimally twice each day. The following is the recommend technique of using a toothbrush:
Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle where the gums and teeth meet.
Use small circular motions to gently brush the gum line and teeth.
Do not scrub or apply too much pressure to the teeth, as this can damage the gums and tooth enamel.
Brush every surface of every tooth, cheek-side, tongue-side, and chewing surfaces.
Place special emphasis on the surfaces of the back teeth.
Use back and forth strokes to brush the chewing surfaces.
Brush the tongue to remove fungi, food and debris.
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. A large majority of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing 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.
Most recommended age group to receive sealants are children and teenagers or as soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16
Dental Exam and Cleanings
A comprehensive dental exam will be performed by your dentist at your initial dental visit. At regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include the following:
Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Oral cancer screening: 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 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, and other restorations.
Professional dental cleanings are usually performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam and the following: removal of calculus (tartar) which forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments and removal of plaque, which is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. . Then lastly teeth polishing that can remove stains and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
A beautiful, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime is our ultimate goal when treating patients. Your personal home care plays an important role in achieving that goal. Your personal home care starts by eating balanced meals, reducing the number of snacks you eat, and correctly using the various dental aids that help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.