Cleaning & Prevention
Prevention and early detection are the key to avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. A good home regimen, in addition to regular cleanings and exams, can spare you many expensive dental treatments. Prevention starts with controlling plaque, a colorless bacteria that sticks to the surface of your teeth, and calculus, a harder mineral deposit. These are the main sources of decay and disease. By maintaining a proper routine of daily hygiene, you can avoid most oral maladies. Our hygienist is available to assist you with your hygiene and management of your gums.
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Regular dental cleanings, performed by a registered dental hygienist, are a crucial part of preventive dental care. By removing plaque and tartar, your oral health is enhanced and your risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease are minimized. Your dental hygienist will utilize manual instruments to scale away moderate plaque and tartar buildup, or an ultrasonic device to scale away heavier buildup. The cleaning is finished with polishing, a pleasant procedure that cleans the surface of teeth, removes stains, and leaves the mouth feeling clean and refreshed.
No matter how diligent you are in your home dental care regimen, you should still get a dental exam and cleaning twice per year. The importance of regular dental exams cannot be overemphasized - dental exams are the cornerstone of good dental health. In particular, regular checkups are essential for early detection of more serious problems. Early detection makes treatment easier, less expensive, and more effective. In your dental exam, your dentist will perform the following routine checks:
- Examine and assess gum health; check for gum disease.
- Examine any existing tooth decay.
- Take and analyze x-rays, which may reveal decay, bone loss, abscesses, tumors, cysts, and other problems.
- Screen for the presence of oral cancer.
- Verify the stability of any existing fillings or other restorations.
- Inform you of all findings and make treatment recommendations.
As damaging as plaque can be, it is easily removed by mechanical brushing. Plaque deposits build up on the teeth fairly quickly after eating and drinking, and if they are not brushed away at least twice a day, they can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. It takes just one day for bacteria to build up enough to make your mouth susceptible to disease.
Daily flossing is an effective way to clean teeth where regular brushing can't reach. To floss properly, take 18" of dental floss, wrap it around the middle finger of each hand, and pinch it between your thumb and index finger. Pull the floss taut, then slide it gently between each tooth and under the gum line. Slide the floss up and down the side of each tooth to remove plaque buildup. Be sure to use a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
Over-the-counter mouth rinses can help to fight bad breath, remove loose food particles after brushing, and freshen the mouth. However, mouth rinses are never a substitute for brushing, flossing, or regular dental examinations, and may disguise warning signs of periodontal disease.
Early signs of gum disease include redness, swelling, or inflammation around the gum line. If these warning signs appear, your dentist will check for hardened plaque, also known as tartar or calculus, below the gumline. Finally, your dentist may use a tool called a probe to test gums for bleeding and measure periodontal pockets. When gums are unhealthy, they pull away from the teeth, forming these pockets. If the periodontal pockets are deeper than 3mm, periodontal disease is confirmed.
Deep cleaning can effectively control and reverse gum disease by removing the germs that lead to infection. This deep cleaning involves techniques called scaling and root planing. Scaling involves scraping away plaque and tarter from above and below the gumline. Planing involves smoothing out rough surfaces of teeth which can foster the bacteria growth that leads to infection. Left with clean, smooth teeth, patients will notice reduced redness and inflammation as the gum is better able to attach to the tooth enamel. Dentists may prescribe antibiotics or mouth rinses to kill any remaining bacteria after scaling and planing procedures are performed.
Periodontal disease is marked by the breakdown of structures that surround, secure, and support the teeth. These structures include the jawbones, gums, and fibers which anchor the teeth to the gums. Periodontal disease is usually a result of untreated plaque buildup, and is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. However, regular checkups and a strong home care regimen easily prevent periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is an early stage of periodontal disease, when only the soft tissues of the mouth are affected. Plaque buildup leads to tartar and bacteria below the gumline, which leads to inflamed, irritated, or bleeding gums. The good news is, gingivitis is reversible. A good professional cleaning, followed by regular brushing, flossing, and checkups, restores gums to good health by removing plaque and bacteria.
A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then 'painted' onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.