Our teeth have several important functions: smiling, facial contouring, talking, biting, and chewing. They are also a factor that suggests social status and self-esteem. Just think! They are on-call 24 hours a day all of our lives. (Sometimes overtime, as when we grind at night to solve our daily problems). Both the oral examination and cleaning serve as tools of prevention.
Delaying the visit or minimizing the value of one's dental health can result in a longer and more complicated treatment time than would otherwise be necessary by maintaining regular dental visits. Investing in the care of your teeth optimizes your overall health and maintains the attractiveness of your face and smile.
Professional cleanings (dental prophylaxis) performed by a certified dental hygienist form the foundation for preventing gum disease and tooth decay. In a professional cleaning, your hygienist will:
- Remove plaque from the teeth - Plaque is a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria. Plaque sticks to teeth and causes tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque that is not removed, crusts over and bonds to the tooth, becoming rough, gum damaging calculus.
- Remove calculus (tartar) near the gum line - Calculus is plaque that has hardened on the tooth surface and is difficult to remove. (Calculus below the gum line indicates gum disease and requires a different procedure to remove it.)
- Polish and remove stains from teeth.
During a prophylaxis, the dental hygienist can also recommend brushing and flossing techniques, point out areas that need additional focus during routine home care, and the use of special toothbrushes, toothpastes and mouth rinses.
Dental examinations help to diagnose disease before it becomes hazardous to your health. In addition, regular examinations can save you money by alleviating problems while they are small and before they become expensive to repair, or in some cases, impossible to repair. Your dental examinations generally include the following:
- Oral cancer screening
- Gum disease evaluation
- Evaluation of the mouth and adjacent structures- muscle, joint and bone
- Visual examination of tooth decay
- Examination of diagnostic X-rays- to see cysts, tumors, invisible decay and other problems that cannot be seen by the naked eye
- Evaluation of status of current restorations- fillings and others
With respect to an individual's oral health, the value of prevention is significant: less time in treatment, more comfortable and aesthetically-pleasing natural teeth, less complicated restorations, and ultimately less costly. With proper care (both at home and in the dental office) teeth can and should last a lifetime.