Exams & Prevention
Prevention of dental disease is a collaborative effort starting with the patient and is reinforced by the dental staff and dentist. The overall goal of prevention is to preserve natural dentition and other important oral structures by preventing the onset, progression and recurrence of dental disease. Oral hygiene and proper diet are the foundations of preventing dental disease and are reliant solely on the continuing efforts of the patient between dental appointments. Prevention of dental disease is maintained by the dental staff and dentist who provide regular dental exams, cleanings, x-rays, as well as application of sealants and fluoride to protect the teeth. Prevention is not only vital to oral health but it also helps you avoid costly dental work!
When and how often are dental exams performed?
A comprehensive dental exam will be performed at your initial dental visit and at regular check-up exams.
What is included in a dental exam?
The exam will include the following:
Dental X-rays (radiographs) necessary for detection of decay, tooth position, bone loss, cysts/tumors and other dental abnormalities that are not visible during visual inspection.
Oral cancer screening, including inspection of the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral or other forms of head and neck cancer.
Periodontal health inspection, including inspection of the gums and bones around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
Visual inspection of all tooth surfaces for decay, fractures and missing fillings & teeth.
Inspection of existing restorations such as fillings, crowns, bridges, etc., which will be documented and checked for recurrent decay and open margins.
Why do we need to take X-rays?
Dental X-rays (radiographs) are an essential preventative diagnostic tool that provides valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Radiographs reveal decay between the teeth, position of teeth (including impacted or non-visible teeth), apical pathology, conditions that require root canal treatment, bone loss (need for periodontal treatment or tooth prognosis), tumors/cysts and other dental abnormalities not visible from the surface. X-rays are vital for proper diagnosis and prescription of a proper treatment plan. Early detection provided by radiographs can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort and most importantly your teeth!
Are dental X-rays safe?
Dental X-rays produce low levels of radiation and are considered extremely safe. We actually receive more radiation from a single plane ride than a full series of mouth X-rays. The average radiation from a set of dental X-rays is comparable to the amount of exposure we encounter in a single day from natural sources. Even with the low dosage from dental X-rays, we still take additional precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental X-rays. We use a lead apron to protect vital organs in the chest and we use digital sensors which requires less radiation exposure compared to traditional X-ray films. These additional precautions cut down your radiation exposure for every X-ray.
How often are X-rays taken?
The need for dental X-rays depends on each individual's dental situation. Factors such as age, medical & dental history, signs & symptoms and overall dental disease risk are all incorporated by the dentist and his staff to determine the need for any radiographs to be prescribed. On average we take bite-wing X-rays at every recall visit, which occurs every 6-12 months depending on concerns for dental and periodontal disease. A full mouth series of dental X-rays will be recommended for all new patients and retaken every 3-5 years based upon all factors listed before.
Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth from decay-causing bacteria. Sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay primarily occurs. Posterior surfaces are notorious for having deep pits with rough surfaces that are conducive for bacterial growth. Sealants can effectively "seal" off these surfaces, making it very difficult for bacteria to attach to and wreak havoc on your teeth.
When it comes to maintaining that beautiful and healthy smile, your personal home care plays an important role. Home care starts with a healthy balanced diet which limits the number of snacks and amount of sugar you consume. There are also various home care products you can buy at the store or via a dental prescription, such as toothbrush, floss, interdental brush, rubber tip stimulator, tongue cleaner, mouthwash, night guard and other dental tools which will aid in controlling dental plaque and disease-causing bacteria.
How do I brush my teeth and how many times a day do I brush each day?
Place your soft toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the gums and "jiggle" your brush back and forth with minimal pressure. While you brush the outer and inner surfaces of each tooth, make sure the toothbrush is making contact with the junction between the tooth and the gum. Do not forget to also brush the chewing surface of each tooth, as well as the tongue, which contains bacteria that can cause bad breath. If you are having trouble manually brushing your teeth, an electric toothbrush is highly recommended. It is important to brush both in the morning and again especially at night before you go to bed.
How do I floss and how many times a day do I floss?
Using about a foot of dental floss, wrap each side around your middle fingers leaving about 2 inches of floss to place between the teeth. Use index finger and thumb to hold floss and wrap around the side of the tooth and glide down slowly in a sawing like motion until floss goes just below the tooth/gum junction. It is important to not use too much force or you might cause trauma to the gums. Think of the floss as a brush and you want to bush the sides of the teeth to disrupt the bacteria or plaque from building up. If you have difficultly flossing, try using floss holders or floss picks. It is recommended to floss daily, especially before you go to bed. Even if you brush well, you can still develop cavities between the teeth if you do not floss regularly.