Regular professional dental cleanings and exams are an important part of your long-term oral health. Beyond simple hygiene, these twice-yearly appointments allow our Green Oak Dental hygienists and dentists to spot dental issues early on, before they become serious problems. Health concerns stemming from poor dental hygiene can cause other problems in your body as well. Keep your teeth looking and feeling great, and prevent future health problems with a professional dental cleaning.
What Is Professional Dental Cleaning?
Clinically known as prophylaxis, professional dental cleanings are the key to avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. During these cleanings, our hygienists remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. They also polish your teeth with a slightly abrasive paste to remove stains in the enamel. When your cleaning is complete Dr. Witkowski or Rowntree, will then conduct your dental exam.
They look for signs of decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. They also check any existing restorations. Once yearly, we also take digital dental x-rays to provide an ongoing record of your teeth and to show us problems that we can’t see visually.
Patients sometimes believe their home hygiene is enough to not have to come in for their regular twice-yearly professional cleanings at Green Oak Dental. This isn’t true, and missing your professional cleaning will usually result in the development of cavities and gum disease. All day long, your mouth develops dental plaque, a sticky film that forms on your teeth. Plaque consists of the carbohydrates from foods you ate, and bacteria that thrive on those carbohydrates. When bacteria ingest this food they produce acids that attack the enamel on your teeth.
When you brush diligently twice daily and floss you remove the plaque from your teeth, but it immediately starts to rebuild. No one can get rid of all the plaque, and plaque left alone hardens into what is known as tartar or calculus. Tartar is the rough, off-white-colored stuff that builds up in certain areas of your mouth, such as the inside of your lower front teeth. A hygienist can remove tartar using a dental pick.
Tartar builds up on patients’ teeth to a degree that it needs attention after about six months. If left alone, that tartar will continue to build and it will begin to push under the gumline. This is the beginning of gum disease. The end result of gum disease is lost teeth, dentures, severe pain, and possible heart disease. But by keeping your professional cleanings and exam appointments, and using good home hygiene, none of this has to happen. Your appointments can be minimal and you can enjoy excellent oral health.
What Is Included In A Professional Cleaning Appointment?
There are two parts to these appointments, first is your professional cleaning and then a dental exam. The goal is to completely clean your teeth, take x-rays, look for decay, and monitor a couple items such as your gums. This is what our hygienists will do:
- Remove the plaque from your teeth.
- Use a dental pick to remove any built-up tartar.
- Polish your teeth with a special abrasive paste to remove stains.
- Look at the height of your gums to check for gum recession.
- Take x-rays, if you are due.
The second part of your appointment is the dental exam with Dr. Witkowski. The purpose of these exams is to diagnose and head off problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease, before they really take hold. For instance, catching tooth decay when it first invades the enamel of your tooth is dramatically different than finding it once it has entered the interior, the dentin, of the tooth. That’s the difference between placing a small filling and the tooth needing to have a root canal to save it from extraction. Your dental exam will include these steps:
- Visual examination for tooth decay
- Gum disease evaluation
- Evaluation of the health of existing restorations: fillings, crowns, bridges, etc.
- Oral cancer screening
- Examination of x-rays to look for problems, such as hidden decay, cysts, tumors, and the like, that cannot be seen with the naked eye
- If decay or gum disease is spotted, those issues may then be addressed immediately or you may return to have a filling placed or for procedures such as scaling and root planing.
Why Do I Need Twice-Yearly Professional Cleanings And Exams?
The timing of having these cleanings and exams every six months is not arbitrary. That is about the time it takes tartar to build up to the point that it requires professional attention. Plus, that amount of time can mean the difference between a small bit of decay or a deep cavity, or the difference between gum irritation (gingivitis) or full-on gum disease.
What Happens If I Skip My Professional Cleanings And Exams?
No one is able to remove all of the plaque from their teeth, and tartar develops when plaque is left alone. As mentioned above, at the six-month period most people need to have their tartar removed to stop the build up. If left alone, plaque and tartar will begin to push up under the gumline. This at first irritates the gums, a condition known as gingivitis. As the irritation advances, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, pockets form, and the bacterial load increases. Gingivitis will now advance to periodontitis.
When the bacteria in plaque digest the carbohydrates in your mouth they secrete acids that instantly attack the enamel on your teeth. If you don’t get rid of the plaque, bacteria, and acids by brushing and flossing, they start a process known as demineralization, which leads to tooth decay. Decay first works on the enamel and dentin layers of the tooth. If we spot this during a regular cleaning and exam, we easily remove it and place a filling. Once the decay is gone the tooth is fine. If the decay penetrates the enamel and dentin layers, it enters the third layer, the pulp.
At which point it will start to affect the nerves creating serious pain. Now the tooth is past the point of needing a filling: it needs a root canal to clean out the entire interior of the tooth and remove the bacteria and the infected nerve roots and tissue. Both of these scenarios usually can’t happen in just six months. That’s why you come in for your regular professional cleanings and exams.
The Link Between Oral Health And Heart Health
Over the last decade, research has shown that gum disease can have a direct link to heart disease. This is because the infected gums and abscessed teeth that are a part of later stage gum disease are overrun with bacteria. Your gums are full of blood vessels, and it becomes very easy for bacteria to enter the bloodstream at the site of your gum infection. Once in the bloodstream, bacteria can go anywhere in the body and create inflammation. In the blood vessels of your heart, this inflammation damages your arteries. Research suggests that the more bacteria you have from gum disease, the thicker your carotid arteries are likely to be. And that sets the stage for heart disease.
The Importance Of At-Home Hygiene
Your home hygiene is equally important to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. It’s not difficult, but it does need to be done every single day. First, you need to take 18 inches of dental floss, wrap it around your two index fingers and insert the floss in the gaps between your teeth. Hold the floss in a “C” shape on each tooth surface and move the thread up and down to clean every side of the tooth. Also, move the floss under the gumline just a bit. You can buy floss picks, if you like that do this without wrapping the floss around your fingers.
Second, you need to brush your teeth diligently for two minutes twice each day. Use a toothpaste with fluoride that is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). If you’re not a great brusher, get an electric toothbrush. . Also brush your gums, but not too hard, just enough to give them some circular cleaning.
Schedule A Consultation
To maintain your dental health, you must have professional teeth cleanings, call Green Oak Dental today at 281-358-6330 to schedule an appointment.