Many people feel anxious about going to the dentist… and choose to avoid it at all costs. However, a good at-home oral hygiene regimen along with a professional maintenance routine are the key to avoiding those large or costly dental procedures that everyone dreads. Seeing us regularly will allow for a proactive approach to any problems that may be occurring within your mouth. If caught early, teeth can usually be fixed with a simple, fast treatment option rather than something more invasive or costly. We strongly recommend you keep a proper teeth cleaning schedule. You’ll be happier in the long run too. Knowing what will take place during your teeth cleaning appointment may prevent you from feeling anxious about your visit. So, let’s discuss some things that commonly occur during your time at the dentist along with some of the commonly asked questions.
How often should you be going to the dentist for a cleaning? On average, people with generally healthy teeth and gums will want to have their teeth professionally cleaned at a minimum of twice per year. Some individuals struggle with gingivitis, gum disease, or accumulate more plaque due to crowded teeth. We may recommend that these patients are seen more often, perhaps quarterly.
What Takes Place:
Usually taken once per year, dental x-rays are taken because they can show decay in areas that aren’t visible by simply looking into your mouth. Diagnostic x-rays can also show abscesses that may be starting, which if treated early, will reduce the chance of you suffering from a toothache. A panoramic (full mouth) film is usually taken every 3-5 years. This is a single image radiograph that allows us to see from your nose to your chin. With it, we can make sure that children have all their permanent teeth; we can also see wisdom teeth, sinus cavities and the TMJ joint.
During this part of your appointment, our hygienist may perform a screening for gum disease. This will require radiographs, which will show if there is calculus buildup underneath the gum. She will use an instrument called a probe that allows her to take measurements along the gums to see where they attach to the tooth. Healthy gums are tight up against the root. Poor hygiene can cause an excessive amount of tartar buildup to accumulate and spread into the gums. This results in red, puffy, bleeding, and loose tissues that detach from the tooth (causing a pocket underneath). The probe will be gently placed within the gum to check the depth of the pocket in millimeters. These measurements will help to determine what form of cleaning will be needed in order to remove the calculus and restore health to your gums.
Removal of Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Your hygienist is a tooth cleaning specialist who uses certain instruments to thoroughly remove plaque and build up from your teeth. The special tools are great at accessing those hard to reach places that your toothbrush can’t.
For stubborn buildup, it may be more beneficial for your hygienist to use a cavitron. This is a scaler that cleans by expelling high pressured water and has a gentle vibrating tip. It is very effective in removing stubborn buildup rather quickly.
If your probing depths resulted in pockets measuring more than 4-5 millimeters deep, then you will need a special type of cleaning called root planing and scaling (“deep cleaning”). If you require this procedure, then it may be better suited if you receive some type of anesthetic. Since your hygienist will need to clean buildup from below the gum, slight discomfort may occur. Anesthesia doesn't have to be an injection. Many patients are comfortable with the use of a numbing mouth rinse or a topical gel.
Let’s face it, most of us don’t floss like we should. Some only floss twice a year (whenever their hygienist does it). It’s recommended that you do this at least once per day. Air floss or a water flosser can also be used in the place of the traditional string. Some studies show that water flossing is just as good as (if not better than) the old-fashioned method. Improper flossing, or the lack of, causes food particles to remain stuck in between our teeth. This turns into plaque and acid, which leads to tooth decay. The cavity not only affects one tooth, but two. Meaning, now you have two teeth that will require restorative fillings. If you have tight teeth, hard to reach areas, dental bridges, or implants, your dental hygienist can show you and give you pointers on how to effectively floss these areas.
Polishing Paste or Prophy Jet
Once your teeth are free of all plaque and tartar buildup, your hygienist will use professional toothpaste with a slightly gritty consistency to polish stain from your teeth. A prophy jet is more commonly used on patients with braces or heavy stain. It is similar to the cavitron, as it is a powered instrument that uses water. Usually mixed with a baking soda powder, it expels a cleaning solution that will polish very well around wires and brackets.
An Oral Examination
Our dentist will conduct a thorough check up and examination (also addressing any concerns that you are having) and inspect your radiographs. You may also have your jaw joint examined to check for popping or clicking as you open and close your mouth. This, along with soreness in the joint, are common signs of TMJ disorder. Another important part of the examination is an oral cancer screening. Our dentist will look for suspicious areas in the gum tissue, cheek, neck, lips, tongue, roof, and floor of your mouth. If we suspect pathological or precancerous tissue, we may perform a biopsy or refer you to an oral surgeon for further diagnosis.
Fluoride is very beneficial in preventing decay and sensitivity. A professional fluoride treatment is usually applied before completing your teeth cleaning appointment. These treatments are available in many forms, such as a varnish or foam. They are also available in different flavors for your benefit.
If you are in the Scottsdale area, Lernor Family Dental would love to provide you and your family with comprehensive, prevention-focused dental care. Give our family dentist in Scottsdale a call today to schedule your teeth cleaning appointment!