Exams & X-Rays
Have you ever wondered if you really need an examination and cleaning every six months? The answer isn’t as simple as you may think. The frequency of exams and cleanings really depends on the individual and the health of their teeth and gums. A cleaning every six months, however, is commonly the minimum recommendation. It’s important to understand that it’s not just a cleaning!
You may remember your dental team offering to pre-schedule a “recall” appointment for you the last time you were seen for a cleaning. This is poor terminology. Not to be offensive, but we are not cars! In all actuality, many of us probably treat our cars better than our mouths. Are you more apt to schedule routine preventive vehicle maintenance than schedule a “recare” appointment for yourself?
Routine examinations and x-rays are necessary to identify potential dental and medical problems such as gum disease, bone loss, strokes, heart disease, infection, and many other issues. In office salivary DNA and genetic susceptibility testing allows your dentist to identify problems that you won’t find at home with a toothbrush and a bathroom mirror!
Re-care visits are important because they allow us to identify and address the early signs of periodontal (gum) disease. Left untreated, gum disease can ultimately lead to the loss of teeth and other general health issues. You may say to yourself, “Well, I brush twice daily and I floss…this doesn’t apply to me.” Well, sure it does! Infectious bacteria love to reside in places your toothbrush and floss cannot reach, like below the gum line. The purpose of a professional cleaning is to remove the bacteria from these hard to reach places.
It is recommended that individuals with a history of gum disease have their teeth cleaned every three months. This recommendation also applies to pregnant women and those at risk for cardiovascular disease; as gum disease seems to be a significant precursor of preterm labor and cardiovascular events.
Committing to routine recare allows for the early detection of many costly dental problems. If cavities go undetected for extended periods of time the treatment options may be limited to root canals, crowns, and possibly the removal of teeth. This is also why it is important to update your x-rays at every recare visit. At Central Dental, you can expect your doctor and hygienist will only recommend necessary radiographs. A necessary radiograph is one that is used to diagnose the extent of a dental problem that we already know exists, such as a broken tooth, a cavity, or an abscess. We also must use radiographs as part of an initial or periodic oral examination. In these examinations, radiographs are used to determine whether there are problems in a beginning stage that cannot be seen merely by looking at the tooth or area.
Only a fraction of your oral condition can be seen during an oral exam without radiographs. Radiographs allow your doctor to view in-between your teeth, check the margins (edges) of your fillings and crowns, and determine the density of the bone that supports your teeth. This information allows your dentist to make a full diagnosis resulting in the identification of problems before they become more complex and costly.
Now that you know the importance of exams and x-rays in the detection of dental problems, you may be wondering why cleanings are necessary. There is nothing more important to your dental health than maintaining a clean mouth. In dentistry, a cleaning is more appropriately termed a prophylaxis. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a prophylaxis as measures to preserve health and prevent the spread of disease. The prevention, or absence, of infection optimizes your overall health and well being. A consistently clean mouth is more likely to be free of disease, infection, unsightly decay and gum disease. Your hygienist at Central Dental will not only provide you with a thorough cleaning but humbly teach you how to properly care for your teeth and gums.
Your Personal Plan
The recare (exam, x-ray and cleaning) interval that your dentist and hygienist recommend is designed for you based upon your unique health history and current oral condition. It is important to note that this recommendation may alter at any time in the event that you experience any of the following changes:
- general health
- dexterity and hand/eye coordination
- stress levels
- oral habits
Simply stated, an individual with a history of several crowns or fillings, unaddressed dental issues, or crooked teeth will likely find it more difficult to keep their teeth and gums clean than someone without those issues. It is expected that these two individuals would have different recare recommendations. Recent studies have identified many of the microorganisms that cause gum disease and decay, and suggest that recare every six months may not be sufficient for some patients. Your dentists and hygienist at Central Dental may recommend recare appointments from two months to a year, based upon your individual needs, in order to prevent or properly control destructive oral disease. A deeper cleaning (scaling and root planing) may be recommended in the event that you are diagnosed with periodontal, or gum disease.
Scaling and Root Planing(Deep Cleaning)
Scaling is a periodontal dental procedure in which plaque and calculus are removed from the tooth both above (supragingival) and below (subgingival) the gum (gingiva). Root planing is a procedure in which diseased or altered portions of the root surface, the cementum, and dentin are removed and the resulting new surface is made smooth and clean. The more altered and damaged the root surface has been from calculus (tartar) accumulation, the more the need for root planing.
Food debris, plaque, and calculus can all cause inflammation of the gum tissue. The purpose of scaling and root planing is to remove all debris, plaque, and calculus from your teeth. The root surface must be made as smooth as possible. Irregularities in the root surface can contribute to gum inflammation because they house bacteria and allow for plaque buildup.
Proper brushing and flossing is of the utmost importance once scaling and root planing treatment has been completed. If your doctor or hygienist have recommended any additional periodontal aids, you must use them. Your cooperation is vital if the procedures are to be successful. Your daily dental homecare routine must be both correct and consistent to remain as healthy as possible.
Making the Commitment
Committing to routine re-care allows for the early detection of many costly dental problems. If cavities go undetected for extended periods of time the treatment options may be limited to root canals, crowns, and/or the removal of teeth.
If you have insurance, make the most of your dental benefits! Most insurance policies allow a benefit for two examinations and cleanings per year. Taking advantage of these benefits will help you avoid the more costly dental procedures that can and do result from poor oral hygiene and delayed re-care. Don’t let the lack of insurance dictate your care. Many payment options are available to help keep your health on the right track.
Dentistry is not just about a beautiful smile; it’s about your overall health and well being! Don’t wait, call today to schedule your initial examination or re-care appointment with Central Dental. Our friendly dental team is looking forward to helping you achieve and maintain dental wellness.