Dental Exams, Cleaning and Plaque Removal
Brushing and flossing are just two of the many components of a healthy oral hygiene routine we recommend to our new patients. Although they are the foundation of dental health, professional cleanings and regular dental exam visits to remove plaque also play a crucial role in helping you maintain a healthy smile.
Why Professional Cleanings are Important
Even with proper and diligent brushing and flossing, you may miss some plaque that can eventually build up and cause problems. Professional cleanings remove this excess plaque to help keep your teeth as healthy as possible.
Cleanings are typically performed by dental hygienists. With a simple cleaning:
- Tartar or calculus is removed from your teeth.
- A powered polisher is used to brush your teeth.
- You’ll finish up with flossing and rinsing to remove debris.
Sometimes, a deep cleaning may be needed. A deep cleaning involves root planing and scaling to remove tartar from those hard-to-reach places along your gum line. Scaling is a cleaning above the gums and root planning is a cleaning below the gums.
Whether you’re visiting Lighthouse Dental Centre for a simple or deep cleaning, our dental hygienists will explain how to properly brush, floss and care for your gums every day. Depending on your dental health, your routine may require more than just brushing and flossing. We may also recommend special rinses, mouthwashes or other tools, such as a water flosser.
Fluoride Treatments and Sealants
In some cases, we may apply a fluoride treatment after a cleaning. Fluoride treatments help prevent cavities and remineralize the teeth to strengthen your tooth enamel. Strong and healthy tooth enamel can better resist acid-forming bacteria.
We may also recommend preventative resin fillings, which are protective coatings that are applied to back teeth. Dental sealants can also help protect against cavities.
We often recommend sealants for children when their first molars appear (around age 6) and another round of treatment when their second set of molars come (around age 12). Because sealants are painless and easy to apply, children tolerate this procedure well.
Professional Cleanings Can Help Us Find Dental Problems
Cleanings will help you maintain a brilliant smile, but they can also help us find dental problems, such as:
Cavities and Chips
While cleaning your teeth, we may find cavities, cracks, discolored teeth or chips in your teeth. Depending on the extent of the damage, we may be able to use a filling to repair your tooth or another cosmetic dentistry service. Fillings are a simple process.
- First, we will drill a hole in your tooth to remove any decay or damage.
- Next, we will fill the hole with composite or some other restorative material.
If a large area of the tooth has broken off or needs to be removed we can make a crown or a veneer for you. These treatments will protect your damaged tooth while keeping your smile looking as natural as possible.
We may also find an infection when cleaning your teeth. In addition, our hygienist may find inflammation in your gums or signs of an abscess.
If you have an infection that has spread to your jaw or surrounding teeth, we may need to prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection. Antibiotics can come in the form of a capsule, gel, oral rinse or tablet.
If we see signs that your tooth decay has reached the pulp, or soft center, of the tooth, we may recommend a root canal.
With root canal therapy, the pulp of the tooth is removed and the canals are cleaned out. Once bacteria and decay have been removed, we will replace the nerve with a filling and seal the area.
Issues With Your Diet
If your diet is causing digestive issues, it may cause issues with your oral health. Digestive issues are common, but a change in diet may help improve symptoms and your oral health over the long-term.
Probiotics may be one solution. Although known for their effect on digestive health, there is some evidence that probiotics may also benefit your teeth and gums. They may help:
- Reduce inflammation related to gum disease
- Help with bad breath
- Prevent plaque formation
- Lower the risk of oral cancers
More research is needed, but the data so far is promising. You can find probiotics in supplement form, but you can also eat foods that are rich in probiotics, including kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi or tempeh.
Major Dental or Oral Concerns
Sometimes, routine cleanings can help us find major dental issues that need to be addressed through surgery, such as:
- Bone Grafting: If gum disease persists and progresses to the point where it damages the surrounding bone, bone grafting may be required. With this procedure, we will replace your damaged bone with a graft. Grafts can be made from your natural bone, donated bone or synthetic bone.
- Tooth Extraction: Sometimes, we cannot save your natural tooth through a root canal or other surgical procedure. Tooth extraction may be the only viable option. We may also recommend extraction if your wisdom teeth are impacted. If your wisdom teeth are causing inflammation, pain or other issues, extraction is usually the best option.
- Soft Tissue Grafts: If we find that your gums are receding, we may recommend soft tissue grafts. We will remove some tissue from your mouth during this procedure or use donor tissue to replace missing areas of your gum.
- Flap Surgery: If bacteria and tartar need to be removed from underneath your gums, we may perform flap surgery. We will make a small incision in the gum during this procedure and lift up a part of the tissue to remove the tartar. We will then stitch the flap back into place.
If tooth extraction is the only viable option for you, we will recommend replacing your missing tooth as soon as possible with an implant, bridge or partial denture.
Dental implants are a great option for many patients because they look and behave like your own teeth. Implants (which are metal posts) are surgically implanted into your jawbone, and as the bone heals, it will fuse with the metal post. The final step is to install a crown that looks just like your natural tooth. The crown will cover the post and attach to the implant.
What Happens if I Don’t Get Regular Cleanings?
It may be tempting to skip your routine cleanings, but they play an important role in your dental health.
Failing to get professional cleanings and an exam with our dentist can increase your risk of periodontal disease. If left untreated, periodontal disease can damage the bone that supports your teeth and lead to other complications, such as:
- Abscesses in your teeth
- Teeth migrating or moving in your mouth
- Tooth loss
- Oral cancer
Periodontal disease can also increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and pregnancy complications.
Infections caused by a tooth abscess can spread to other parts of your body, such as your neck or head, or cause sepsis, a dangerous infection.
Maintaining Your Oral Health
The best way to prevent dental issues is to practice good oral hygiene, which includes:
- Brushing at least twice per day
- Flossing at least once per day
- Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco products
- Coming in to our office for professional cleanings twice a year with periodic X-rays
- Limiting your intake of sugary foods and beverages
- Following a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins
Good oral health is important for everyone, no matter your age, gender or circumstance. A healthy diet and proper brushing habits are important. Many foods have hidden sugars that can contribute to cavities and other dental problems, such as:
- Fruit juice
- Sports drinks
- Sweet iced tea
- Flavored yogurts
- Canned sliced fruit
- Cereal and granola
- Muffins and other baked goods
Dental Hygiene in Children: What You Should Know
According to the Canadian Dental Association, children should start seeing the dentist around their first birthday. After that, children are at high risk of tooth decay and cavities, especially when bottle fed.
There are steps you can take to help prevent bottle-related tooth decay:
- Only allow bottle feeding at mealtime.
- Make sure that your child starts seeing a dentist early on.
- Aim to have your child weaned from the bottle by their first birthday.
- Start brushing with a soft-bristled brush as soon as your baby’s teeth start coming in. Only use water when brushing.
- Ask us about dental sealants.
Taking a proactive approach to your baby’s oral health can help prevent tooth decay caused by bottle feeding and establish good habits that will follow them into adulthood.
What Women Should Know About Their Oral Health
Women experience hormonal changes at different stages in their lives, increasing the risk of dental health issues.
- Young women may experience swelling gums or gum sores when they start menstruating.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause saliva changes that affect your oral health. In addition, morning sickness can increase the risk of tooth decay.
- When estrogen levels fall during menopause, this can increase the risk of gum disease. Some women may even develop burning mouth syndrome when they go through menopause.
If you’re pregnant and concerned about your oral health, please come in for an appointment to see our staff. Just make sure that you let us know about your pregnancy so that we can plan accordingly.
What Men Should Know About Their Oral Health
Research shows that men are less diligent about taking care of their teeth and oral health. For example, they are less likely to brush twice per day, floss daily and come in for preventative dental care.
A study from 2008 found that men who have a history of gum disease are more likely to develop cancer than men who have healthy gums.
Men need to ensure that they take care of their teeth properly and visit us for routine cleanings. Preventative care can go a long way in preserving your oral health.
How Diabetes Affects Your Oral Health
Diabetes can make it harder for the body to resist bacteria, which can increase the risk of gum disease, infections, periodontitis and thrush, and fungal infection.
If you have diabetes, the first step to protecting your oral health is to get your blood sugar under control. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing at least once daily and coming into our office for dental visits can help keep your teeth as healthy as possible.
Your oral health plays a big role in your overall health. Poor oral health can contribute to the development of disease, cause issues with your self-esteem, affect your speech and have a direct effect on your quality of life.
It’s not uncommon for dental issues to develop without any symptoms. Seeing your dentist regularly is the best way to find issues early on and take steps to address them before they progress into a bigger and more complicated problem.
Contact us today to take control of your oral health so we can help you enjoy a healthy smile for years to come.