You brush and floss your teeth daily and lead a healthy lifestyle. But if you’re not getting regular dental checkups, you can still be at risk for tooth decay, gum disease, or other health issues. Dental professionals have the knowledge and tools to diagnose problems with your teeth and gums and prevent them from getting worse. Continue reading to learn what happens during examinations and cleanings and why regular dental checkups are necessary for your overall wellness.
What Dentists Look For During an Examination
During the examination, your dentist will look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer.
How Dentists Identify Tooth Decay
If cavities are detected early, dentists can prevent them from progressing and causing serious harm.1 Your dentist will use instruments to check for signs of decay and may use dental x-rays to discover cavities that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
How Dentists Diagnose Gum Disease
Your dentist will use an instrument called a probe to gently measure the depth of any gum pockets surrounding your teeth. When gums begin to pull away from the teeth, that’s a sign that gum disease is developing. If your gums are healthy, pockets will typically measure between 1 and 3 millimeters in depth.
The dentist will next ask questions about your health and habits to determine if they may be contributing to gum disease. Factors other than lax oral care may be responsible for poor gum health.2 Your dentist will consider:
- Your age
- If you use tobacco
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Genetic factors
- Medications you’re taking
- Other health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or rheumatoid arthritis
If your dentist has identified signs that you have early or advanced gum disease, she will use x-rays to determine if you’ve lost bone as a result of the disease.
How Dentists Check for Oral Cancer
Besides looking at your teeth and gums, the dentist will examine the inside of your mouth for red or white patches or abnormal lumps. The dentist will also explore beyond your mouth, checking your throat and neck for lumps.
If Your Dentist Finds Tooth Decay During Your Regularly Scheduled Dental Checkup
After thoroughly examining your mouth, head, and neck, your dentist will recommend treatments based on the diagnoses made throughout the exam. Some treatment options could include:
- Rebuild enamel and help reverse early-stage tooth decay with a fluoride treatment
- Depending on the extent of the decay, recommend either filling, inlay, or crown.
- Attempt to save a tooth with a root canal treatment.
- If the tooth cannot be restored, it must be extracted. The dentist will recommend either a bridge or implant to replace the tooth.
- To combat the early stages of gum disease, prescribe an oral rinse or recommend a deep cleaning called scaling and root planing.
Based on your examination, the dentist may refer you to a periodontist for treatment of severe gum disease. If other medical issues are contributing to problems with your oral health (or vice versa), the dentist may advise that you visit a specialist to address those concerns.
What Happens During a Professional Dental Cleaning?
Even highly-reviewed sonic toothbrushes can’t perform the type of cleaning that dentists can accomplish with specialized tools. During the cleaning portion of your appointment, your dentist or hygienist will:
- Remove plaque and tartar from your tooth surface and between teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance that’s full of bacteria that can infect your gums. When plaque hardens and gets underneath the gum line, it’s very difficult to remove. Tartar removal requires a special tool called a scaler.
- After scaling, the dentist or hygienist will polish your teeth with a gritty toothpaste that helps to remove stains and then floss to clean between your teeth.
- Your dentist may ask you to use a fluoride rinse after completing the cleaning or decide to apply a fluoride treatment, which will help to prevent future cavities.
During the last part of the appointment, your dentist will discuss the next steps. That may simply include a recommendation for at-home oral care or a referral to a specialist.
Stay Healthy with Regular Dental Checkups
Even if you’re meticulous about caring for your teeth and gums, you should visit a dentist at least twice a year to ensure that there are not any underlying issues that could become serious health concerns. At Empire Dental Care, Dr. Tehila Cohen and her staff are expert diagnosticians who can put a stop to any problem before it progresses. And if you’ve been putting off your dental visit due to fear or anxiety, know that Dr. Cohen and her team will make you feel comfortable and at ease. Contact us to learn more about the practice and to schedule an appointment. 585.671.1650