Routine dental cleanings (prophylaxis) are performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. The recommended interval between cleaning appointment visits will vary between patients based on individual needs and diagnosis, not necessarily the six months that seems to be the assumed prescribed time frame.
During your routine dental cleaning, your hygienist will:
- Remove any calculus or tartar that has accumulated on your teeth using a combination of hand instruments and an ultrasonic cleaner. Calculus is plaque that has not been entirely removed from the teeth and has hardened and attached to the surface of the tooth, sometimes below the gum line.
- Take pictures of your teeth and mouth using the intra-oral camera.
- Remove the plaque from your teeth. Plaque is the sticky ‘film’ found on your teeth that is full of bacteria and possibly food debris. The toxins that are produced by the bacteria will cause inflammation of the gums and, if not removed, it will lead to periodontal disease.
- Polish your teeth after calculus and plaque are removed to remove any stain that you cannot remove with home care and routine brushing.
Routine dental exams are generally performed twice per year and will include the following:
Review of diagnostic digital x-rays to detect decay (cavities), bone loss and dental abnormalities within the bone. X-rays are also used to determine the position of teeth and roots that cannot be seen on examination.
Oral cancer screening is done to check lips, tongue, gums and tissues for any abnormalities that may indicate oral cancer or other disease.
Periodontal (gum) screening is done by checking the gums and bones, measuring depth of pockets and checking for bleeding to determine the presence of gum (periodontal) disease.
Clinical tooth examination will be done with dental instruments to check surfaces of teeth for any tooth decay or damage as well as looking at and monitoring the status of existing fillings, crowns or other restorations in your mouth.
Digital Dental X-Rays
Dental x-rays are required to aid in thoroughly assessing and diagnosing your dental health and needs. With x-rays your dentist can detect tooth decay that is not seen on clinical examination as well as areas of bone loss and even tooth structure loss. The dentist can see if there are third molars (wisdom teeth) present and it they are impacted as well as advanced periodontal disease. X-rays are also used when planning orthodontic as well as cosmetic treatment. Bitewing X-rays that are taken with your teeth biting together will be taken at least annually or more frequently depending upon individual needs and dental recommendation. A full mouth series of x-rays may often be taken at your initial visit to the practice and usually not again for five years.
DIGITAL X-RAYS: We care about your safety!
Our office will take your x-rays using digital radiography. These x-rays are significantly lower in radiation (up to 80% lower) than the old film x-rays. This latest technology allows us to take high quality pictures of your teeth. Digital x-rays are clear enough that you will be able to better see and understand your dental conditions with the dentist.
Additional benefits to digital x-rays are:
- They provide superior diagnostic capabilities
- They can be readily displayed on a large screen, enabling the patient to clearly see their conditions
- They are more comfortable for the patient
- They are a time saver
- They are better for the environment
A panoramic x-ray (commonly referred to as Pano) is a full mouth x-ray taken of your face, jaws and teeth. They provide views of areas that cannot be captured with the digital intra-oral (inside your mouth) x-rays. The x-ray is taken with you in a standing position and the machine revolves around your head, creating a wraparound picture. This is an extra-oral x-ray and is often used to aid in the diagnosis of wisdom teeth, fractures, bone loss and joint abnormalities. Panoramic x-rays are also used to view sinus areas and the mandibular nerve (in the lower jaw), often in conjunction with implant procedures.
The panoramic x-ray is:
- Important in diagnosing and treatment planning
- Used to help assess concerns prior to orthodontic treatment
- Safer than intra-oral x-rays as less radiation enters the body
Intraoral cameras allow the patient and providers to clearly see what is going on in the mouth. The hygienist or dentist will take pictures of your teeth, gums and mouth and show them to you, magnified, on the screen in your treatment room. The intraoral camera is not just a diagnostic tool; it is very useful as an educational aid as well. Additionally, the use of the camera is a time saver in helping you understand your overall oral health status as the processing of the images is instantaneous.
Our standard of care includes having a ‘tour of your mouth’ recorded at your first visit by taking individual pictures throughout your mouth. The baseline is saved and you and your provider can compare to see how things have improved or deteriorated at future visits.
The intraoral camera is used to demonstrate and show:
- Areas of infection and bleeding of the gums
- The accumulation of plaque and tartar
- Fillings and restorations that are breaking down
- Cracked teeth
- Lesions on the gum tissue or inside of the cheek
- Wear patterns on teeth from grinding or clenching
The use of intraoral pictures has become part of the high standard of care provided in our office. It allows you, the patient, to see what is going on and be more involved and aware of the treatment needs and decisions for your oral health.