Dental Radiographs are commonly called X-rays. Dentists use radiographs for many reasons: to find hidden dental structures, bone loss, tooth arrangements, cavities, and some radiographic anomalies that could be used as diagnostics for underlying diseases or issues. Radiographs can be used as comparisons to check progression of periodontal disease as well as cavity growth. A complete dental exam is not conclusive without periodic radiographs, yet X-rays are not typically needed at every dental visit.
Various types of dental X-rays are available, including:
Bitewing– This type of X-ray allows the dentist to see the crowns of the upper and lower teeth. During a bitewing X-ray, you’ll bite down on the X-ray film holder while the X-ray images are being taken.
Periapical– This type of X-ray allows the dentist to see the entire tooth and the surrounding bone.
Occlusal– This type of X-ray allows the dentist to see the way the upper teeth and corresponding lower teeth fit together when the jaw is closed.
Panoramic– This type of X-ray gives the dentist a broad view of the entire mouth.
A Dental Cleaning (also known as Prophylaxis, which means a preventive treatment of a disease) is part of oral hygiene and involves the removal of dental plaque from teeth with the intention of preventing cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. People routinely clean their own teeth by brushing and interdental cleaning, and dental hygienists can remove hardened deposits (tartar) not removed by routine cleaning.
A cleaning appointment aids in the removal of tartar (mineralized plaque) that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, especially in areas that are difficult to reach in routine brushing. It is performed by a dental hygienist. A professional cleaning includes tooth scaling and tooth polishing and debridement if too much tartar has accumulated. This involves the use of various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.
The cleaning appointments should be performed every 6 months for most individuals. This allows for evaluation of not only the teeth but the supporting tissues (gums and bone). With frequent cleanings there is a better chance of detecting and preventing periodontist which leads to tooth loss.
- Dental Exam
Regular dental exams are an important part of preventive health care. During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist can identify gum inflammation or bone loss. The dentist or hygienist will evaluate your risk of developing tooth decay and other oral health problems, as well as check your face, neck and mouth for abnormalities. A dental exam might also include dental X-rays or other diagnostic procedures.
During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist will likely discuss your diet and oral hygiene habits and might demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques. You may also discuss your health history, medications you may be taking, as well as possible procedures that may need to be performed. This also gives the patient a chance to ask questions so that they will be well informed about what they need to maintain good oral health.
- Oral Cancer Screening
Close to 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 43,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years.
An oral cancer screening is performed during your routine dental visits. During an oral exam, your dentist looks over the inside of your mouth to check for red or white patches or mouth sores. Using gloved hands, your dentist also feels the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities.
Many people have abnormal sores in their mouths, with the great majority being noncancerous. An oral exam can’t determine which sores are cancerous and which are not. If your dentist finds an unusual sore, you may be referred to an Oral Surgeon to go through further testing to determine its cause. The only way to definitively determine whether you have oral cancer is to remove some abnormal cells and test them for cancer in a procedure called a biopsy. Though Oral Cancer Screenings are not a 100% accurate way to detect oral cancer, it is a good reminder to be aware of your own oral health.
- Oral Hygiene Instruction
Oral hygiene instruction is helpful and educational information meant to teach and guide our patients to prevent new cavities, and to maintain healthy teeth and gums. At your initial oral hygiene visit, your hygienist will instruct you onthe proper methods of brushing and flossing. Follow up visits will be to further assess your progress in maintaining good oral health, and to help review and reinforce techniques of cleaning at home.
The following are helpful recommendations:
– Flossing is the foundation for healthy gums, so floss your teeth once a day. Dental floss will get into areas between your teeth and under your gums that your toothbrush cannot. Slide the floss between your teeth and wrap it into a “C” shape around the base of the tooth and gently under the gum-line. Wipe the tooth from base to tip two or three times. Be sure to floss both sides of every tooth.
– Brush your teeth twice a day, and make sure to brush your teeth after you floss, as this is a more effective method of cleaning your teeth. Use a soft bristled tooth brush (safer on your gums) and a circular motion that moves the brush bristles ‘away’* from the gums ( *on the top arch, this would mean you are brushing in a circular direction which is top-down; on the bottom arch, you would be brushing in a bottom-to-top circular motion. Use care to not speed through brushing, taking at least 2-3 minutes to do a thorough job.
– Eat a well-balanced diet, avoiding excessive snacking between meals, especially sticky, sugary foods.
– Use either a fluoride or antiseptic rinse as directed by the dentist or hygienist.
– Avoid smoking
Twice-daily brushings and regular flossing are excellent for maintenance between office visits, but a healthy mouth and beautiful smile require routine general and preventive care to stay that way.
The premolar and molar teeth are the largest teeth in the mouth. They have a larger surface area and have several grooves and pits on the chewing surface. These grooves can be deep and are a prime place for plaque and acid to build up and cause cavities. It is for this reason that many dentists will suggest applying sealants, especially on young children. A sealant is a coating that is applied to the chewing surface of the teeth creating a smooth surface to act as a barricade protecting it from decay.
Applying a sealant is a quick and easy procedure. It does not involve any anesthetic. After the teeth are cleaned, a chemical liquid is applied to the tooth. This will etch the tooth surface making it feel a little rough. After a few seconds the etching solution is rinsed away. The etching allows the sealant to bond with the tooth. The sealant is then applied in a liquid form and a light is applied to the surface of the tooth to speed up the hardening process. Sealants can be reapplied every 3-5 years. Sealants are very effective in preventing decay and in some cases can prevent additional damage where decay has already begun.
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