Whether you see your dentist the “traditional” twice a year, more frequently, or less frequently (depending on what you and your dentist have decided is best for you), regular dental visits are essential for making sure you have healthy teeth and gums.
So what goes on during a typical dental exam?
Checking your teeth for decay and evaluating the health of your gums is only a part of a comprehensive dental exam. If you haven’t been to a dentist in a while, you might be surprised at everything that’s included in today’s thorough dental check-up.
Head & neck
Your exam will likely begin with an examination of your face and neck (looking for anything out of the ordinary), your lymph nodes, and your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) that connect your jaw to your skull.
Mouth, teeth & gums
Your exam will include an assessment of your mouth, teeth, and gums, including:
• Checking your gums for signs of disease
• Checking for loose or broken teeth, and for visible signs of tooth decay
• Examining your tongue (top and bottom) and the inside of your mouth
• Checking for damaged fillings, and evaluating the condition of any dental appliances (like crowns, bridges, or implants)
• Checking your bite and the contact between your teeth
• Your exam will likely also include taking X-rays
Hygiene & cleaning
The part of a dental appointment that everyone is familiar with is the cleaning. Your dental professional will check and clean your teeth and gums by:
• Removing plaque and tartar that may be present
• Polishing your teeth
• Flossing between your teeth
Your dentist and/or dental hygienist will likely pay special attention to the removal of plaque and tartar, which can build up in a very short time. If not removed, soft plaque hardens and leads to gum disease.
It’s important that you see your dentist regularly for a thorough exam and cleaning, and to practice good oral hygiene habits at home. That will make healthy teeth and gums more likely, and that will help lead to a healthier “you.”
Twice-a-year dental appointments are probably not on your “Top 10 Favorite Things” list, but regular dental check-ups definitely should be at the top of your list of “most important” things. Here’s why:
Oral Cancer Detection
Approximately 130 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in the United States every day.
Oral cancer takes many forms. Without knowing the various early signs, it can easily escape your attention, can progress very quickly, and can be life-threatening. Recognizing oral cancer in its early stages is essential to a successful treatment.
At Heritage Lake Dental, we are highly-trained to recognize the early signs and symptoms of oral cancer. While you may not notice these indicators, we will.
Regular dental check-ups can help us identify the early signs of oral cancer when treatment options are most effective.
Plaque, Tartar, and Cavity Control
You say you brush and floss diligently and frequently? That’s great!
Unfortunately, no matter how good a job you do, you are still likely to have small areas in your mouth that regular brushing and flossing misses – and that can lead to the build-up of plaque (a soft, sticky bacteria-loaded film) on your teeth.
As plaque build-up increases, it becomes harder to completely remove, and over time it turns into tartar, which is extremely difficult to get rid of by yourself at home.
The professional cleaning that is performed during your regular dental check-ups helps keep tartar from becoming destructive and forming cavities in your teeth.
Remember: cavities hardly ever give you any warning signs as they form. Pain from tooth cavities happens after the damage from tooth decay has already happened.
Regular dental check-ups help keep plaque and tartar under control and help prevent cavities.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
Tartar build-up can trigger infections that cause your gums to “pull away” from your teeth and gradually break down the tissue that attach your gums to your teeth.
Only after it has reached this point (now “officially” considered gum disease) are you likely to experience swelling, bleeding, or soreness in your mouth.
In addition to damaging the gum tissue, gum disease also leads to the breakdown of the bone structure that holds your teeth in place.
At this point, it’s common for teeth to become loose or even fall out completely.
Regular dental check-ups are essential to catching and treating gum disease before more extensive treatment (including surgery) are required.
Not all dental problems include a toothache. In fact, not all dental problems are things you can see on the surface.
Sometimes the biggest dental problems start “below the surface,” and getting your teeth and jaw bone X-rayed lets us find and identify issues that might be otherwise invisible – like impacted teeth or bone decay.
X-rays at your regular dental check-ups are the best way to help prevent potentially destructive diseases that show up with few symptoms, but may progress rapidly.
Keeping Your Entire Body Healthy
Numerous studies confirm that your oral health can have a definite affect on your overall health. Healthy mouth, healthy body.
On the flip-side, poor dental hygiene can contribute to larger health issues like heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and endocarditis (which is an infection of the lining of your heart).
Having regular dental check-ups is one of the best things you can do to help insure that the rest of your body stays in top shape, too.
Do Yourself A Favor
Skipping your dental appointment might not seem like a big thing. But the problems that can develop might actually sabotage your overall health.
By making (and keeping) appointments for regular dental check-ups, you’re doing yourself a big favor, and truly giving yourself something to smile about.