Routine dental checkups are the best way to detect problems with your oral health at their earliest stages. Early detection and treatment saves unnecessary time, money, and discomfort.
Cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer often do not become visible to patients or cause pain until they are in more advanced stages. Regular dental checkups are important for early detection of problems, when they are more manageable.
How Often Do I Need a Checkup?
For most patients, routine dental exams and professional cleanings are recommended twice a year, or every six months. However, your oral health needs change with the age and condition of your teeth and surrounding tissues. Because of this, your dentist may recommend more or less frequent visits, and the schedule for any person may change during a lifetime. Every smile is unique, and your care will be individually tailored to your needs.
Patients who are at high risk for dental disease or disease progression may be advised to visit the dentist every three or four months. High risk patients might include patients with gum disease, patients who accumulate plaque and calculus rapidly, patients who are prone to frequent cavities, or patients with medical conditions that weaken their ability to fight bacterial infections.
What Happens at My Checkup?
When you visit Cameo Dental for your routine dental checkup, we will provide a professional cleaning, perform a clinical exam, obtain diagnostic images as needed, and review any findings.
A Professional Dental Cleaning
Plaque, calculus, and stains accumulate on our teeth over time, and professional cleanings are an essential part of keeping your mouth clean and healthy.
The buildup on your teeth and under your gums harbors infectious bacteria. This triggers your immune system to fight off the infection, just like when you have a cold or flu. The harder our immune system has to work to fight off this bacterial challenge, the more likely it is that the tissues around the teeth will become damaged, sometimes irreversibly. In the absence of proper dental hygiene, including routine professional cleanings, the gums may swell and bleed, and the bone around the teeth may be irreversibly destroyed. The teeth lose their attachment to the surrounding tissues, and, if left unchecked, this inflammation can eventually lead to tooth loss. There is also a growing body of evidence that inflammation of the oral tissues may be linked to systemic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.
The dental hygienist uses special tools and polishers to remove plaque, calculus, and stain above and below where the gum meets the tooth, reducing this bacterial load and helping to relieve the challenge to your body’s immune system.
Why Are There Different Kinds of Dental Cleanings?
There are different kinds of dental cleanings, and the type of cleaning you need depends on the condition of your teeth and gums. Common types of cleanings include prophylaxis, periodontal scaling and root planing, and periodontal maintenance.
A prophylaxis (a “regular” cleaning) is recommended in combination with excellent home care to prevent dental problems. A prophylaxis is performed in a healthy mouth that is free from gum disease or bone loss.
Periodontal Scaling and Root Planing
If active gum disease and progressive bone loss is identified during your exam, your dentist may recommend periodontal scaling and root planing, sometimes referred to as a “deep” cleaning. This is a non-surgical procedure that removes the plaque, calculus, and diseased cementum from the surfaces of the affected tooth roots. Signs that you may need this type of cleaning include swollen red gums that bleed when you brush or floss, deep pockets in the gums around your teeth, or bad breath. As part of this therapy program, we work closely with patients who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease to develop individualized home care plans and professional care follow up.
Once a procedure like periodontal scaling and root planing has been completed, routine prophylaxis cleanings may no longer be enough to keep your dentition healthy. Often, your dentist may recommend a specialized follow up cleaning called periodontal maintenance. Periodontal maintenance visits are important for protecting the continued health of your gums, and preventing further loss of jaw bone around the teeth. Patients with a history of gum disease are at high risk for continued disease progression, so periodontal maintenance visits are often recommended more frequently, every three or four months.
A Clinical Exam
Your dentist will evaluate your teeth, soft tissues, chewing muscles, jaw, face, and neck. In addition to looking for cracked teeth and cavities, your dentist is also looking for sores or lumps on the floor and roof of your mouth, lesions on your tongue, problems with the jaw joint and muscles, signs of traumatic occlusion such as tooth wear or fracture, and abnormalities in the lymph nodes of the head and neck. This examination includes an important and routine screening for oral cancer. If you wear dentures or other removable appliances, your dentist will evaluate the fit, function, and comfort of the appliance during your exam.
Your dentist can tell a lot about your oral health just by looking in your mouth, but there are important areas that require diagnostic images, like dental X-rays, to fully evaluate. Examples include the areas in between your teeth, the bone of your jaw, and the roots of your teeth.
A Review of Findings
At the end of your appointment, your dentist and hygienist will review any findings and inform you of any treatment recommendations. We will also demonstrate proper cleaning techniques for your teeth or dentures, and we will help you to develop an individualized preventative strategy to keep your mouth healthy.