Maintaining Good Oral Health
Why do we place so much emphasis on having patients schedule regular dental cleanings and exams? Because they constitute our front line defense in preventing dental problems. We cannot stress this enough – maintaining good oral health helps prevent costly dental problems from arising in the first place.
For patients without gum disease, Dr. Albers generally recommends dental cleanings twice a year. These appointments are important for several reasons. First, regular dental cleanings remove plaque and tartar from teeth. This helps maintain healthy teeth and gums. Second, our hygienists, along with Dr. Albers, carefully examine teeth and gums during cleaning appointments, looking for evidence of decay, cracks, or periodontal disease. When these issues are identified and fixed early, more costly and involved procedures can often be avoided.
Dental cleaning appointment
Teeth cleaning has several names: prophylaxis or prophy, dental hygiene appointment, or just plain appointment to get your teeth cleaned. Regardless of the name, patients can expect the following when they come to our office for a routine dental cleaning:
- We start our cleaning appointments by having patients use a special anti-bacterial rinse. This rinse kills bacteria in the mouth before our hygienists start their work.
- We review medical histories with patients, paying special attention to any changes since a prior appointment. Blood pressure readings are also taken as part of our assessment of a patient’s overall health. Although infrequent, we sometimes get a blood pressure reading so high that we cannot safely treat a patient. When this happens, we recommend immediate follow up with their primary medical doctor.
- After these initial tasks, your hygienist cleans your teeth. When they do this, they are removing plaque and tartar from the teeth. Plaque is a colorless biofilm that constantly forms on the teeth. If not removed with regular brushing, flossing, and cleanings, plaque can harden into tartar. Both tartar and plaque can lead to cavities, gingivitis (gum disease), or even bone loss associated with periodontal disease. (See Dr. Albers’ blog post titled “Should you Brush Your Teeth? Yes, But…” which talks about foods that can help or hurt with plaque formation.)
- In addition to cleaning your teeth, our hygienists floss and polish them. Flossing helps remove plaque from between the teeth and from under the gum line. Polishing helps remove any lingering plaque, helps remove staining from the teeth, and results in that nice smooth feeling you notice after a cleaning appointment.
- Once a year, or more frequently if a problem is suspected, our hygienists perform a periodontal assessment similar to the one Dr. Albers performs on all new patients. Our hygienists chart the results, and our dental software allows us to compare assessments from year to year.
- Our hygienists perform an oral cancer screening during your cleaning appointment.
- During your appointment, Dr. Albers will come into the hygiene room and conduct a routine oral examination. He will look for any obvious problem areas, receive a report from the hygienist about any areas of concern, and do his own oral cancer screening. If Dr. Albers finds a problem, he discusses it with the patient, and also discusses proposed treatment.
- Sometimes x-rays are taken to look for cavities or to diagnose a problem area noted on examination. This does not happen every visit as the need for x-rays depends on each patient and their oral health status.
The procedures outlined above generally require an hour to complete. At the end of the appointment, our hygienists and Dr. Albers will review findings with patients and will also review proper brushing and home care techniques.
As noted above, these appointments are our front line defense in helping patients maintain good oral health. Remember, prevention is key!