You only get one set of adult teeth, so it makes sense to take care of them the best you can. This starts with getting a cleaning and exam from your local dentist every six months.
These dental exams play a critical role in your long-term oral health. A dental hygienist uses a manual instrument to remove moderate amounts of plaque and tartar from your teeth or an ultrasonic device for heavy build-up. Even if you brush and floss two or three times a day, some plaque and tartar remains on your teeth. If left untreated, it eventually causes gum disease.
Gum disease can cause numerous oral health problems, including bone loss, loose teeth, infections, and tooth loss. A consistent oral health care routine at home along with visiting your dentist every six months significantly reduces your risk of developing these issues. After a dental hygienist finishes scraping plaque and tartar from your teeth or removing it ultrasonically, the next step is to polish the surface of your teeth. This leaves you with a pleasant taste in your mouth as well as a more attractive smile. A dentist will inspect your mouth after the cleaning to see if he or she spots any issues that require further attention.
The Exam Portion of Your Dental Check-Up
Some dental problems can go undetected for a long time because they don’t cause immediate symptoms. Gum disease is a primary example of this. Many people don’t realize they have gum disease until it has already caused extensive damage. The good news is that early detection and treatment of dental health issues can preserve your natural teeth in most cases. It also saves you money and is less invasive than later and more aggressive forms of treatment.
Dentists typically check the following at each preventive care exam:
- Gum health
- If necessary, X-rays to check for the presence of tooth abscesses, bone loss, cysts, decay, tumors, and other serious oral health issues
- Tooth decay
- Oral cancer screening
- Fillings, crowns, bridges, or other dental restorations to ensure stability
Should your dentist discover any problems during your exam, he or she should inform you of them right away. This includes informing you of the typical treatment procedures and cost for your issue.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of regular toothbrushing at home. Although plaque forms quickly after eating or drinking and can cause a lot of damage, it’s easy to remove with either a manual or electronic toothbrush. You run a much higher risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay if you fail to brush at least twice daily. Bacteria builds up in your mouth after just one day of not brushing. Once plaque hardens and turns to tartar, you can no longer remove it with a toothbrush and will require a dental cleaning.
When brushing your teeth, use an up and down motion and try to spend at least several seconds on each tooth. Rinse your mouth with water to ensure that you remove all food particles and debris. Once that’s done, take a few extra minutes to floss your teeth. The bristles of your toothbrush can’t always reach between the teeth where plaque tends to hide. Finishing your oral healthcare routine by using medicated mouthwash helps to keep your mouth as clean as possible while also leaving you with fresh breath. If you have children, be sure to model proper brushing and flossing to them as well.
Flossing is extremely beneficial to your oral health care and takes just a few minutes to do. Unfortunately, many people forget to do it. If necessary, write yourself a note to remember to floss until it becomes an automatic part of your daily routine. Taking the time to floss each day can prevent a host of potentially painful and expensive dental issues later.
Dentists typically recommend starting with approximately 18 inches of dental floss. For maximum effectiveness, pinch the string of floss between your index finger and thumb and then wrap it around the middle fingers of your left and right hands. Make sure you have a tight grip on the floss and then place it between two teeth by pushing downwards and pulling gently in a back and forth motion. After removing the floss, move it forward so you’re using a clean section each time you insert it between two teeth.
If you have a dental bridge, you will need to get a special type of dental floss called a threader. This allows you to get underneath the restoration. To start the cleaning process, you tie a regular piece of dental floss to the threader and insert it between your replacement tooth and the natural tooth next to it.
As mentioned above, it’s helpful to include medicated mouthwash in your oral healthcare routine. In addition to helping you keep bad breath at bay, it loosens food particles so you can spit them out when you rinse. According to the American Dental Association, bad breath is a common problem that affects up to 30 percent of adults in the United States.
If your bad breath persists, consider the foods you eat and the medications you take. Some prescription medications cause a dry mouth, which leads to bad breath due to the lack of saliva production. Foods containing fish, dairy, or meat have proteins that can produce sulfur-based bacteria that eventually leads to bad breath. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and chronic snoring can contribute to this problem as well.
It’s important not to use a mouth rinse in place of regular brushing, flossing, and coming in for preventive care appointments. This can backfire on you because a mouth rinse can disguise symptoms of an oral health condition that needs immediate care. You have several options when choosing a mouth rinse, including anti-bacterial, anti-cavity, anti-plaque, anti-microbial, and anti-tartar. If you have a specific oral health concern, choose a mouth rinse that addresses it.
These are just several common-sense tips for avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. If you have specific questions, be sure to address them with your at your next appointment.