Dental Cleanings and Regular Check-Ups

Dental cleanings and regular check-ups should be or become a regular part of your annual dental care to promote healthy teeth and gums. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends regular dental visits, at intervals determined by a dentist. In light of a new study published in the Journal of Dental Research titled “Patient Stratification for Preventive Care in Dentistry,” the ADA wants to remind consumers that the frequency of their regular dental visits should be tailored by their dentists to accommodate for their current oral health status and health history.

At Burlington Dental Arts, our dentists recommend that you receive teeth cleanings and regular check-ups twice a year. Of course, if you have more issues with your teeth and gums (e.g., cavities, tooth loss, gingivitis, or periodontal disease, for example), we recommend that you receive dental care more frequently.

Why are dental cleanings so Important?

Dental cleanings are important for good oral hygiene. If you don’t have good oral hygiene, bacteria can build up in your mouth and cause dental problems such as gingivitis, dental caries, staining, and even dental abscess. Moreover, the important point to note is that dental cleaning does not only include your regular brushing and flossing. There is more to it. Although self-cleaning is vital, paying visits to your dentist for regular check-ups carries a great value too. This, in the long-run, prevents dental diseases.

What is considered proper dental hygiene?

Proper dental hygiene requires following a daily routine, brush, floss and rinse daily. Sticking to this kind of routine will remove plaque from your teeth, which is important because if not removed it combines with sugars to form acids that can lead to tooth decay and cavities.

How can you improve your dental hygiene?

If you have poor dental hygiene and want to improve it, follow these tips:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day (in the morning and before bedtime).  
  • Brush properly. Check out this video from Mouth Healthy brought to you by the ADA on “How to Brush Your Teeth.”

  • Floss your teeth twice a day.  If unwaxed floss gets stuck between your teeth, use the waxed kind instead.  Flossing is just as important as brushing.
  • Skip the sugary and starchy snacks. They just build-up plaque on your teeth.
  • Swish with mouthwash. (Ask your dentist which mouthwash he/she would recommend, as there are some on the market that stain teeth.)
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to protect the enamel on your teeth.
  • Brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth to rid your mouth of bacteria.
  • Use an oral irrigator for cleaning between your teeth.

Most importantly, don’t go to bed without brushing your teeth.  Make dental hygiene practices a part of your bedtime routine.

Are tartar and plaque the same thing?

Plaque is the sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth. If plaque is not removed with regular brushing and flossing, it hardens to create calculus (tartar).  Calculus cannot be removed with a toothbrush and will require a dental professional to remove it during an oral cleaning.

Is brushing your gums a bad thing?

In using a soft bristle toothbrush, you can gently brush over your gums to remove any plaque build-up. Don’t brush your gums roughly, as this will cause them to bleed and lead to receding gums and sensitive teeth.

How can you prevent tooth decay?

Follow these tips to help prevent tooth decay:

  • Brush your teeth in the morning and evening, and floss your teeth daily.
  • Avoid sugary and starchy snack foods. 
  • Visit the dentist twice a year for a dental cleaning and check-up.

Why are regular dental check-ups important?

It is important to have regular dental check-ups every 6 months so your dentist can see if there are any changes to your oral health. This way, if there are any issues, they will be detected early on and it will be easier to address them.

Plus, sometimes it is your dentist who may pick up on other medical issues you may have.  For example, there is a strong correlation between periodontal disease and diabetes. Diabetes is a systemic disease, meaning that it can affect all major systems in your body — even your teeth.  If your oral exam shows the beginnings of periodontal disease, you may want to visit your primary care provider for further assessment and diagnosis. 

What can you expect as part of your dental check-up?

A typical dental check-up has two major parts, history and examination. During your visit, your dentist will ask you about your recent medical history and examine your mouth.

Medical History

Your medical history is an important part of assessing your risk of developing oral health conditions (e.g., tooth decay, gum disease, oral cancer). Your dentist may ask you questions relating to your lifestyle, such as dietary habits, smoking, alcohol intake, brushing, etc. Furthermore, you will be asked about your past history of dental diseases if any.

Examination

First, your hygienist will clean your teeth, and then your dentist will conduct a thorough examination of your oral mucosa, teeth, gums, the top and bottom of your mouth, and your neck to look for any signs of infection, cavities or cancer. Plaque build-up can cause cavities, inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) or red, swollen, bleeding gums which are painful (periodontal disease). If you have any of these dental problems, your dentist will recommend the appropriate course of treatment.

Digital X-Rays 

Usually, x-rays are ordered once a year as part of your routine annual dental check-up.  These images help the dentist to see if there are any changes to your teeth over time. For new patients, digital x-rays will be taken of your teeth to establish a new patient file and treatment plan.  X-rays may also be ordered for patients who are complaining of toothaches or other dental problems. These images will help the dentist decide on the appropriate course of treatment.

Oral Cancer Screening 

The purpose of an oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer early when there is a greater chance for a cure. Your dentist examines your lips, mouth, and neck and looks for signs of cancer, such as a mass, plaque or an ulcer in the oral cavity and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck.

Bite Assessment

Your dentist will assess if your jaw is fine or not. He will interpret if you have any problems regarding biting or grinding of food. For this purpose, your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or jaw joint, is also assessed. You will be asked to bite as you normally do and your dentist will closely look and listen for any clicking or popping sounds. Your doctor will palpate your jaw and check for tenderness as well.

What are some signs you should see a dentist?

Aside from visiting your dentist twice a year for your regular check-ups, you may need to visit your dentist more often if

  • Your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold.
  • Your gums are puffy and/or they bleed when you brush or floss.
  • You having fillings, crowns, dental implants, dentures, etc.
  • You don’t like the way your smile or teeth look.
  • You have persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You have pain or swelling in your mouth, face or neck.
  • You have difficulty chewing or swallowing.
  • You have a family history of gum disease or tooth decay.
  • You have a medical condition, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders or are HIV positive.
  • Your mouth is often dry.
  • You smoke or use other tobacco products.
  • You are undergoing medical treatment such as radiation, chemotherapy or hormone replacement therapy.
  • Your jaw sometimes pops or is painful when opening and closing, chewing or when you first wake up; you have an uneven bite.
  • You have a spot or sore that doesn’t look or feel right in your mouth and it isn’t going away.

What if you haven’t been to the dentist for a long time?

If you haven’t been to the dentist for a long time, don’t worry about it. We want you to feel at ease when you come here to our practice for dental care. We are not here to judge you or admonish you. We are here to help you.

Initially, we will take digital x-rays of your teeth to assess the condition of your teeth and gums. From there we will develop a treatment plan that will move you on your way to restored oral health. If we determine that you will need a lot of dental work, we can develop a treatment plan that can be spread out over several months. 

If you are worried about costs, don’t let that keep you from getting the care you need. We accept credit cards and also have patient financing options. 

Call Burlingame Dental Arts at (503) 218-4285 to schedule your dental cleanings and regular check-ups.