Dental Health

Dental Health: Tooth Cleaning (and More)

Comprehensive Exams

You are the key to this process. Our exams begin with asking you if there is anything you have noticed about your mouth—from pain, a broken tooth, or a simple chip or space you don’t like. During every exam we conduct a head and neck cancer screening.

We evaluate your mouth, nose, and upper airways for restrictions which could put you at risk for sleep apnea or other breathing problems.

We evaluate your teeth for any signs of current or future problems like staining, discolorations, cracks, fractures, wear, and more. We will take intra-oral photographs, showing you what we see, while we discuss our findings.

As with most things, when dental problems are identified early, resolving them is usually less invasive and more affordable. That’s why we recommend exams at least every 6 months and x-rays every 12 months—to keep you healthy and save you money!

Regular cleanings (oral hygiene) coupled with exams are the best way to avoid pain, monitor for periodontal disease, and prevent tooth loss or costly dental procedures down the road. Our experienced dental health team performs an assessment of the health of your gums. If your gums are healthy, or only mild inflammation is occurring we will recommend a “regular cleaning” or a “prophy” which involves mild plaque and calculus (tarter) removal, polishing the teeth, flossing and fluoride application (if desired).

Plaque and calculus build up on everybody’s teeth, and that’s why it’s important to have your teeth cleaned on a regular basis. If plaque and calculus are allowed to accumulate and are not cleaned off the teeth they become a breeding ground for bacteria to build up and cause problems. If damage from this bacterial infection has occurred to your gums, teeth, or supporting bone, we will discuss what we see and may recommend a “deep cleaning” or scaling and root planing.

After having a cleaning of any type, normal brushing, flossing, and other oral hygiene aids are paramount to achieving and maintaining healthy gums. For more information, please go to the non-surgical gum treatments.

When caught early enough, cavities can be treated easily and painlessly. Fillings are done to remove decay, and replace the affected tooth structure. It is called a filling because a material is placed in the tooth that fills the hole after decay is removed. Today, most teeth are treated with bonded tooth-colored composite resin fillings.

If not treated, decay can lead to tooth pain and/or infection, and the tooth may need root canal treatment or extraction. If a filling becomes exceedingly large, a crown may be recommended to reinforce the tooth and prevent fracture of the tooth or the large filling which can result in the loss of the tooth. Click for more information on crowns.

We also have several options to treat small cavities or areas of concern with a non-invasive technique that requires no drilling and no anesthetic. If your decay is mild, we love to use this option, and our patients love it too! These are called silver diamine fluoride (SDF) or resin infiltration. Ask us more about SDF and if this is a benefit covered by your insurance.

Bonding involves adhering composite resin material that is matched to the color of the tooth. This is done to repair damage done to the tooth by decay, alter the shape of the tooth, eliminate “black triangles” near the gums, or close gaps between the teeth.
Sealants are a great option for preserving oral health. In some cases, the tooth structure has fine grooves or pits that accumulate plaque and food—not because the person doesn’t brush, but because they’re too narrow to allow even one bristle into them. A very runny filling material is used to fill in those narrow grooves in the tooth, protecting these areas from developing cavities in the future. Sealants are almost always able to be placed without any numbing or discomfort. They are often recommended for children, but can be a good option for adults as well!
Your gums, ligaments, and bones form the foundation for your teeth. All these structures are referred to as the “periodontium.” When the periodontium is not healthy and infected, it jeopardizes the teeth—just as an unstable foundation would threaten the stability of a house.

Signs of unhealthy periodontium (gum disease) may be:

*Gums that are red and bleed easily
*Persistent bad breath
*Gums that are pulled away from the tooth
*Loose teeth
*Changes in the position or bite of the teeth.

Scaling and Root Planing
Any of these signs may mean something is wrong. Scaling and Root Planing treatments may be an effective non-surgical solution. The patient is typically given a numbing agent so they don’t experience any discomfort. The infected areas of the gums can then be cleaned and rid of the infected tissue and build-up that’s allowing bacteria to grow and multiply.

In some cases, antibiotics are recommended along with this treatment, but not always. People can expect to have some mild discomfort in their gums after this treatment that could last for a couple days to a week. It is easily managed with over-the-counter pain medications and rinsing the mouth with warm salt water (about one teaspoon per 8 ounces of water).

With the proper care, it is often possible to return gums to a healthy state. If the gum disease gets too severe, it may need to be treated through surgery or extraction. This is why it is important to get it treated at the first sign of a problem. After having a cleaning of any type, normal brushing, flossing, and other oral hygiene aids are paramount in achieving and maintaining healthy gums.

X-rays are a necessary part of the diagnostic process, and not using them could lead to undiagnosed disease. If radiographs are not taken on a regular basis, our ability to detect problems in their early stages and provide minimally invasive treatments is severely hindered. In our office, we use digital radiography which allows us to take higher quality images with significantly reduced radiation exposure. Coupled with computer monitoring, digital x-ray technology allows us to enhance the images for better diagnosis and earlier detection of any dental concerns.