Dentistry has changed significantly from treatment to prevention within the last decade. With this in mind, dental exams are important. Dental exams should be performed every six months or twice a year.This will allow dentists to detect cavities, analyze the gums, and look for any abnormalities inside and outside of the mouth (head and neck). This is important because there are many problems that are obvious in the oral cavity that produces pain or sensitivity, but some may be asymptomatic. These asymptomatic issues are dangerous because it may go unnoticed until advanced stages of diseases or infections. Cavities, gum diseases, and oral cancer are examples that present in the oral cavity that can be prevented.
Patients that have a low risk for cavities with no other systemic or oral health issues should maintain six-month dental exams. However, patients with a high risk for cavities, smokers, pregnant women, diabetics, current gum diseases, stressed patients, and people with autoimmune diseases should see the dentist more often.
X-rays, also known as radiographs, are extremely important in dentistry. As enamel is the hardest part of the body, x-rays absorb on teeth, while x-rays pass through the soft tissue. There are two types of radiographs: intraoral (inside the mouth) and extraoral (outside the mouth). Intraoral radiographs detect cavities, examine roots of teeth and the bone surrounding the teeth, locate teeth developing in children, and maintain proper oral health. Extraoral radiographs check the jaw, the occlusion of the jaw, nasal area, location of teeth, and sinuses. Digital dental x-rays can be controversial. However, studies and literature have proven that the amount of radiation produced in dental x-rays are insignificant, especially in today's digital dental x-rays. High speed films that dentists use today prevent less scatter radiation than years ago. Furthermore, a lead apron is worn during every exposure and radiation is only exposed when necessary.
Why do you need to get your teeth cleaned every six months? Dental cleanings are critical for prevention. Numerous bacteria attach to teeth after eating and drinking. Proper brushing and flossing can prevent accumulation of most plaque. However, not all thousands of bacteria sitting in the mouth can be removed. This is why professional dental cleanings are important. When plaque calcifies and hardens, this is called calculus. Calculus can not be removed with an ordinary toothbrush, however special instruments at the dental office can remove calculus. If plaque and calculus remain on the teeth and under the gums, this can cause issues such as cavities and gum diseases. Certain gum diseases are non-reversible and can only be maintained. In this case, cleanings should be done every three months to prevent further diseases from progression.
During a dental exam, dentists check the oral cavity for oral cancer. The mouth
can show early signs and symptoms of oral cancer that can prevent the cancer
from progression. Areas, such as the tongue and soft tissue, are common places
that oral cancer can occur. Not all abnormal activity located in these areas are
harmful. Within a week, these abnormalities should go away. However, if the
abnormalities worsen or spread, it would be advised to make an appointment with the dentist.
Dental crowns is a fixed prosthetic device that looks like a natural tooth. This means that crowns are permanently placed in the mouth and not able to be removed. Crowns cover damaged or unaesthetic teeth and are also placed on top of implants. Porcelain or ceramic crowns are typically used to match the other teeth's natural color.
Dental fillings are placed when there is a small or moderate cavity. There are many different types of fillings used today in dentistry. Fillings, such as amalgam, are more durable and should typically be placed on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Fillings that are the color of natural teeth (composite) are beneficial for cavities at visible locations of a smile. These fillings may not be as durable as other fillings, but they are not as noticeable.
Bridges are beneficial to patients that have more than one missing teeth
adjacent to one other. It is important to fill in these missing teeth spaces
because teeth surrounding these open spaces will shift to fill in the empty
space. Within time, this will misalign the bite and create more issues, such
as gum diseases and TMJ (jaw problems). Bridges work by anchoring on
natural teeth (abutments) on both sides of the missing space or with
implants. Then a replacement tooth (pontic) is attached in the middle
of the open space of the two abutments.
Dentures have been in dentistry for several years to replace missing teeth. Dentures are custom made to fit the patient's mouth. Benefits of dentures include an aesthetic smile, eat and speak more properly, and support facial muscles from drooping.
Tips for Taking Care of Dentures:
Gum disease is the inflammation of the gums that can effect the bone that surrounds the teeth. There are three stages of gum disease: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis, which is the most complex. Gum disease can be asymptomatic until advanced stages. Below are signs and symptoms to be aware of.
Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease:
If you are diagnosed with a gum disease, professional-care and home-care are important. Professional cleanings, or if necessary, a deep cleaning, are two common treatments performed for gum disease. It is important with gum disease to have proper oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing should be done twice a day. Also, an antimicrobial rinse may be prescribed by a dentist.
Root Canals are used to repair damaged or infected
teeth. If a dentist suspects a tooth needs a root canal,
the dentist will first take an x-ray to check the tooth
and the root tip. If the tooth does need a root canal
treatment, the dentist will then use local anesthesia
at the site. Next, the damaged tooth structure (pulp) is removed and then the root canal is cleaned and disinfected. Lastly, the root canal is filled with gutta-percha and then sealed by cement. The most common cause of a root canal is a cracked tooth, deep cavity, and excessive dental treatment or trauma to the tooth.
TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is the joint that connects the temporal bones of the skull to the jaw. This occurs when there are problems with the muscles and jaws in the face.
Signs and Symptoms of TMJ:
Treatment of TMJ:
It is recommended for children to visit the dentist as soon as the first tooth is erupted or when the child is one to two years old. This will remove any plaque or food debris on the child's teeth. This is important because if the bacteria remains in the mouth, this can lead to dental diseases. At this visit, the dentist will also give tips on how to take care of your child's teeth at home. Proper brushing, flossing and nutrition will be discussed to the parents/caregivers. Sealants and fluoride treatments also benefit children by protecting their teeth from cavities. Although baby teeth fall out, the baby teeth impact the permanent teeth and should be cared for correctly.
William E. Garver, D.D.S.
Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
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