Dental checkups and cleanings once or twice a year are critical, whether you’ve had a dozen cavities or no cavities. These appointments serve many purposes, from catching certain oral diseases before they get worse, to oral cancer prevention, to a professional deep cleaning of your teeth. We can’t see everything going on in our mouths just by looking in the mirror, but a dentist with the right tools, experience, and technology, can. Two trips to the dentist a year is usually enough, but if you have a history of dental issues or you’re at a higher risk for certain oral diseases, your dentist may want you to come in more frequently.
Here’s what you can expect at a routine dental examination:
Examining the teeth
Before using any instruments or treatments on your teeth, first the hygienist or dentist will take a look around the inside of your mouth. They will use a small mirror and sometimes a little probe for the exam. They are looking for signs of tooth decay and swollen, red gums. They will measure the depth of your gum pockets. If the pockets are deep and you have swollen, red gums, those are symptoms of gum disease. They will examine your bite and see if any of your teeth show signs of tooth grinding or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). They will also do an oral cancer exam, by checking your neck, lymph glands and all the soft tissues of your mouth for anything that looks like it could be the start of something suspicious.
X-rays or CT imaging of the teeth
At least once a year, your dentist will order dental X-rays be taken of your teeth, jaw, and surrounding tissues. These X-rays can help diagnose a number of problems and foresee potential issues and prevent them from happening, such as cavities, issues below the gum line, and bone loss. A full-mouth series of X-rays is most often done during a person’s first trip to the dentist. Bitewing X-rays are used during checkups to look for tooth decay, and panoramic X-rays may be used occasionally to find issues with a person’s bite or jaw alignment.
Cleaning the teeth
To begin the cleaning process, the dental hygienist will first use an instrument called a scaler. This instrument looks like a blade and is used to scrape tartar off the teeth above and along the gumline. If there is a large amount of plaque present, the hygienist may use a vibrating device to shake loose some stubborn plaque and tartar. After this, the hygienist will rinse any excess away with a water stream. Then the hygienist will polish your teeth using a gritty paste. They will also floss your teeth and show you the best techniques for flossing and reaching difficult areas. The last step is typically applying fluoride to the teeth, which helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth.
If you live or work in the north Phoenix area and are looking for a trusted dentist, give us a call today to schedule FREE consultation: (602) 482-5100.