Like most people, you probably spend from 30 to 60 seconds brushing your teeth. That simply is not enough time to remove plaque effectively to maintain good oral health. It’s likely that you floss sporadically, if at all. Yet floss removes much of the plaque at the gum line and between the teeth that is most likely to lead to decay and periodontal disease.
The bacteria in plaque produce acid that can eat right through tooth enamel (the hard, protective covering on your teeth), opening the way for cavities to develop. Plaque also causes infection of the gums, leading to gum disease, which in its early stage is called gingivitis.
A vital link in the chain of prevention is regular visits to see Dr. Tully and your hygienist. Make it a point to see our office for regular checkups and professional cleanings at least twice a year, more often if recommended. The number of essential visits depends on the individual. Some people, for instance, form plaque and tartar at a faster rate and may need professional cleaning more often to maintain good periodontal health.
During a regular visit, plaque and tartar will be removed from the teeth and Dr. Tully and your hygienist will also check for any signs that could be indicative of an oral problem. Regular visits also gives the dentist and hygienist the opportunity to check for signs of periodontal disease, which often develops with symptoms that are invisible or that would be missed by an untrained eye. Untreated and unrecognized periodontal disease is an infection which may lead to the loss of teeth over time if not treated.
During checkups, Dr. Tully or your hygienist uses an instrument called a periodontal probe to determine if there is any breakdown in the attachment of the gums to the teeth or early development of pockets between the gums and teeth. The depth of pockets is measured in millimeters with this thin measured instrument. Generally, up to three millimeters’ depth is considered normal. Anything deeper may be an indication that plaque removal needs to be improved in a particular area of the mouth. Deeper periodontal pockets may require deeper scaling and root planning to remove the excessive deposits. Periodontal treatment allows the hygienist to deep clean the pockets allowing the gum tissue to heal. The hygienist may also place medications into deeper pockets to facilitate good pocket healing. The hygienist may also take x-rays if there is concern over possible bone destruction.
Dr. Tully also performs a dental exam to gather information about your oral health. Checking for dental decay is only a small part of the complete oral exam. Dr. Tully also check s for gum disease and also examines the health of your entire mouth and the surrounding soft tissues, which includes checking for such things as precancerous or cancerous lesions; oral sores or irritations to gum tissue; fit of dentures or bridges; and proper bite. Dr. Tully and your hygienist will look for and feel your neck and oral tissues for lumps, masses, growths, red or white patches or recurring sore areas. This is all part of our cancer screenings. Medical and dental histories are also obtained, along with diagnostic information from x-rays, laboratory or other tests. Oral health is integrally connected with your general health. Checkups are important because some diseases or medical conditions have signs that can appear in the mouth. Diabetes, nutritional and vitamin deficiencies and hormonal irregularities are some examples.
In the end, it has always been our office’s goal to be proactive in maintaining good oral health with preventative treatment and maintenance.
Source: American Dental Association – Keeping your Dental Health