Going to the dentist is hardly on anyone’s list of favorite things to do. After all, dental procedures often require sharp metal objects poking around some of the most sensitive areas in your mouth. However, dental health has an impact on your overall health, and scheduling regular dental cleanings or checkups can prevent complications down the road. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, you may be wondering what’s involved in dental cleanings and how to know it’s time for a dental checkup.
While it’s common to believe people should visit a dentist twice a year, the American Dental Association states that how often to schedule visits should be determined by a dentist. Some individuals do well with two visits a year. Others may have oral health conditions or build plaque at a faster rate than other people — which requires more frequent visits.
How to Know It’s Time For a Dental Checkup
If you haven’t been to the dentist in a year or more, it’s time for a dental checkup. However, signs that something definitely needs special attention include the following:
1. Bleeding Gums
If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, it may be a sign of the early stages of gum disease. Left untreated, it could result in cavities and tooth loss. It’s also crucial to rule out any additional underlying health conditions that may be causing your gums to bleed — such as a vitamin deficiency.
2. Chronic Bad Breath
Bad breath is common right after waking up or after having a meal. But persistent bad breath can be a sign of periodontal disease. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, pockets will start forming between your teeth and gums, where food particles and plaque accumulate. The only way to remove it is to obtain a professional dental cleaning.
3. Molar Pain
These are the teeth at the back of your mouth. Every tooth has several layers — enamel, dentin, and pulp (surface, middle, and internal, respectively). Failing to remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth regularly causes the enamel to erode. Bacteria then continues to the dentin and does the same damage. If bacteria reaches the pulp, you’ll experience intense pain.
4. Tooth Sensitivity
If your teeth are sensitive to either hot or cold foods and drinks, this may mean that the middle layer — the dentin — is exposed. Treating it before bacteria affects the pulp will help prevent cavities.
What’s involved in a dental cleaning?
Prior to starting a dental cleaning, a dental hygienist will take x-rays of all the angles of your mouth — front and sides. This is done to determine whether you have experienced bone loss along your jawline, as well as to spot any existing cysts or tumors, or any other type of oral abnormality.
After the x-rays, the hygienist will conduct a physical examination of your mouth. They will review each tooth individually to determine whether there is any sign of gum disease.
Once the examination is complete, the hygienist will remove any plaque and tartar along pockets in your gumline with an instrument called a scaler. This is considered the least enjoyable part of the cleaning since it’s when you feel poking. If you have a lot of plaque buildup, you will experience bleeding. You’ll also hear scraping sounds as the plaque and tartar are removed from your teeth’s surfaces.
After plaque removal is complete, the hygienist will polish your teeth with a power toothbrush and a gritty toothpaste. This process is completely painless, and your teeth will feel noticeably smoother afterward. The hygienist will then thoroughly floss around every tooth.
The final steps include a fluoride treatment — which is applied to the teeth with what looks like a long cotton swab. When the treatment is done, you’ll get to rinse your mouth with water and spit into a small basin next to your chair. When this step is completed, the hygienist or a dentist will do a final visual inspection of your teeth.
If It’s Time to See a Dentist, Let Us Help You
At St. Hope, we believe that treating people with compassion is as important as any medication they receive. We foster a trusting patient/medical provider relationship to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors feels comfortable and receives the care they deserve.