Part of a good oral hygiene routine is regular appointments with your dentist. These appointments, which include cleanings and exams, are key to good oral health. Many people may (wrongly) believe that, if they brush and floss diligently, they can skip routine cleanings. The fact is, even the most careful home cleaning can leave behind traces of plaque and/or food debris, especially in the hard-to-clean areas in the back. These substances are harmful to the teeth because they contain acid-producing bacteria that can damage them. It can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist, so it is important to maintain regular dental appointments.
In addition to cleanings, exams are necessary for good oral hygiene because they are opportunities for your dentist to detect potential problems. Unlike conditions in other parts of the body, oral diseases generally do not present symptoms until they have reached a more advanced stage, at which point they will be more difficult – and expensive – to treat. Catching them early through dental exams allows for early treatment, raising the chances for success.
Cleanings are usually performed by a hygienist. First, he or she will remove built-up plaque and tartar from the teeth surfaces using dental tools. The teeth will then be brushed using a special toothpaste and electric toothbrush. The toothpaste used at a dentist office differs from products available at stores and pharmacies because it is grittier in texture, enabling it to clean and polish the teeth. A professional flossing will remove any remaining traces of plaque or tartar, and the cleaning will end with a rinse.
Your dentist will inspect your teeth and gums for signs of decay or damage, as well as the development of oral diseases such as gum disease. Digital x-rays are usually taken once a year to give your dentist a closer look at what’s going on below the gum line. An oral cancer screening may also be a part of the exam. If any issues are detected, your dentist will discuss them with you near the end of your appointment and provide you with treatment options. Otherwise, he or she may simply encourage you to keep up with your current oral hygiene routine and answer any questions you may have.