The ADA recommends that patients have routine dental exams every 6 months to ensure proper oral health and hygiene. “Preventative maintenance” is a popular phrase in the medical field, and dentistry is no different. Regular dental cleanings, check-ups, and maintenance exams greatly increases the likelihood that the onset of dental problems, such as common oral diseases, are detected early on. This results in simpler, shorter, and less expensive dental solutions. Regular dental cleanings are also essential for helping fight against gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.
There are several components to each dental exam and cleaning. The appointment typically starts with the hygienist taking any necessary x-rays. X-ray frequency can vary from patient to patient, but patients typically require annual “bite-wing” x-rays. They less frequently require “panoramic” or “full-mouth” x-rays. Bite-wing x-rays allow the dentist to check for cavities in between the teeth that can’t be detected visually or via instrumentation. A panoramic x-ray is a large film that shows both the upper and lower jaws and the roots of every tooth.
The next step in the appointment is the periodontal exam performed by the hygienist. The hygienist visually inspects the gums and then takes and records specific measurements of the tissue. These measurements give the dentist and hygienist a good indication of the overall health of both the gums and the underlying bone that supports both the gums and the teeth. Although it is often painless, gum disease can have serious long-term effects not only in the oral cavity, but throughout the body. This is why it is so important to routinely check and measure the gum tissues to ensure that gum disease can be stopped very early in the disease process.
After the periodontal exam, the hygienist continues the appointment by cleaning and flossing the teeth. Special instruments are used to remove hardened plaque (also known as tartar or calculus) from the sides of the teeth. Calculus irritates the gum tissue and causes inflammation and bleeding if it isn’t professionally removed. The regular removal of calculus deposits is essential for long-term oral health. The hygienist finishes the cleaning by polishing the teeth and flossing.
The final part of the appointment is the exam by Dr. Romenesko. Dr. Romenesko will review the x-rays and findings from the periodontal exam and make any necessary recommendations. The doctor then visually inspects the teeth and gum tissues and checks old restorations and grooves in the teeth with an instrument. After every exam, the doctor finishes the appointment with an oral cancer screening. The oral cancer screening is yet another reason why regular preventative maintenance is so important.
If you have any questions about routine exams and cleanings please don’t hesitate to ask our staff!