Teeth Cleaning (Prophylaxis)
How often should I have my teeth cleaned?
Everyone’s individual cleaning needs are different. Typically, a cleaning every 6 months removes calculus (tartar) and plaque buildup from the teeth that can cause periodontal disease (gum disease). However, patients who have an increased build-up of calculus, many dental restorations, periodontal disease or increased rate of decay may need to have cleanings done more regularly to keep these conditions in check.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is reversible inflammation due to plaque. The gum tissue is red and slightly to moderately swollen and may bleed. After proper cleaning and good oral hygiene habits, the condition reverses and the gum tissue turns pink and no longer bleeds when the teeth are brushed or flossed.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is permanent bone loss of the supporting bone that holds your teeth firmly in the jaw. It is a result of inflammation due to tarter build-up and chronic infection of the gums. Untreated periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, pregnancy concerns, prostate cancer and many other health conditions . Some signs of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Loose teeth or teeth that have moved
- Pus coming from around the teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Tender gums
- Bleeding gums
Do I really need radiographs (x-rays) taken?
Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be properly diagnosed without radiographs. Furthermore, it is important to establish a radiographic record and periodic check films so that comparisons can be made over time to check disease progression. A radiograph may reveal:
- small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings)
- infections in the bone
- periodontal (gum) disease
- abscesses or cysts
- developmental abnormalities
- some types of tumors
Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and often unnecessary discomfort. Radiographs can detect damage to oral structures not visible during a regular exam. If you have a hidden tumor, X-rays may even help save your life. The dentist will evaluate your individual need for radiographs based on your dental history.
Are electric toothbrushes better than manual brushes?
If a manual toothbrush is used for the appropriate amount of time, and done with proper technique, it can perform just as well as a powered toothbrush. But many people don’t brush for the recommended two to three minutes. Children are also good candidates for powered brushes as their brushing habits tend to be less than optimal.
While everyone certainly does not need an electric toothbrush, in many instances they can be beneficial. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about which brush is best for you.
What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?
Sealants are a thin, resin coating that is applied to the fine grooves of the tooth. It is these grooves which cavities often start especially in young patients or teeth newly erupted. It is usually applied to the back teeth (molars) as a preventative measure. The liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. Sealants can last many years and wear off in time without need for additional treatment
Children should be evaluated individually for sealants. Sealants are recommended for patients that history of cavities on their baby teeth, inadequate hygiene, diet and /or especially deep grooves. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14. Sealants need to be checked for chipping or wearing at regular dental check-ups.
Do whitening strips and gels over-the-counter work?
Both of these products contain peroxide in a concentration that is much lower than the peroxide-based products that are used in your dentist’s office. Although some teeth lightening will be achieved, the degree of whitening is much lower than results achieved with in-office or dentist-supervised whitening systems. Additionally, use of over-the-counter products do not benefit from the close supervision of your dentist to check on your whitening progress and address any concerns during the whitening process.
Does sensitive toothpaste really work?
Sensitivity toothpaste, which contains strontium chloride or potassium nitrate are somewhat effective in treating sensitive teeth. After a few weeks of use, you may notice a decrease in sensitivity. If you do not get relief by brushing gently and using desensitizing toothpaste, see your dentist to determine the cause of your sensitivity. For some patient’s sensitivity can be caused by clenching and grinding. Our team is trained to answer questions about clenching, grinding and specific treatments such as DTR therapy.