Cleaning & Prevention
Prevention and early detection are the key to avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. A good home regimen, in addition to regular cleanings and exams, can prevent many expensive dental treatments. Prevention starts with controlling plaque, a colorless bacteria that sticks to the surface of your teeth, and calculus, a harder mineral deposit. These are the main sources of decay and periodontal disease. By maintaining a proper routine of daily hygiene, you can prevent most oral disease. Our hygienists are available to assist you with your hygiene and management of your gums.
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Regular dental cleanings, performed by a registered dental hygienist, are a crucial part of preventive dental care. By removing plaque and tartar, your oral health is enhanced and your risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease are reduced. Your dental hygienist will utilize manual instruments to remove moderate plaque and tartar buildup, or an ultrasonic device to scale away heavier buildup. The cleaning is finished with polishing, a pleasant procedure that cleans the surface of teeth, removes stains, and leaves the mouth feeling clean and refreshed.
No matter how diligent you are in your home dental care regimen, you should still get a dental exam and cleaning at least twice per year. The importance of regular dental exams cannot be overemphasized - dental exams are the cornerstone of good dental health. In particular, regular checkups are essential for early detection of more serious problems. Early detection makes treatment easier, less expensive and more successful and effective. In your dental exam, Dr. Shriver will perform the following routine checks:
- Examine and assess gum health; check for gum disease.
- Diagnose any existing tooth decay.
- When indicated, take and analyze x-rays, which may reveal decay, bone loss, abscesses, tumors, cysts, and other problems.
- Screen for the presence of oral cancer.
- Verify the stability of any existing fillings or other restorations.
- Inform you of all findings and make treatment recommendations.
As damaging as plaque can be, it is easily removed by mechanical brushing. Plaque deposits build up on the teeth fairly quickly after eating and drinking, and if they are not brushed away at least twice a day, they can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. It takes just one day for bacteria to build up enough to make your mouth susceptible to disease.
Daily flossing is an effective way to clean teeth where regular brushing can't reach. To floss properly, take 18" of dental floss, wrap it around the middle finger of each hand, and pinch it between your thumb and index finger. Pull the floss taut, then slide it gently between each tooth and under the gum line. Slide the floss up and down the side of each tooth to remove plaque buildup. Be sure to use a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
Over-the-counter mouth rinses can help to fight bad breath, remove loose food particles after brushing, and freshen the mouth. However, mouth rinses are never a substitute for brushing, flossing, or regular dental examinations, and may disguise warning signs of periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is the initial stage of periodontal disease, when only the gum tissue is affected. Plaque and tartar buildup with its associated bacteria, causes inflamed bleeding gums. The good news is, gingivitis is easily reversible. A thorough cleaning, followed by regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing, restores gums to good health.
Periodontal disease (periodontitis) is an infection that is marked by the breakdown of structures that surround and secure the teeth. This includes bone, gums, and ligament fibers. Periodontal disease is usually a result of untreated plaque buildup but is made worse by several additional factors. Heredity, smoking, diabetes and health issues, poor diet, stress, bad habits, and clenching/grinding are among the worst offenders. Despite the fact that periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults, modern treatment and prevention can often preserve teeth indefinitely.
Early signs of gum disease (gingivitis) include redness, tenderness, bleeding, and inflammation around the gum line. Generally at this stage, a good cleaning and improved thoroughness and frequency of daily oral hygiene habits will resolve things. Dr. Shriver and a hygienist will check for hardened plaque, called tartar or calculus, above and below the gum line and may use a tool called a probe to test gums for bleeding and to measure periodontal pocket depths . All teeth have a natural crevice in the gum area surrounding them. If that crevice is deeper than 3 millimeters (a pocket), it becomes increasingly difficult to adequately clean around the tooth, and progression from gingivitis to periodontitis (periodontal disease) becomes a concern. Simply said, gingivitis is disease confined to the gum tissue and periodontitis is a progression of that disease to the bone and ligament tissue.
Deep cleaning procedures (called scaling and root planing) can effectively arrest moderate periodontal disease by removing the deposits that harbor germs which cause infection. Through this, a healthier environment is created, which is easier for you to maintain. These procedures are generally done a portion of your mouth at a time while you are numb with local anesthetic. For more severe cases, root planing might need to be followed up with some surgical procedures performed by a specialist (periodontist) to fully arrest the disease. An increased frequency of professional cleanings is typically indicated for people who have been treated for gum disease.