Professional dental cleanings performed by your dentist or a certified hygienist provides the foundation for preventing gum disease and tooth decay. During a professional cleanings, your dentist or hygienist:
- Removes plaque from the teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria. Plaque sticks to teeth and causes tooth decay and gum (periodontal) disease.
- Removes calculus, or tartar, above the gum line. Calculus is plaque that has hardened on the tooth surface and is difficult to remove. (Calculus below the gum line indicates gum (periodontal) disease and requires a different procedure to remove it.)
- Polishes and removes stains from teeth.
The American Dental Association recommends you see your dentist for checkups twice a year. Dental examinations help to diagnose disease before it becomes hazardous to your health.
Regular examinations can save you time and money by alleviating problems while they are small and before they become expensive to repair, or in some cases, impossible to repair. For example, left untreated, a small cavity can grow to destroy an entire tooth and then spread to surrounding teeth.
Your dental examinations generally include the following:
- Oral cancer screening. Oral cancer causes more than 7500 deaths each year. That means every hour of every day, one American dies of oral cancer. When it is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective.
- Periodontal (Gum) disease evaluation. Advanced gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss for American adults.
- Visual examination for tooth decay, cracks, and unusual wear and enamel erosion.
- Visual examination of existing restorations (fillings, crowns, bridges, and other dental work). Over time older dental work wears out and needs to be replaced.
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays to see cysts, tumors, invisible decay, and other problems that can’t be seen by the naked eye.
Regular Cleanings and Exams are Important
We cannot express enough how important it is to see your dentist regularly. Remember, preventing disease is always better than treating disease.