No one wants cavities or missing teeth, yet millions of Americans regularly skip or avoid dental exams. Dental anxiety can take some of the blame for this, as dentistry has not always been as patient-centered as it is today. Many people miss appointments under the mistaken assumption that they can identify dental problems on their own. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Dental health conditions can develop silently and intensify for years before a patient might notice anything.
Teeth are Not Like the Rest of Your Body!
The reason why many people put off dental check-ups is that they mistakenly apply the logic of whole body wellness to oral care. We only see the doctor when something goes wrong, but apply that method to your teeth and you are setting yourself up for oral health catastrophes.
With the health of our bodies, we usually get an early indicator if something is malfunctioning. Pain, soreness, or immobility let us know right away if one of our systems is not working properly. Teeth, unfortunately, are built so strong and tough that we don’t get any alerts when bacteria begin to cause damage. If a problem with bacteria and decay gets bad enough to cause pain, then it’s already done serious damage to the structure of our teeth or gums.
What happens during a dental check-up?
Six-month visits are not just a quick scan for developing cavities. There are five main components to a routine six-month appointment, all of which are critical to your long term oral health.
- Dental Cleaning – during a cleaning, a trained, certified hygienist will remove calculus (tartar) from your teeth to prevent cavities from forming. Unlike your daily accumulation of plaque, tartar is not soluble and can only be removed with special dental tools. Why does calculus need to be removed? Simply put, it is the favored food of mouth bacteria and locations that harbor tartar will develop cavities if it is not removed.
- Dental Exam – Dentists and hygienists are the only professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to spot early signs of decay. If you have a cavity severe enough that you can see it, it probably could have been spotted and corrected during a dental exam in its earliest stages.
- Oral Cancer Screening – While lifestyle factors play a great role in the development or oral cancers, genetics and other conditions can also contribute to it. Anyone may develop oral cancer, and your dentist-provided oral cancer screening is the best way to make sure early signs are detected and assessed before they become severe.
- Check for Evidence of Other Conditions – Cavities are not the only oral health problem to be aware of. Gum disease, TMJ disorder, bruxism, and acid erosion can also lead to greater dental problems and ongoing chronic pain. When you get a check-up, tell your dentist if you suffer from other medical conditions, as there is often a link between oral health and medical concerns.
- Preventive Treatments – Often overlooked, fluoride treatments and sealants can actually do a lot of good in preventing cavities from developing. Everyone knows fluoride is good for your teeth, but most people don’t realize that fluoride treatments can remineralize soft-spots on your teeth (pre-cavities, if you will). This can often reverse the start of cavities and prevent damage.
Gum Disease – Unchecked Bacteria Don’t Just Cause Cavities
When we think of going to the dentist, we think of cavities. Dental visits prevent and treat cavities, so we can keep our teeth healthy and strong enough to last us a lifetime. Right?
Unfortunately, it’s not tooth decay that causes people to lose their teeth. Advanced decay can be a contibuting factor, but the main culprit of tooth loss is actually gum disease. This sneaky condition is more common in people over 30, and endemic to patients over 55, and may take years before it gets noticeably intolerable to a patient.
Periodontitis and gingivitis (gum disease’s lesser precursor) happen when mouth bacteria begin colonizing not just the teeth but also the soft tissue at the gum line. As bacteria wreak havoc, gum tissue becomes sensitive, and pockets of bacteria can lead to root decay and erosion of the gums. Most people cannot spot the start of gum disease on their own, and do not know how to treat it best when it does happen. Dental check-ups allow dentists and hygienists to identify the earliest signs of gum disease before it gets out of hand.
Oral Hygiene – You Can’t Do It Alone!
If you think brushing and flossing your teeth every day is enough to keep your teeth healthy, you are only half right. Diligent home care goes a long way to preventing cavities, but it’s not a guarantee. Mouth bacteria streptococcus mutans are persistent and hard to contain. Even the most efficient brushers and flossers need dental exams to spot problems and treat them before they turn isto disasters. When it comes to cavities, the earlier they are spotted the more minimal the repair needs to be. Shallow cavities can usually be repaired quickly without nerve blocks (i.e., novocain shots) or root canal procedures.
At Westside Dental Center, we want your smile to be healthy and strong—but we can only help you keep your teeth free from decay when you bring your family in for regular check-ups. We would love to be your partners in oral health; if you are in the Plantation, FL area, call us today at 954-476-4535 to set up an appointment!