Preventive dental care involves the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of conditions, disorders and diseases affecting the teeth, gums and jaws.
Complete dental examination and diagnosis: Oral examination is a complete visual inspection of the oral cavity, with any necessary X-rays complete exam will be done under magnification to know the condition of teeth, gums and underlying bone.
Dental Exams and Cleaning
A comprehensive dental exam will be performed by your dentist at your initial dental visit. At regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include the following:
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumours, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
- Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
- Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
- Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
Professional Dental Cleaning
Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are usually performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam and the following:
- Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
- Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
- Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
Dental radiographs (X-rays) are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without X-rays, problem areas may go undetected.
Dental X-rays may reveal:
- Abscesses or cysts
- Bone loss
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumours
- Decay between the teeth
- Developmental abnormalities
- Poor tooth and root positions
- Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental X-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of X-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources.
Dental X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental X-rays. These precautions include using lead apron shields to protect the body and using modern, fast film that cuts down the exposure time of each X-ray.
How often should dental X-rays be taken?
The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary X-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease.
A full mouth series of dental X-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing X-rays (X-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.
X-rays (radiographs) are the most common and widely available diagnostic imaging technique. Dental X-rays are pictures of the teeth, bones, and surrounding soft tissues to help find problems with teeth and bone.
Radiovisiography (RVG): RVG is the latest X-ray technology in dentistry which helps in a better diagnosis. A high quality digital image can be obtained immediately. As compared to the conventional X-ray there is reduced radiation exposure to the patient.
Digital radiography: It is a novel method of medical imaging which uses digital X-ray sensors instead of conventional films to produce images. This technology provides faster imaging, detailed radiographs and quality digital images. Digital radiography constitutes a system with components that include a digital image receptor, a digital image processing unit, an image management system, image and data storage devices, interface to a patient information system, a communication network and a display device with operated controls. Digital radiographs are stored in the form of digital data and can be displayed on a computer monitor.
An Orthopantomogram (OPG) or panoramic dental X-ray can show a wide view of jaws, teeth and roots. It displays the nasal area, maxillary sinuses, jaw joints, teeth, upper jaw, lower jaw and surrounding bone on a single film. OPGs are used by Dentists to determine the status of wisdom teeth, to reveal cysts, tumours, bone irregularities and more.
Fluoride is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health and professional organisations.
Fluoride works in two ways:
Topical fluoride strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surface of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to decay. We gain topical fluoride by using fluoride containing dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and gels. Dentists and dental hygienists generally recommend that children have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups.
Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. It is also available as a supplement in drop or gel form and can be prescribed by your dentist or physician. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants, and tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years. It is very important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.
Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. Your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
- Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth
- Exposed and sensitive root surfaces
- Fair to poor oral hygiene habits
- Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake
- Inadequate exposure to fluorides
- Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications
- Recent history of dental decay
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit your dentist on a regular basis.
A sealant is a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth. More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits.
Reasons for sealants:
- Children and teenagers – As soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16.
- Adults – Tooth surfaces without decay that has deep grooves or depressions.
- Baby teeth – Occasionally done if teeth have deep grooves or depressions and child is cavity prone.
What do sealants involve?
Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or dental hygienist and the process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.
The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth. The teeth are then rinsed and dried. Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions. Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light.
Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.
Brush and Floss
Brushing and flossing are important components of your oral hygiene routine. Tooth decay and gum disease are prevented through the maintenance of good oral hygiene.
Important points to remember while brushing include:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. An electric toothbrush may also be used.
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums and move the brush in a back and forth motion, gently.
- Brush the outer side of teeth followed by the inner side and then the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Move the tip of the brush in an up-and-down motion to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth.
- Use disclosing tablets, at regular periods, to reveals any plaque left on your teeth
- Replace your toothbrush every three months or earlier, if the bristles begin to fray out
Flossing is essential to remove the accumulated plaque (sticky substance that forms on the teeth) between your teeth. You may notice some bleeding in your gums during flossing, which usually improves with continued flossing as the gums become tighter.
Follow these steps to floss your teeth:
- Floss your teeth at least once a day
- Cut 18 inches of dental floss and wind it around the middle finger of one hand and the rest around the middle finger of the other (Finger Wrap Method)
- Hold the floss between the thumbs and forefingers and insert it between the teeth, toward the gums
- Curve the floss into a U shape against each tooth and gently slide it below the gum line.
- Move the floss mildly up and down to scrape off the plaque
- For flossing upper teeth, use 12 inches floss and tie the ends together to form a loop (Circle or Loop Method)
Regular brushing and flossing can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, bad oral odour, accumulation of tooth stains, reduce the need for fillings or other expensive treatment, and can help improve the overall health of your body.
Brush and floss regularly, eat a well-balanced diet, and visit your dentist for regular dental check-ups, in order to maintain a good dental health. Your teeth may last you a lifetime if you practice basic dental care.
Oral Hygiene Aids
Oral hygiene aids are tools used to keep your teeth and gums healthy and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Some of the common oral hygiene aids include:
Toothbrushes: There are a wide range of toothbrushes available. Dentists generally recommend electric toothbrushes as they are more efficient than the manual ones. Electric toothbrushes have a rotating or vibrating motion to help remove plaque and food particles around the teeth and gums. Replace your manual toothbrush every three months or earlier, if the bristles begin to fray out. Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted soft-bristled brush.
Dental Floss: Dental floss is commonly used to remove the food particles and plaque accumulated between your teeth. The dental floss is made from nylon filaments or ribbon composed of polyethylene and is available in a range of colours and flavours. It is advised to floss your teeth at least twice a day, after brushing. Care should be taken during flossing, as vigorous flossing can damage your gum tissue and cause bleeding gums.
Inter-dental Cleaners: In addition to dental floss, your dentist may also recommend use of miniature brushes, called inter-dental brushes or cleaners. Inter-dental brushes are available in different sizes and gently clean the sides and the spaces between the teeth.
Tongue Cleaners: A tongue cleaner is an oral hygiene aid used to eliminate fungi, bacterial build-up, and food debris from the tongue’s surface. The bacteria and fungi that grow on the tongue are associated with bad breath (halitosis) and general health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and stroke. Tongue cleaners are usually made of metal or plastic and are designed to fit the shape of your tongue. Tongue cleaning should be followed by brushing to avoid absorption of dislodged bacteria and fungi.
Rubber Tip Stimulator: Rubber tip stimulators are highly effective oral hygiene aids to remove plaque around the gum line and stimulate blood flow in the gum tissue. Use the rubber stimulator to gently trace along the inner and outer gum line. It should be stored in a cool dry place and used once daily. The tip needs to be replaced when it begins to wear out.
Oral irrigators: An oral irrigator, also called a water jet or water pick, is a device used to remove the debris below the gum line. By continuously spraying tiny jets of water into the pockets of the gum, oral irrigators can remove harmful bacteria and food particles and reduce the risk of gum disease. These tools should be used in addition to brushing and flossing and not as an alternative. Professional dental cleaning is recommended at least twice a year to remove deeper debris.
Mouth Rinses: Mouth rinses are classified into two categories – therapeutic and cosmetic. Therapeutic rinses may require a prescription and contain active ingredients that fight cavities, bad breath, and plaque to prevent gum disease. Cosmetic rinses may temporarily control or reduce bad breath and are available without a prescription. Generally, mouth rinsing should be done after brushing.
To prevent future dental problems oral homecare procedures should be practiced on a daily basis. Consult your dentist for any queries regarding oral hygiene aids.