Having one’s teeth cleaned is one of the most familiar dental procedures for most people. Modern tools such as ultrasonic cleaning devices have improved the comfort of these procedures for many people. For those who may be more comfortable with more traditional instruments, that option is available as well. A regular cleaning appointment with a dental hygienist can be a very effective tool for fighting gum disease and also provides an opportunity for your dentist to make sure everything else is healthy in your mouth.
More advanced gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is now recognized as one of the leading causes of poor health. It is the root of a host of serious medical problems, including heart disease, respiratory problems, and is now even linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, people suffering from periodontal disease experience twice as many fatal heart attacks as those without. In addition, periodontal disease contributes to low birth weight or premature babies and is interrelated with diabetes.
As a general practice dental office in White Rock, we provide preventive dentistry to fight periodontal disease. Regular hygiene appointments help – but you must do your part at home too, by following the advice of your dental professionals and cleaning your teeth well. Your heart will thank you!
Dental Exam and Cleanings
At your first dental visit, a complete dental exam will be done by your dentist. At that time and at following regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include:
Diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): to find decay, tumours, cysts, bone loss and tooth positions.
Oral cancer screening: to check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
Gum disease evaluation: to check your gums and bone around your teeth for any signs of periodontal (gum) disease.
Examination of tooth surfaces: to check for decay with special dental instruments.
Examination of existing restorations: to check your fillings, crowns, veneers etc.
Professional Dental Cleaning
Professional dental cleanings (scaling, root planing and polishing) are done by registered dental hygienists. Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam by the dentist and:
Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque formed on the tooth and will be firmly attached. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can be removed with appropriate 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 that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease and can affect your general health!
Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during toothbrushing 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
Cancerous and noncancerous tumors
Decay between the teeth
Poor tooth and root positions
Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line
Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer kills one person every hour, 24 hours per day in North America, and its incidence is increasing. Unlike many other forms of cancer, the survival rate has not improved significantly in decades. The 5-year survival rate is relatively low, at 52%, but increases dramatically to 80-90% when the cancer is detected in its early stages. Unfortunately, only about 35% of cases are diagnosed in the early stages. This sad fact is because most cancers start below the surface of the tissues in the mouth, where the naked eye cannot detect them. Until recently, there have been few advances in cancer screening technology.
At our dental practice, we take the health of our patients very seriously. We are happy to provide our patients with the latest in oral cancer screening technology, the Velscope. The Velscope uses a specific wavelength of light that causes healthy tissue to fluoresce or glow when observed through a special lens. Unhealthy tissue shows as a dark shadow and indicates the need for further investigation. Fortunately, not every shadow means cancer; something as simple as a pizza burn can show up as a dark patch. If we find something unusual, we will usually have you back for a second screening two weeks later to see if the shadow is still present. If it is, further testing is then required to determine the exact nature of the dark spot.
We recommend that our patients undergo screening with the Velscope once per year, as per the recommendation of our medical doctor colleagues. We also usually recommend an X-ray that shows the jaws every five years to screen for cysts and other problems that occasionally appear in the jaw bones.
For more information on the Velscope and cancer screening, please visit www.velscope.com.