Routine dental cleanings are important to maintaining good oral hygiene. Professional cleaning by a hygienist can remove mineralized plaque that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, particularly in areas that are difficult to reach. It is recommended you go in for a cleaning once every six months.
You can expect your dental cleaning to last between 30 minutes and an hour. Typically, a trained hygienist will do the cleaning, and a dentist may come in for an exam at the end. Most people find that dental cleanings are painless, and do not cause any discomfort. There are two important steps to a dental cleaning. The first step is scaling the teeth, whereby the hygienist will remove the plaque and tartar from the tooth surfaces. This can be performed by hand or with electric scalers depending on the hygienist's preference. Typically, the hygienist will also clean the pockets of the gums to remove any plaque buildup there. The second step is polishing to remove any final plaque and buff the teeth. Polishers generally have several different-sized heads to clean hard-to-reach places.
Routine dental exams are important to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Additionally, they can help to avoid the financial costs associated with large treatment plans later on. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends twice-yearly checkups for people of all ages. At this frequency, most problems can be caught while they remain in an early stage.
How it's done
The dentist first examines your mouth visually, using dental equipment such as mouth mirrors, assorted dental tools, and high-intensity lights. They will look for cracked and decayed teeth, as well as review other important items such as:
Additionally, your dentist will take diagnostic x-rays to reveal any other hidden problems, especially in the areas below the gums. Bitewing x-rays are typically taken every 12 months and a panographic x-ray, which revolves around the head, is taken every 3-5 years.
When treating a cavity, the dentist will remove the decayed portion of your tooth and fill it with another substance. This procedure is called a filling. There are multiple options for the material to be used in the filling, the most common of which are composite fillings and amalgam fillings.
A composite filling is also known as a tooth-colored filling since the material used in the filling can be closely matched to the color of your teeth. Composite fillings provide good durability for small to medium cavities, and the procedure typically involves removing less of a tooth than you would during an amalgam filling. They are also particularly well suited for treating front or highly visible teeth because of their natural look.
A composite filling is used for:
After the dentist numbs the area where the filling is to be placed, he will remove any decayed portions. A substance is then applied to help open up the pores of your teeth for a stronger bond and hardened and cured with a special light. Once this is complete, the filling is applied in thin layers to slowly form the complete filling. After the composite has hardened, the filling will be smoothened and polished to be comfortable and fit your bite.
Root canal therapy is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that has been infected due to a deep cavity or cracked tooth. The treatment involves removing the pulp and the nerves of the tooth and cleaning the infected area. A tooth's pulp and nerve are not important to a tooth's health and function after the tooth has fully emerged from the gums. If the treatment is not performed, bacteria builds up at the root tip and the infection of the pulp can spread to the surrounding bone. This results in pain and swelling, and your tooth would likely have to be removed.
Here are some signs that a root canal is needed:
First, an opening is made into the pulp chamber through the crown of the tooth. Once the pulp is removed, the root canal is thoroughly cleaned. If the dentist decides to complete the root canal therapy in multiple visits, a temporary filling will be placed to protect the tooth. When you return, the dentist will remove the temporary filling, re-clean the root canal and pulp chamber, and place a permanent filling and/or crown over the tooth.
Root canal therapy has a high rate of success and many teeth undergoing the procedure can be saved to last a lifetime. Additionally, the crown or filling placed at the completion of the procedure makes it hard to notice by others that you had the treatment.
A dental extraction is a procedure to remove a tooth from your mouth. A dental extraction is most commonly required if one of your teeth is damaged beyond practical repair. The most common reasons for tooth extractions include:
Your dentist will first administer an anesthetic to numb the area and reduce discomfort. During the extraction, you will feel the pressure of the tooth being removed, but will not feel any pain. Typically, the dentist is able to remove your tooth within a matter of minutes.
Immediately after the tooth extraction, a small amount of bleeding is normal and a patch of gauze will be placed in the affected area. The area may bleed minimally for the next 24 hours or so and taper off after that. Follow your dentist's instructions on how often to change the gauze, and what other post-procedure steps to follow.