Dental Exams and Cleanings

Preventing Problems Before They Start

The health of your teeth and mouth is very important to the well-being of your entire body, and while routine brushing and flossing at home is necessary to keep your smile looking its best, visiting your dentist for a comprehensive exam and cleaning is essential. The American Dental Association recommends that you visit your dentist every six months to ensure your teeth stay healthy and your smile stays beautiful.

By routinely seeing your dentist for exams and cleanings, you can:

  • Prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath
  • Save money by avoiding costly and extensive dental procedures
  • Keep your teeth white by reducing staining from food and drinks
  • Shorten the time spent in your dentist's office
  • Have a smile that will last a lifetime

The Exam

During your exam, your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other health problems. Your dentist may also want to take X-rays to see what is happening beneath the surface of your teeth and gums. Whether these X-rays are traditional or digital, the images provided will help your dentist discover dental issues not visible to the naked eye.

Professional Cleanings

Your dental hygienist will begin your cleaning by exploring the surface of your teeth to determine if you have any cavities and to examine the quality of existing fillings. The dental hygienist will then perform a periodontal exam to make sure your gums adhere tightly to your teeth, and no periodontal disease or bone loss may be occurring.

Next, your hygienist will carefully clean your teeth with a variety of tools to remove any hard mineral buildup (tartar) from your teeth. Then your hygienist will floss your teeth, use a polishing compound, and apply fluoride. Cleanings usually aren't painful, but if you have any anxiety about your dental exam, be sure to let your hygienist know. They may offer several sedation options to ensure your comfort. If your dentist or hygienist finds tooth decay or gum disease, they will talk to you about changing your brushing or flossing habits. In severe cases, they may recommend antibiotics or other dental treatments. If your teeth and gums appear to be healthy, your dentist will probably recommend that you continue your brushing and flossing routine as usual.

Using Fluoride to Protect Your Teeth

You brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and visit the dentist every six months, but did you know that rinsing with fluoride — a mineral that helps prevent cavities and tooth decay — also helps keep your teeth healthy and strong?

Fluoride is effective in preventing cavities and tooth decay by coating your teeth and preventing plaque from building up and hardening on the tooth's surface.

Fluoride comes in two varieties, systemic and topical:

  • Systemic fluoride is ingested, usually through a public water supply. While teeth are forming under the gums, the fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to cavities.
  • Fluoride can also be applied topically to help prevent caries (cavities) on teeth present in the mouth. It is delivered through toothpaste, mouthwash, and professional fluoride applications.

Receiving a fluoride treatment from your dentist

A fluoride treatment in your dentist's office takes just a few minutes. After the treatment, patients may be asked not to rinse, eat, or drink for at least 30 minutes in order to allow the teeth to absorb the fluoride. Depending on your oral health or your doctor's recommendation, you may be required to have a fluoride treatment every three, six, or 12 months. Your doctor may also prescribe an at-home fluoride product such as a mouthwash, gel, or antibacterial rinse.

How to choose the right fluoride treatment

When choosing your own at-home fluoride product (such as toothpaste or mouthwash), always check for the American Dental Association's (ADA) seal of acceptance. Products marked with the ADA seal of approval have been carefully examined by the ADA, and approved based on safety and effectiveness. Take care of your teeth and smile bright with dental fluoride treatments!