Prevention is always better than treatment. By actively preventing disease and decay through regular home care, professional dental cleanings and regular exams, you will maintain a healthy, beautiful smile.
In addition, effective prevention can help you avoid costly treatments in the future to remove decay, restore teeth and treat gum disease. Regular prevention is truly your best investment.
Cleanings & Exams
The prevention of disease.
Professional cleanings (dental prophylaxis) performed by a certified dental hygienist form the foundation for preventing gum disease and tooth decay. In a professional cleaning, your hygienist will:
- Remove plaque from the teeth — Plaque is a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria. Plaque sticks to teeth and causes tooth decay and gum disease.
- Remove calculus (tartar) above the gum line — Calculus is plaque that has hardened on the tooth surface and is difficult to remove. (Calculus below the gum line indicates gum disease and requires a different procedure to remove it.)
- Polish and remove stains from teeth
Dental examinations help to diagnose disease before it becomes hazardous to your health. In addition, regular examinations can save you money by alleviating problems while they are small and before they become expensive to repair, or in some cases, impossible to repair. Your dental examinations generally include the following:
- Oral cancer screening
- Gum disease evaluation
- Visual examination of tooth decay
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays to see cysts, tumors, invisible decay and other problems that can’t be seen by the naked eye
- Evaluation of status of current restorations (fillings and others)
We cannot express enough how important it is to see your dentist regularly. Remember, preventing disease is always better than treating disease.
Gum disease (Periodontal Disease) is responsible for about 70 percent of adult tooth loss. It is characterized by swollen, inflamed gums surrounding the teeth. Plaque, a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria gets inside the space between the gum line and the tooth. If not removed, plaque hardens into a substance called calculus or tartar that is very difficult to remove. Eventually, the bacteria in the plaque and tartar eat away at the fibers that hold the gums to the teeth, creating deep pockets. As bacteria spread, the pockets become deeper until the bacteria finally eat away the bone that holds the tooth in place.
Think of it as if bugs are eating away at the soil around a tree trunk. Eventually, they eat away all of the soil and part of the tree’s roots, causing the tree to collapse.
Gum disease is diagnosed through a process that measures the depth of the pockets around each tooth. Pockets that are greater than 3 millimeters in depth are considered hazardous and will generally require treatment.
The early detection and prevention of gum disease is another reason to see your dentist regularly.
Gum disease is treated by carefully removing the bacteria and substances that form in the pockets around the teeth. The removal of this material occurs on a microscopic level and requires great skill. Our dental team has had advanced training regarding how to effectively remove all of the bacteria.
This process of removing the bacteria usually requires several visits to our office. Once the bacteria has been removed, the pockets must be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis by a certified dental hygienist. Otherwise, the bacteria will return.
Keep in mind that once you have contracted periodontal disease, you will always have the disease due to the damage that it does to your body. Careful daily hygiene and regular dental visits to clean your pockets are required to keep the bacteria from returning. After the initial dental appointments to remove the bacteria, you will be placed on a regular appointment schedule called “periodontal maintenance” to keep your pockets free of bacteria.
Remember, it is always better to prevent disease than to treat disease.
Protect the chewing surface of teeth from decay.
- Protect normal pits and grooves on the chewing surface of back teeth
- Stop small amounts of decay from growing larger
Normal pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of back teeth can trap food that can’t be removed by brushing or washed out by water or saliva. A sealant is a tough, plastic material designed to bond (stick) to tooth enamel. These clear or tooth colored sealants are painted onto the tooth surface to “seal” the pits and grooves and protect against decay. They are generally applied to children’s first permanent back teeth. They can also be useful for adults in certain situations.
Sealants are an excellent way to protect chewing surfaces of teeth from decay. They are a much better financial investment than treating decay after it has started.
Sealants are not permanent. They generally last about five years with normal wear, but can wear off or chip off earlier in certain instances. Also, sealants do not prevent decay between teeth or the onset of gum disease, so regular home care and dental visits are important.
There are no appropriate alternatives to sealants. If a tooth has decay, it will need a filling or other restoration.
Laser Detection of Invisible Decay
The widespread use of fluoride has made cavities more difficult to diagnose, the Diagnodent allows the dentist to look inside the grooves of the tooth. The traditional way to check for cavities was by looking for visual signs of decay on the tooth, checking x-rays, or feeling for a soft area with a dental hook. Diagnodent is a laser technology that scans your teeth with harmless pulses of light. When a cavity is present, fluorescent light of a different wavelength bounces back to the sensor, which is translated to a digital read-out. In general, the higher the number, the greater the amount of decay in the tooth. When a cavity is present, the Diagnodent also produces an audible signal.
You’ll benefit from our use of Diagnodent, because it helps us find decay that may have previously gone undetected. By diagnosing decay early in its development, we can prevent more extensive damage. Your restorations will be small and less costly, and you’ll be able to retain more of your own natural, healthy tooth.
How do Radiographs Help?
Dental x-rays or radiographs are very important. They allow the dentist to see things about your oral health that cannot be seen by the naked eye. These items include cysts (sacks of fluid that form on the roots of teeth), cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, invisible decay that occurs between teeth, and the location of teeth that haven’t grown all the way in.
By using an x-ray to diagnose these problems, we can help save you money in the long run from surgeries or other treatments that might become necessary if we didn’t find the problem. In some cases, where dental x-rays show the location of tumorous growths, x-rays can be responsible for saving your life.
ADVANTAGES of DIGITAL RADIOGRAPHY
Digital x-rays have many advantages when compared with old fashioned film-based machines, including:
- Reduced radiation exposure (up to 90% less than traditional systems)
- Enhanced ability to refine image quality
- Instant viewing (no waiting for films to develop)
- Environmentally friendly (no toxic chemicals)
Best of all, it’s easy for you to see what Dr. Perry sees. Your digital x-ray can be seen on a computer screen located next to your dental chair. This helps you understand your needs and make and informed choice about any treatment.