Dental Examinations and Radiographs

Routine dental exams are important to maintain healthy teeth and gums.  Additionally, they can help to avoid the financial costs associated with large treatment plans later on.  We recommend two yearly checkups for people of all ages.  At this frequency, most problems can be caught while they remain in an early stage.

We first review your health and dental history to assess how your medical conditions may affect your dental health.  We want to know about your past dental problems and any current concerns you have with your teeth and mouth.

We then examine your mouth visually, using dental equipment such as mouth mirrors, dental explorers and high intensity lights.  We will look for cracked and decayed teeth, as well as any faulty restorations (fillings and crowns).

The soft tissue will also be examined starting with an oral cancer screening.  The face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues and gums are checked for signs of oral cancer or other pathology.  Your gums and bone around the teeth will be checked for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the crevices between your teeth and gums.

Additionally, we take diagnostic x-rays to reveal any other hidden problems, especially in the areas below the gums.  An intraoral full mouth radiographic series is recommended for all patients to evaluate decay, bone levels and any pathology in the jaws.  We ideally like to have these on all adult patients and they should be updated every five years.  Bitewing, or annual check-up x-rays, are typically taken every twelve months.

Professional Cleaning

Routine dental cleanings are important to maintaining good oral health.  Professional cleaning by a dental hygienist removes 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 cleanings at least once every six months to prevent gingivitis.

You can expect your dental cleaning to last between 30 minutes to an hour.  Typically, a trained hygienist does the cleaning and the dentist comes in for an exam at the end.  Most people find that dental cleanings are relatively painless and do not cause much discomfort.  During in office teeth cleaning, the hygienist removes plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces.  This can be performed by hand or with electronic scalers.  Typically the hygienist will clean into the pockets of the gums to remove any plaque buildup there.  Polishing the teeth at the end will remove residual plaque and "buff" the teeth to brighten your smile.

Periodontal Therapy and Maintenance

Periodontal disease results from chronic inflammation of the gum tissues often caused by plaque and tartar buildup.  If left untreated, mild inflammation (gingivitis) can progress to more severe conditions affecting the jawbone and ligaments that attach teeth to the bone (periodontitis).  When periodontitis becomes too advanced, teeth will lose support and become loose or fall out.  We continually evaluate your periodontal tissues to assess the health of your teeth and gums.

The primary culprit causing periodontal disease is the bacteria found in dental plaque and calculus (tartar buildup), so maintaining good oral hygiene through brushing and flossing decreases the risk.  Other factors that affect the progress may be a genetic predisposition, teeth alignment, diet, tobacco use, diabetes or hormonal changes.

Professional cleanings (dental prophylaxis) done twice-a-year helps prevent gingivitis.  If your conditions are more severe and you have signs and symptoms of periodontitis, we can treat it with a deeper cleaning called scaling and root planing.  This procedure is a cleaning where tartar that's hidden deep under the gums is removed from the roots of your teeth.  It often requires use of local anesthesia and multiple visits followed by more frequent professional recall cleanings.

If scaling and root planing does not fully resolve your periodontitis, we often refer to a specialist who can perform more advanced procedures to treat your conditions.  Gum problems such as recession and periodontitis are common, so periodontists are available to address and treat these conditions surgically.