No one wants dental problems, yet millions of Americans regularly miss their routine dental exams. Dental anxiety may be the cause in some cases, as dentistry has not always been as patient-friendly as it is today. Unfortunately, many people miss appointments due to the misguided (and often unconscious) reasoning that if they aren’t having any problems, everything must be okay. Nothing could be further from the truth! Tooth decay and gum disease can develop silently for years without causing pain—and by the time you detect a toothache, it’s usually too late for an easy solution.
Teeth Can’t Fix Themselves!
Many people put off dental checkups because they mistakenly apply the logic of whole body health to oral care. We feel pain when something is wrong, and we only visit the doctor if that pain doesn’t resolve itself on its own; apply that formula to your teeth, however, and you set yourself up for oral health catastrophes.
If you don’t notice any sensitivity or dysfunction in your teeth, that doesn’t mean there are no problems. Human teeth are so strong and hard that we don’t get any physical alerts when tooth enamel is damaged. When bacteria and decay have progressed to the point of toothache, you’ve already missed a valuable opportunity for conservative repairs. Additionally, with most of our body’s systems we have mechanisms for self-repair. Our immune system fights off viruses, and sprained ankles usually heal fine on their own. Teeth, however, have no such mechanisms. No matter how well you brush and floss each day, once a cavity has formed, the only way to stop it is with professional dental restorations.
What happens during a dental exam?
There are five main parts to a routine six-month appointment, all of which are critical to your long term oral health.
- Dental Cleaning – When plaque is not removed from hard-to-reach areas of the mouth by daily brushing and flossing, it can harden into insoluble calculus (tartar) which can only be removed with dental tools. Without dental cleanings, plaque can contribute to the development of cavities. Either a dentist or hygienist will clean your teeth of calculus, as a critical step in prevent tooth decay.
- Dental Exam – Dentists and hygienists have a number of tools for spotting cavities, as well as “soft spots” where demineralized enamel can be detected before cavities form. This lets us treat your teeth with fluoride to remineralize your enamel where it is beginning to weaken. Many cavities are prevented thanks to this technique.
- Oral Cancer Screening – Most people know that lifestyle factors contribute to the development or oral cancers—such as tobacco and alcohol use—but genetics and other conditions can also play a role. Your routine, dentist-provided oral cancer screening is the best way to make sure any early signs of cancer are thoroughly assessed and monitored.
- Check for Signs of Other Conditions – Cavities are not the only thing we check for. Bruxism, gum disease, TMJ disorder, and acid erosion can lead to dental problems and ongoing chronic pain. Additionally, tell your dentist if you suffer from other medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or immune system deficiencies, as there is often a link between oral health and other conditions.
- Preventive Treatments – Administering fluoride treatments and sealants is an excellent way to prevent cavities. Some patients think these are just for children, but if you have particularly weak enamel or a history of quickly advancing tooth decay, these preventive treatments can give you an extra level of protection.
Partners in Your Oral Health
Good daily oral hygiene is important in the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease, but if you are serious about keeping your teeth healthy and functional you will visit your dentist twice a year for regular dental exams. We at Carolina Oaks Dental Care look forward to six-month visits as an opportunity to share helpful information with our patients and prevent painful conditions from developing. Give us the chance, and you’ll be glad to have us as partners in your health!