Regular dental check ups are vital for maintaining the health of your teeth and gums, and can also be instrumental in diagnosing and treating other oral health problems. A dental health appointment every six months is the best way to keep on top of your dental hygiene regimen and stay ahead of any problems that may be developing.
While many people only visit the dentist after they develop a toothache, break or lose a tooth, scheduling regular dental health appointments can help to stop these problems before they even begin. Dental problems may also be an indicator or cause of other, more serious health issues, so having a healthy mouth and good oral hygiene is a good way of maintaining a healthy body.
What Happens in a Dental Check Up?
A regular dental check up is made up of two parts; the check up itself and a cleaning, also known as a dental prophylaxis.
During the check up, the dentist will search your teeth for cavities both visually and with a probe. An X-ray may also be used to identify cavities between teeth. The exam also looks for instances of plaque and tartar build up as well as gum health as well as other oral health factors.
Plaque and Tartar
Plaque is a clear and sticky bacterial build up that grows in the mouth, most notably on teeth. When plaque hardens it becomes tartar and turns a shade of brown or pale yellow. Not only does this cause your teeth to become discoloured, the bacteria in plaque and tartar produce acid that can lead to tooth decay and other problems such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
Teeth are covered in a hard, protective layer called enamel. When this wears away, through damage or tooth decay, a weakness is left in the surface of the tooth that can get progressively worse over time. Tooth decay and cavities are among the world’s most common medical problems. Cavities are caused by acid secreted by plaque bacteria and the risk of tooth decay can be increased by poor diet and dental hygiene.
A persistent toothache, sharp localised pain when eating or drinking something hot or cold, pain when biting down or visible holes can all be a clear indication of tooth decay. If left unchecked, a cavity can lead to tooth loss or infection.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that causes inflammation and redness in the gums. The most common form of gingivitis is caused by plaque build up between the gums and teeth. Symptoms of gingivitis include swollen and red gums, gums that are painful to the touch, bleeding after flossing or brushing and halitosis (bad breath).
A 2018 study showed that the bacteria responsible for gingivitis could migrate from the mouth to brain in mice and reproduced all the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. More study needs to be done to prove a causal link between gingivitis and Alzheimer’s, but there is a chance that keeping your gums healthy can keep your brain healthy as well.
If left unchecked, gingivitis can become periodontitis, a condition that can lead to the gums pulling away from teeth leading to pain when eating and even tooth loss. Periodontitis and other gum diseases have been linked to an increased risk or heart disease, and bacteria from the mouth had commonly been found in the brains of stroke victims.
Even if gum disease is not the direct cause of a heart problem or stroke, gum health can be a good indicator of larger health problems with smoking, diabetes and HIV/Aids, for example, impacting dental health and increasing the risk of serious disease.
Poor oral hygiene is one of the causes of mouth cancer, and many of the symptoms can be similar to gingivitis or periodontitis. Mouth cancer, or oral cancer is a blanket term given to a number of cancers that can occur in the oral region, but cancers affecting the gums can cause swelling, redness, bleeding and pain. Smoking and heavy drinking are two of the more serious risk factors for mouth cancer. Poor dental hygiene and diet are also risk factors for mouth cancer.
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Everyone has woken up with a serious case of dog breath, but that’s usually the result of partying a bit too hard the night before. Serious, ongoing halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath, can be an indicator that something bad is happening in your mouth. There are many potential causes of halitosis, from short term diets, such as keto, to smoking, but the most common cause is poor dental hygiene.
Gingivitis and periodontitis can cause bad breath, as can infections of the nose, sinuses, throat or mouth. Some diseases can also cause halitosis, with some cancers, liver disease and GORD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) causing bad breath. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease can lead to additional dental problems. Stomach acid washed up the oesophagus of sufferers, potentially causing serious damage not only to the soft tissues but also dissolving tooth enamel, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay.
Regular Professional Teeth Cleaning
After an inspection, the second part of a regular dental check up is a professional cleaning. The first thing your dentist or dental hygienist will do is a thorough scaling of your teeth. Using a tool called a scaler, the dentist scrapes plaque and tartar from around your gums and between your teeth.
The sound of your teeth being scaled can be quite unpleasant, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. Regular brushing and flossing helps prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar, but once tartar has formed, only a scaling can get rid of it.
After the scaling, the dentist will then polish your teeth using a gritty, abrasive toothpaste to get rid of stains and remove the last of the plaque and tartar. This polishing is much harsher on your teeth than regular brushing at home, so should only be performed twice a year during your dental check.
Wisdom teeth are thought to be a leftover genetic trait from our ancestors who used these third molars to help grind the hard plant tissue that was their common food source. Our jaws may have become smaller since those days, but most of us still have that third set of molars. Some people are lucky and have space in their jaws to fit these extra teeth, but for the rest of us, impacted wisdom teeth or partially erupted molars are a problem to be dealt with.
An impacted wisdom tooth or molar gets stuck against other teeth and can’t come through normally, often causing pain. Those with slightly more space may have partially erupted wisdom teeth, with part of the tooth breaking through the gum.
Both these conditions can cause significant pain, but even if they don’t, the positioning of wisdom teeth makes them very difficult to clean normally, making them prime targets for tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontitis. Regular dental check ups are a good way to ensure that your wisdom teeth aren’t causing a problem for the rest of your mouth.
You don’t need the excuse of having halitosis, gingivitis or tooth decay to go and see your local dentist. Start a new dental health regimen today by finding a dentist near you to maintain your oral hygiene. The easiest and most convenient way to find a local dentist is to search and book online through MyHealth1st .