So, you have an appointment for a “teeth cleaning”, but your busy and nothing hurts, so you decide not to go.
What’s wrong with this picture?
First of all, we don’t clean your teeth, you do. Hopefully every day with a toothbrush (and floss).
When you come in for your hygiene appointment, we do more than clean your teeth with a toothbrush. The hygienist reviews any changes in your health history and checks your blood pressure. Why do we care about your medications? They affect your oral health and your risk for dental decay for one. It also affects how we provide treatment for you. If you’ve started a new allergy medication or blood pressure medication, it can affect the quantity and quality of your saliva. Spit is important to keep you from getting cavities.
We check blood pressure. We have sent more than a few people to their medical providers to get treatment for this silent disease that can lead to heart attack and stroke or kidney failure.
The hygienists check the status of your gums, your level of oral hygiene and any bleeding that may occur during the gum check.
Periodontal disease or gum disease is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. Poor oral hygiene can cause pneumonia in susceptible patients. Poor oral hygiene also ups your risk for cavities.
X-rays may be taken if indicated. Dental decay is a process. Early breakdown can be treated without fillings in some cases.
Now, finally the “teeth cleaning”. The hygienist uses hand instruments or the ultrasonic cleaner to remove hard and soft deposits from the teeth. In doing this she also removes the biofilm, the layer of bacteria that cling to the teeth. If the laser is used, this reduces the number of bacteria found under the gumline. The biofilm used to be called plaque. Research has shown this biofilm is a community of bacteria that interact with each other and to the oral environment. So if you consume sugary drinks or have frequent snacks, the biofilm then allows bacteria that produce more acid to multiple. They use the sugar to produce the acid. The pH drops and more acid producing bacteria can multiply and grow. The longer the pH is below pH 7, minerals can come out of your teeth. If this continues, this is can start the cavity process.
If you have bleeding gums and deeper pockets around your teeth, than a more extensive “cleaning” is required. All the pockets must be cleaned out to disrupt the biofilm in the pockets and remove hard build up. In deeper pockets, greater than 3 mm it takes approximately 3 months for the biofilm to return to the make up of bacteria that it had before. These are the bacteria that cause the gum disease. That is why if you have gum disease a three-month schedule for “cleaning” is recommended.
At the end of the treatment fluoride varnish is placed. Most people will benefit from this placement. In our day and time with our intake, most of us are at high risk for decay. The fluoride incorporates into the enamel making it more resistant to releasing minerals from an acid attack.
So, you see, it is much more than “just a cleaning”. It is a way to improve your overall health and protect you from dental disease.
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