Regardless of whether you have near perfect teeth or troublesome teeth; you still need to see your dentist on a regular basis to get them checked out.
Many dental problems don’t become noticeable until they start causing you pain or your gums start to bleed. Regular check-ups can help prevent gum disease and tooth decay problems before they become a serious issue.
If you are showing signs of gum disease or your failing to clean your teeth properly, your dentist may recommend using an electric toothbrush.
Studies show not brushing long enough, brushing too hard and failing to brush the back teeth properly are common mistakes made by people who use a manual brush.
A good electric toothbrush helps you overcome these problems with the aid of a built in timer and pressure sensor.
How often should you have a dental check-up?
It’s common practice to have your teeth checked every six months or so. Dental practises often have systems that let you know every six months that you are due another check. Twice a year check-ups do seem to work well from both the patients and the dental practices point of view.
If you take good care of your teeth and gums and you’ve had no signs of any cavities or gum disease for a few years, your dental professional will probably still recommend you have your teeth checked every six months.
There are however, plenty of reasons why many do not stick to the six monthly schedules.
- it’s too costly
- don’t have the time
- can’t get away from work
- just don’t like visits to the dentist
There are conditions or reasons why you need to have more frequent checks, these include the following:
- those with current gum disease
- prone to plaque build up
- prone to tooth decay
- weak immune response to bacterial infection
Your dentist is best placed to advice you on how often you should have your teeth and gums checked out. The frequency can change over time and can depend on how responsive you are to any treatment.
If you are registered as a NHS patient with your dentist don’t miss your appointments; or at least let them know you can’t make it in good time. Two or three missed appointments and you will be getting de-registered from your dental practise. It will cost you a lot more for your treatment if you have to go private.
When should children start having check-ups?
Public Health England (PHE) recommends that children should be registered with the dentist as soon as the first teeth appear to ensure any problems are identified early.
First visits to the dentists for children only take a few minutes; the visits are important for getting babies used to the dentist’s chair and for educating parents about how to care of baby’s teeth. Tooth decay is the most common cause of UK hospital admissions among five to nine year olds.
The steps involved in a dental check up
Brushing and flossing at home removes plaque but plaque starts to harden quickly if not removed daily. It only takes a few missed brushings before plaque becomes calculus.
The purpose of a professional dental cleaning is to remove the hard calculus (also called tartar) from above and just below the gum line. Normal every day brushing and flossing will not remove tartar, that’s why it’s so important to get into the routine of brushing twice a day and flossing correctly.
The Dental Cleaning (Scale and Polish) Procedure
The phrase “scaling” sounds very unpleasant but a scaler is just a dental instrument with very fine tip that vibrates at high speed to loosen large portions of tartar. The scaler also emits a constant jet of water that washes away all the dislodged calculus.
With most of the calculus removed by the ultrasonic scaler the hygienist will get down to removing the remainder that’s still there in the tricky places the electric scaler could not get to. No fancy ultrasonic tools now, just hand scalers and curettes of all different sizes and shapes to remove the smaller deposits and to smooth the surfaces of your teeth.
Depending on how much tartar has accumulated, it can take around 10 to 20 minutes for this cleaning process.
Once your teeth have been cleared of tartar and smoothed; it’s time to give them a good polish. Polishing is done by using a slow speed hand piece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end of the hand piece. A special gritty toothpaste-like substance called Prophylaxis is scooped up into the cup. The cup is then spun around on each tooth, making it smooth and shiny.
That’s pretty much it for the Scale and Polish although you might get an additional fluoride treatment. Fluoride foam or gel is added into small, flexible foam trays. The trays are placed over the teeth for 30 seconds. The fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth that the acids from bacteria in dental tartar and plaque have weakened.
Does scale and polish hurt?
A scale & polish tends to be painless in most cases although it can be painful if you have sore gums or badly worn teeth.
While generally painless; the cleaning procedure can be uncomfortable and you may feel scraping or tickling sensations at times. You may see some blood when asked to rinse out.
It seems to take forever when you are sitting there while all sorts of strange looking implements are poked around in your mouth. But start to finish the dental cleaning session should be over in less than 30 minutes or so.
This will not be anyone’s favourite way to spent half an hour but your teeth do feel great afterwards.
Preventative instructions / Hygienist’s rollicking
The hygienist may offer instructions for oral care at home based on the results of the exam. If you have followed my article on brushing and the one on flossing, you should have avoided the dreaded “wrath of the dental hygienist“.
If you are a new patient to the dental surgery you will probably have X-rays taken to check the overall health of your teeth. The frequency of subsequent X-rays varies from six to 24 months depending on the patient’s dental history and condition of their mouth.
Why are X-rays taken?
X-rays help the dentist find and treat dental problems early in their development. Potential problems are not always detected by an external examination of teeth and gums. Problems detected by X-ray can potentially save you money and unnecessary discomfort.
In adults, X-rays are used to:
- show areas of decay that may not be detected visually
- reveal decay occurring beneath an existing filling
- show any abscesses (an infection at the tooth root or between the gum and a tooth)
- reveal bone loss caused by gum disease
In children, X-rays are used to:
- look for signs of decay
- check that there’s enough space to fit any new teeth
- determine if primary teeth are being lost fast enough to allow permanent teeth to replace them
- check the development of wisdom teeth
51% of adults say they have dental check-ups twice a year. Do you?