With mere moments to go before we ring in the New Year, many of us reflect on what works in our lives and what doesn’t. The days following Christmas lend themselves to a quiet consideration of what to embrace and what to leave behind as we herald in another year full of possibility. The celebrity death news alone this year leaves many of eager to send off 2016 with a hard shove and a resolve to better appreciate each new day and those we share them with. Let’s start with your teeth, considering they share precious space in your head and are so critical to your health as a whole.
While many of us prep for the New Year by cleaning out closets, basements, and refrigerators, why not take a minute and direct some of those cleaning ambitions to your next dental appointment. Out with the old (food, toothbrushes, rancid breath) and in with the new – a newly polished smile, courtesy of your next dental cleaning. Curious as to what exactly constitutes a comprehensive dental cleaning? We’ve got you covered…
Three. It’s the Magic Number.
For those of you too young to recall Schoolhouse Rock, specifically the 1973 smash hit, “3 is a Magic Number,” catch up with a click here…
And when it comes to dexterous dental cleaning, three still has magical properties. Arranged around the purposes of evaluation, prevention, and diagnostics, there are three tasks that make up a traditional dental cleaning appointment. This trio kicks off with x-rays, followed by the actual cleaning process, and culminates in a thorough dental exam, which should be scheduled every six months, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. The details of each task are as follows…
#1 – X-Ray Vision
Not yours, your dental hygienist’s. He or she will seat you comfortably in the dentist’s chair and carefully cover you with a lead bib. This bib is designed to deflect radiation away from your body and organs. Using spacers to help better position your mouth and jaw for the required images, the hygienist will then take a series of x-rays, designed to reveal any dental issues, like cavities.
This procedure has proven perfectly safe for adults and children, though pregnant women should delay any x-ray procedures until after they have given birth. Once complete, the x-rays will be reviewed by your dentist to determine the optimal course of action for your oral health.
#2 – Clean Up Your Act
Once again, this task falls to your hygienist, who will follow a series of steps to ensure that your mouth is as pristine as possible before the dentist administers your exam. To start, your hygienist will maneuver a small mirror in and around your mouth to check for any areas that need special attention. What he or she is really looking for with this spot check (pun intended) is areas of inflammation that might indicate gingivitis.
Provided your mouth is basically healthy, your hygienist will then proceed with the aid of a scaler. Due to the noise it makes, patients often refer to the scaler as the scraper. Be advised that the more scraping you hear from the scaler, the more tartar, or calcified plaque, exists between your teeth and gum line. Tartar is plaque that has been given the chance and ideal conditions to harden along your gum line. Only a professional, like your dental hygienist, can successfully rid your teeth of tartar.
If you, like many people, suffer anxiety at the very thought of going to the dentist, in part because of this necessary scraping, do yourself a favor and become an expert at flossing from the comfort of your own home.
Next up involves true grit. Once again, you’re off the hook as the grit is not a character requirement here, but an ingredient in your hygienist’s arsenal. Using a high-powered electric toothbrush, the hygienist will polish your teeth with a paste that is seriously gritty. The beauty of this grit comes from its ability to not only polish your teeth but also smooth the surface to the point where plaque has a hard time hanging on, which means your next appointment (in six months time) might require a little less effort on behalf of the scaler.
Given the grit involved with this process, once finished polishing, your hygienist will have you thoroughly rinse your mouth, often with a liquid fluoride. However, if that fluoride dosage doesn’t quite cut it, you might have to sit with a mouth guard-like piece resting between your teeth for about a minute. This mouthpiece is loaded with flavored fluoride, which helps fight tooth decay by repelling the acid in plaque, as well as sugar. After your fluoride treatment, you cannot eat or drink for 30 minutes.
At this point, the cleaning part of our mission has been accomplished. Now, your hygienist will turn his or her attention to a very important evaluation. This involves using a small probe to check for periodontal pockets, which exist between your tooth and gum, housing serious amounts of bacteria. A healthy gum line’s pockets only measure between 1-3 mm (there’s that magic number again); however, anything greater than 5 mm and you’re likely suffering from gum disease, which will require treatment at worst, and closer monitoring at best.
And now, you’re ready for your close-up…
#3 – The Examination
This is arguably the easiest part of your dental cleaning appointment, as the dentist will review your x-rays and evaluate your oral health, including your bite, any clicking or popping sounds coming from your jaw, as well as inspect the grooves in your teeth for signs that perhaps you often clench or grind your teeth, along with a full examination of your neck, lymph glands, palate, and soft tissues along the floor of your mouth, and inside your tongue, lips, and cheeks. The target here is to suss out any sign of infection, specifically signs of oral cancer. Given his or her evaluation, your dentist will then suggest further course of action, which with good habits and a bit of luck, will simply require scheduling your next routine cleaning.
Ring in the New Year with a bright, clean smile and the confidence that you are embarking on 2017 with a jump on optimal oral health and hygiene. Call 617-984-5888 and book your next dental cleaning at our Quincy or Malden locations. From our dazzling team at Diamond Dental, we wish you a Happy (and healthy!) New Year!