A “healthy” cleaning and check-up consists of X-rays, an oral exam and a thorough cleaning (prophylaxis) by a registered dental hygienist.
Usually, X-rays are taken first. Bite-wing X-rays are taken most frequently, normally every six months to a year. Bitewings consist of a series of two to four films showing upper and lower molars and bicuspids. They also clearly show interproximal areas (areas between the teeth) which makes these X-rays a critical component of the effective diagnosis of decay, revealing areas that would normally remain “hidden”.
A panoramic X-ray may also be taken, usually once every 3 to 5 years. This is an X-ray of the entire jaw area and is used to check third molars, jaw joints and general health of the lower part of the face. A full mouth X-ray may be done instead of – or in addition to – the panoramic X-ray, depending upon the needs of the patient.
The doctor then conducts an oral exam to check for any problems, decay, and oral cancer. This exam includes the tongue and soft tissue of the mouth. Adults will also require a “perio chart” at least once per year, to verify the health of the bone and gum, the foundation of healthy teeth.
Finally, the hygienist then cleans the teeth, above and below the gum line as necessary, as well as providing education and instruction.
And that’s it. A simple set of steps designed to keep your mouth – and the rest of your body – happy and healthy.
Why Should I have my teeth cleaned every 6 months?
A six-month cleaning and check-up improves not just your oral health, but your overall health as well. A check-up with a trusted dentist will include a thorough exam of both the hard tooth surface as well as the soft tissue of your mouth. Additionally, X-rays reveal vulnerable areas between the teeth, finding cavities and other problems when they are small and easier to treat.
The cleaning itself removes debris from areas above and below the gum line, areas difficult or impossible to reach at home. This cleaning also ensures these areas remain healthy, preventing the formulation of chronic infection such as Periodontal Disease. This common disease can lead to tooth loss as well as contribute to heart disease, diabetes and possibly Alzheimer’s.
What is a Bitewing X-ray?
You hear your dentist and hygienist talk about it all the time: Now you know what it looks like. A bitewing X-ray (generally) consists of four X-rays showing the upper and lower molars and pre-molars. As you can see from the above photo, it is important because it clearly shows areas of decay (which appear darker) interproximally (between the teeth) as well as in more exposed areas. It also can show cavities just breaking through the dentin, which enables the dentist to diagnose and treat decay before it becomes larger or causes any problems. Bite-wing x-rays can also show areas of tartar build-up and may reveal chronic infections that would remain undetected without this procedure. The bite-wing X-ray remains one of the most powerful tools in keeping your mouth healthy and pain-free.
What are Panoramic X-rays?
Ever wonder what these x-rays actually look like? The above X-ray shows a retained third molar (upper left) in an otherwise healthy mouth. And the weird looking things on either side are earrings! They block portions of the X-ray and demonstrate why your doctor insists you remove all jewelry prior to having X-rays taken. The entire process takes less than a few minutes, but this picture proves just how invaluable those x-rays really are!
Why are X-Rays so Important?
A panoramic X-ray can reveal a multitude of issues, some not necessarily related to your immediate oral health. In addition to showing the current health of your bones, teeth, and jaw joints, this picture can reveal irregularities in your jaw bones, sinus cavity and occasionally reveals calcium build-up in the carotid artery. This X-ray can also show the development of salivary stones as well as other tumors or cysts developing in portions of the lower face.
I Don’t Really Want X-rays.
X-rays are too important to skip. They are usually covered at (or close to) 100% by dental insurers and out-of-pocket costs for our uninsured patients remain relatively low. Additionally, the use of digital X-ray technology keeps your radiation exposure so low, you will have greater exposure walking to your car on a sunny summer day! These important, routine X-rays can reveal a multitude of issues before they become problematic. With very little financial obligation, minimal radiation exposure, and a highly beneficial return, X-rays are well worth taking.
A regular cleaning and check-up can be easy to postpone. But making dental cleanings and check-ups a habit of your healthy lifestyle has an impact that will last a lifetime. Book your appointment online or call the office today.