Dental exams are an important step in early detection and treatment of gum disease and tooth decay. For a first time visit, the dentist will perform a comprehensive dental examination that is very thorough. During a regular checkup, the dentist will conduct a less extensive exam that will include many of the steps performed during an extensive exam, such as:
- Review of any changes in the patient’s medical history since last visit.
- Examination of tooth decay and damage using special instruments.
- X-ray of any teeth that show signs of decay or wear.
- Evaluation of gums for signs of periodontal disease.
- Exam of existing restorations.
- Screenings for oral cancer.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will also likely provide you with a quick reminder on proper home care and brushing techniques.
A dental cleaning is the removal of dental plaque (a soft, sticky, bacteria infested film) and tartar (calculus) from the teeth. Dental cleanings are necessary to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. If left untreated, severe gum disease can result in tooth loss. Cleaning and polishing of the teeth leaves the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth so that bacteria are unable to stick to them.
The dental hygienist or dentist will use specialized instruments to gently remove these deposits without harming the teeth. First, the dental hygienist will use an ultrasonic device that emits vibrations to knock larger pieces of tartar loose. The ultrasonic device sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris and keep the area at a comfortable temperature. Next, hand tools called scalers and curettes are used to manually remove smaller deposits and smooth the tooth surfaces. These tools are curved and shaped to match the curves of the teeth. Once all the tooth surfaces have been cleaned of tartar and plaque, the teeth are polished using a slow speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end. Prophylaxis paste which is a special gritty toothpaste-like material – is applied to the teeth to make them shiny and smooth. Your dental hygienist or dentist may also apply fluoride to the teeth to help strengthen the tooth enamel.
Digital radiography is the latest form of x-ray imaging, which involves the use of digital x-ray sensors instead of traditional photographic film. Digital radiography helps dental professionals make the most accurate and efficient diagnosis, and quickly develop treatment plans. A small sensor is connected directly to a computer instead of a film packet. When taking x-rays, the sensor is moved from tooth to tooth. The x-rays are available immediately on the computer monitor, with no development step in between. Since the digital x-ray exposure is shorter than conventional x-rays, the amount of x-ray radiation is reduced by up to 90 percent.
Some advantages of digital x-rays:
- Faster and more efficient.
- View images instantly.
- Less radiation exposure.
- Images can be enhanced to improve viewing.
- Images can be stored electronically.
- Avoid the use of chemicals used in the traditional developing process.
The Diagnodent is a revolutionary way to detect and find cavities. It uses a laser diode to inspect the teeth. The device is shined on the teeth and then gives a digital readout that is used to detect decay. In fact, the Diagnodent laser is able to identify the smallest amount of decay before becoming a major. Early detection of decay means that fillings can be shallower and simpler and more of the tooth structure can be saved. Because Diagnodent uses only light energy, it makes it safe to use at every visit.
A filling is necessary to treat your cavity because if left untreated the decay will eventually grow and will enter into your nerve canal. And yes, this can be as painful as it sounds. It can also lead to more serious problems such as infection or abscess. A filling may also be needed to replace or repair an old worn down existing filling or to fix a chipped tooth. In addition to potential pain and discomfort and possible tooth loss, if you wait to have your cavity filled it may end up requiring a more difficult process, such as a root canal, to save your tooth. And it could also cost you a lot more money to fix. The bottom line is you should get your cavity filled as soon as you can.
- A simple extraction is when the dentist can loosen the tooth with an instrument then remove the tooth with forceps.
- A surgical extraction is when the tooth has to be sectioned (cut into pieces) to be removed, or if bone around the tooth is removed.
In some cases, our doctors are not to perform extractions and will have to refer the patient to an oral surgeon.