Preventative dentistry includes all the treatments and procedures aimed at helping patients of all ages avoid tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss and other oral health-related problems. It includes routine checkups, oral cancer screenings, and dental cleanings as well as other treatments aimed at optimizing the health of the teeth and gums.
Dental cleanings begin with a visual exam of the teeth and gums to look for any signs of serious issues. The cleaning itself uses special instruments and mild dental abrasives to clean all visible surfaces of the teeth, including the area along the gum line and the cracks and crevices between teeth, areas where plaque, tartar, and bacteria are more likely to hide. During the cleaning, the hygienist will look for areas where routine brushing and flossing need to be improved, providing patients with helpful guidance that can enable them to keep their teeth and gums healthier between professional cleanings. Once the cleaning is complete, an oral cancer screening may be performed, and dental X-rays may be taken to provide vital information about the tooth roots and the jaws.
Ideally, patients of all ages (including young children with baby teeth) should have a routine checkup and cleaning every six months to look for early signs of gum disease, decay, and other issues, and to have built-up deposits of plaque, tartar and bacteria removed to prevent the development of these and other problems. Even patients with full dentures should have regular checkups to keep their gums healthy and to look for signs of oral cancer.
Oral cancer screenings rely on both a visual examination to look for any abnormal discolorations and a “tactile” assessment during which the dentist will feel the soft tissue of the mouth to check for any areas of roughness that could require additional evaluation. If any abnormal areas of tissue are identified, a special tool may be used to gently scrape away some cells or a tiny sample of tissue may be removed for examination under a microscope.
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