A preventive program is a cooperative effort by the patient, dentist, and dental staff to preserve the natural dentition and supporting structures by preventing the onset, progress, and recurrence of dental diseases and conditions.
Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. It is continued in the dental office by the efforts of your dentist and dental hygienist to promote, restore, and maintain your oral health.
Prevention also includes regular dental exams, cleanings, and x-rays. Sealants and fluoride are additional preventive treatments that help protect the teeth.
Prevention helps avoid serious and costly dental problems and is the key to having a healthy, confident, beautiful smile.
Dental Exams & Cleanings
A comprehensive dental exam will be performed by your dentist at your initial dental visit. At regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will do the following:
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
- Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
- Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
- Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
Dental radiographs (x-rays) are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without x-rays, problem areas may go undetected.
Dental x-rays may reveal:
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
- Developmental abnormalities.
- Poor tooth and root positions.
- Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental x-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of x-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources.
Dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental x-rays. These precautions include using lead apron shields to protect the body and using modern, fast film that cuts down the exposure time of each x-ray.
How often should dental x-rays be taken?
The need for dental x-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. We will recommend necessary x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease.
A full mouth series of dental x-rays or a panoramic x-ray that shows all teeth, jaws and sinuses is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing x-rays (x-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) show the crowns of your teeth only and are taken at recall (check-up) visits. We recommended bitewings every two years to detect and prevent new dental problems.
Professional Dental Cleaning
Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are usually performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. In our practice, both Dr Schünemann and Andrea will take care of your professional cleanings.
Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam and the following:
Removal of calculus (tartar):Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling
The tooth surface consists of minerals and crystals. They are very similar to lime stone. If acid from bacteria breakdown is applied to this surface continuously, minerals dissolved and are lost. Over time this creates a cavity called "caries". By applying fluoride to tooth surfaces, crystals are changed in such a way that they become more resistant to acid and can withstand acid attacks by bacteria much better.
Fluoride treatments strengthen teeth, reduce sensitivity and protect against bacteria and tooth decay.
A sealant is a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth. More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits.
Reasons for sealants:
- Children and teenagers – As soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16.
- Adults – Tooth surfaces without decay that have deep grooves or depressions.
- Baby teeth – Occasionally done if teeth have deep grooves or depressions and child is cavity prone.
What do sealants involve?
Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or dental hygienist and the process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.
The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth. The teeth are then rinsed and dried. Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions. Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light.
Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.
Keeping teeth healthy for life is our ultimate goal when treating patients.
The largest impact on keeping teeth healthy however lies with each patient.
Your personal home care techniques play an important role in achieving oral health. It all starts by eating balanced meals, reducing the number of snacks you eat to less than 3 between meals, and correctly using the various dental aids that help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease. It is our mission to help you achieve the ideal level of care by teaching and reinforcing correct techniques and methods.
Which areas are the most important?
We have three areas that have virtually 80% of all dental problems.
- On top of the tooth. This is the main chewing surface and caries will develop in fine groves called fissures.
- Near the gum line. These areas can develop caries (decay) or may be damaged by brushing to hard with the wrong brush.
- Between teeth. No brush can clean here effectively. These areas need to be cleaned with dental floss and other interdental cleaning aids.
Start by flossing your teeth first. This loosens the bio-film and lets the foam of the brushing action remove it from your mouth afterwards.
Flossing – Although neglected in many cases, daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline! The areas between your teeth comprise about 40% of your total tooth surface. If these are not cleaned it is the same as washing only the left hand side of your face.
There are many types of floss and dental tape. Generally waxed floss is easier to handle but does not clean as well due to it's smooth surface. Start to practice with waxed floss and end by using a non-waxed type for a better cleaning effect.
Flossing not only helps clean spaces between teeth, it disrupts plaque colonies (called bio-film) from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
- Take (40-50cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your index fingers, leaving about (20cm) of floss between the hands.
- Point your hands away from you as if to push something away.
- Turn your hands inwards thereby puling the floss over the tip of the middle finger.
- Guiding the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion. Stay close to the tooth surface and do not cut into the gum. Flossing should not hurt even if you go underneath the gum.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth and removing the bio-film from under your gum.
Floss holders can be a great help and are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
Tooth brushing – Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with a recommended soft bristle brush and toothpaste.
- Place the brush at a 45 degree angle towards the gum so that the soft bristles can reach into the tiny trough surrounding each tooth. Gently brush back and forth using small, wriggly motions with light pressure, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the tooth and under your gums. Initially this technique may elicit some bleeding. This will stop after a few days once your gums are free of infection.
- Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside of the front teeth.
- Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper to remove bacteria and freshen your breath. Brushing is not very effective on the tongue.
Electric toothbrushes, especially high frequency or ultrasonic ones are recommended for short teeth with healthy gums. They are easy to use and can remove plaque very efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush at 45 degrees to your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time. Don't use excessive pressure! Electric brushes work extremely well and can be quiet aggressive when used with force.
In patients with long teeth where gums have receded, electric brushes should be used with extreme caution. They may remove excessive tooth substance along the roots that are not protected by tooth enamel. In cases like these a well executed manual brushing technique may be safer to use.
Rinsing – It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with us on its appropriateness for you.
Use other dental aids as recommended. We will be glad to help you choose the correct cleaning aids.
Interdental brushes, rubber tip stimulators, tongue cleaners, irrigation devices, fluoride, medicated rinses, etc., can all play a role in good dental home care.