Maintaining proper oral health is about more than just caring for your teeth; it’s about tending to the needs of your gums as well. Whether you’re suffering from gum disease or are simply concerned about the state of your gums, you’ve come to the right place. At our Summerland, BC practice, we offer a number of diagnostic, preventative, and treatment services in the field of periodontics.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
At Summerland Dental Centre, we understand that you may have questions about gum disease and its impact on your overall oral health. That’s why we’ll take the time to evaluate your condition thoroughly and offer you the treatment or follow-up care options that will best serve your needs. We’re committed not only to the health of your gums, but to your health as a whole.
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 include 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.
Digital radiography (digital x-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental x-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of x-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems easier. Digital x-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental x-rays.
Dental 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:
- Abscesses or cysts
- Bone loss
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors
- Decay between the teeth
- 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 may save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental x-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. Digital x-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital x-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the x-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment. Even though digital x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking those x-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.
How often should dental x-rays be taken?
The need for dental x-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based upon the review of your medical and dental history, a dental exam, signs and symptoms, your age, and risk of disease. A full mouth series of dental x-rays 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) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems. Finally, a panoramic x-ray is recommended about every 5 years. A panoramic x-ray gives us a comprehensive view of your mouth, including your teeth, jawbone, jaw joint, and the sinuses. It gives us valuable information about these areas and is a great screening tool for conditions such as jaw cysts, cancer and infection in areas otherwise undetectable from other types of x-rays.
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.
Professional Dental Cleaning
Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are usually performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. 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.
Cleanings and Prevention
Fluoride Treatment: Fluoride is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health and professional organizations. Fluoride works primarily in a topical fashion, such as with toothpaste and the fluoride tray treatment you receive at the dental office. Topical fluoride strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surface of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to decay. We gain topical fluoride by using fluoride containing dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and gels. Dentists and dental hygienists generally recommend that children have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups.
Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. Your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
- Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
- Exposed and sensitive root surfaces.
- Fair to poor oral hygiene habits.
- Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake.
- Inadequate exposure to fluorides.
- Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications.
- Recent history of dental decay.
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit your dentist on a regular basis.
A beautiful, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime is our ultimate goal when treating patients. Your personal home care plays an important role in achieving that goal. Your personal home care starts by eating balanced meals, reducing the number of snacks you eat, and correctly using the various dental aids that help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.
Tooth brushing: Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste. Place the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums and gently brush using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums. Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth. Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside of the front teeth. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
Electric toothbrushes are also recommended. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time.
Flossing: Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone. Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands. Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion. Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gum line. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth. Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
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 your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you. Use other dental aids as recommended by your dentist or dental hygienist: Interdental brushes, rubber tip stimulators, tongue cleaners, irrigation devices, fluoride, medicated rinses, etc., can all play a role in good dental home care.
At our office, we use preventive resins to prevent decay on the chewing surfaces (grooves) of molars and premolars (back teeth). Preventive resins are different than traditional sealants in that preventive resins are made of a more durable material that adhere better to the enamel of the tooth. These resins have been found to last longer than traditional sealants. Once applied, it is rare that a preventive resin would have to be replaced or repaired, unlike traditional sealants. Therefore, by using preventive resins, children are awarded the long term benefit of less overall treatment time and parents benefit too from the cost effectiveness of a single procedure. A preventive resin is a white plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This resin acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.