One of the most common and frustrating myths about dentistry is that regular dental exams aren’t important. A surprising number of people believe (or at least convince themselves) that, as long as they brush their teeth, they don’t need to see a dentist. This myth isn’t just false, it’s also dangerous. Many of the emergency dental problems ImmediaDent dentists treat could have been prevented if the patient had attended regular checkups.
Dental examinations aren’t just about cleaning your teeth or treating problems. They’re also about preventing problems. Professionals can spot and prevent potential dental problems before they become emergencies. That means no matter how well you take care of your dental health, regular, professional examinations are essential. Here are four ways dental examinations prevent problems, and four reasons why they’re essential to your health and well-being.
4. Remove Tartar
Bacteria from food you eat naturally collects in your mouth in the form of a sticky, colorless substance called “plaque.” Unless you remove plaque, it will harden into a substance called tartar (gross picture alert). Tartar can seriously compromise tooth, gum, and mouth health, leading to inflammation, tooth decay, and gum disease. You can remove plaque by brushing and flossing your teeth regularly. If plaque hardens into tartar, however, brushing and flossing won’t be able to get it off.
The only reliable way to get tartar off your teeth is with the help of a dental hygienist. During cleanings and other gum disease treatments, hygienists use their metal instruments to find tartar and scrape it off your teeth. These tools enable the hygienist to reach every part of the mouth effectively. Scraping tartar off your teeth prevents it from building up even more and causing serious health risks. It also helps keep your teeth clean and hygienic.
3. Spot and prevent cavities
Everyone knows this is what dental exams are all about. Cavities happen when the bacteria in plaque and tartar produce acids that eat away at the outer coating (enamel) and inner layer (dentin) of your teeth. The acid in plaque and tartar eventually “burns” small holes–literal cavities–into the affected tooth. Cavities can cause tooth sensitivity and pain that will only get worse the longer they go unaddressed.
Dentists and dental hygienists locate cavities in several ways. As you’re probably aware, dentists take x-rays of your mouth about once a year. These x-rays have a few important purposes, including helping dentists locate cavities more accurately. During an appointment, dentists also perform thorough visual inspections using a tool called a dental explorer. The dental explorer allows dentists to find smaller cavities that aren’t yet visible on x-rays. They can even tell you where tooth decay has started but hasn’t turned into a cavity yet.
2. Identify (or prevent!) gum disease
For whatever reason, cavities get nearly all the attention when people talk about dental exams, and gum disease gets hardly any. We’re not sure why this is, because preventing gum disease is every bit as important as finding cavities. Periodontal (gum) disease happens when the toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque build up around the gums and irritate them. This irritation causes gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is reversible, but left alone it will progress into the much more serious periodontitis.
Dentists check the health of your gumline at the same time they’re inspecting your teeth for cavities and plaque. They will use a small measuring tool to gently “probe” the gum line. This ruler lets them measure how well the gums are attached to the teeth, while also testing gum resilience and health. If you schedule regular checkups, your dentist will compare their results to previous gum examinations. By determining if inflammation has worsened since your last checkup, your dentist can tell whether you’re at risk of gum disease, already have it, or if it’s worse than before.
1. Detect cancer early
According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates, 51,540 US citizens will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2018. An estimated 10,030 of these victims will die of their cancer. Oral cancer can develop in the mouth, lips, or oropharynx (the back of the mouth). People who smoke, drink, don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables, or have a family history of oral cancer are particularly at risk, but anyone can get it.
Dentists are trained to detect signs of oral cancer during regular dental exams. While they’re checking for cavities and gum health, they’ll also identify any cancer warning signs. While your dentist can’t independently diagnose cancer, they can identify warning signs and suspicious areas and recommend a biopsy or further examination. The faster you identify a possible oral cancer, the faster you can take steps to deal with it. The best way to identify oral cancer early is to schedule regular dental checkups.
As you can see, dental appointments aren’t just about making sure your teeth look and feel great. They’re also an absolutely crucial part of taking care of yourself. Scheduling regular dental appointments will help you stay on top of your health and feel better.
At ImmediaDent, we understand that it’s a lot easier to commit to dental health if you don’t dread your appointments. That’s why we strive to make our services as customer-friendly, comfortable, and convenient as possible. Next time you need to schedule a dental checkup, give us a call! We’ll help you commit to a future of good dental health without the fear or frustration.