Every time I go to have my oil changed or tires rotated, I know the time and money required is to prevent problems or extend the life of my investment as much as possible. It makes handing over my credit card a little easier since I’m willingly taking steps to avoid larger expenses that could have been prevented.
This is why your 6-month dental check-ups and cleanings are so important. By removing built-up tartar, you can avoid the time and expense for cavity repair and gum disease treatment. However, these visits can help you avoid much greater expenses, some you may not realize.
For example, during these appointments, we check your bite alignment. Why is this important?
Every tooth in your mouth is designed to interact with neighboring teeth. For instance, an upper front tooth is bordered by teeth on each side as well as one below it. The teeth on each side help to keep adjacent teeth in their proper positions. The one below it – the one it ‘meets’ – helps to keep it at a proper length. Without the tooth below, the upper tooth would elongate. Without the teeth on each side, the tooth would turn or tilt.
It doesn’t take much to create a domino effect when it comes to the balanced alignment of how the upper teeth meet lower teeth. When just one tooth moves out of position, the others can bear the brunt of misalignment or malocclusion.
While a tooth that has become crooked may seem to create like a minimal flaw in your smile’s appearance, the problem can go much deeper than esthetics. For example, bite misalignment can lead to teeth that break, chip, or crack. It is also what leads to TMJ (jaw joint) disorder.
TMJ disorder can result in frequent headaches; migraines, ear ringing; dizziness; night-time clenching and grinding; jaw popping, and sore facial and neck muscles. Because some of these symptoms are seemingly unrelated to bite alignment, many people spend years seeking relief, going from doctor to doctor, trying different medications, and undergoing procedures – all coming up short of actually resolving the true source of the problem.
Another check we perform during your dental hygiene visits is to look at the condition of your gums.
Periodontal (gum) disease can begin without obvious symptoms, symptoms that YOU may not notice. However, we are trained to catch early warning signs such as gums that are pulling away from their tight seal around teeth. Gums that bleed easily during ‘probing’ are also signs we note.
Yet, when it comes to your gum tissues, which cover the entire oral cavity, there ae additional problems that we can address during your oral hygiene visit. One, in particular, is to examine any lumps or bumps that can indicate oral cancer.
During your exam, you may notice us feeling around inside your mouth. We look under your tongue and on the inside of your cheeks. What we’re looking for are unusual areas that can be early signs of oral cancer.
Oral cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers due to its dreadful survival rate. If caught early, treatment requirements may be minimal. During this exam, we check for discolored spots, lumps, and growths that may indicate the need for a biopsy.
Other problems that your gum tissues can reveal are oral fungal infections, such as thrush. This can be an uncomfortable condition that is contagious. Even pregnant females can pass this on to their unborn babies. We can also note the emergence of things like canker sores and recommend ways to minimize their discomfort and duration.
If signs of a cavity exist, we can address the problem before it becomes a bigger problem! Filling a small cavity is a much simpler procedure than having to crown a tooth that has a large cavity. And, it is less of an expense.
We can also help in the prevention of tooth loss by checking teeth that are showing signs of break down. When a tooth is cracked, fractured, or overloaded with fillings, the potential for losing the tooth increases.
Tooth removal is necessary when a tooth breaks off below the gum line. To save the tooth, we can advise an inlay or a crown (cap) to help prevent the need to remove it (resulting in time and expense to replace it).
One of the most effective ways we can support patients during their cleanings and exams is to provide easy-to-follow recommendations and instructions for their at-home care. For example, if we note that a patient is being less-than-thorough with certain back teeth, our hygienists can discuss holding the toothbrush at a different angle. Or, the hygienist may advise using an oral rinse to replenish moisture if ‘dry mouth‘ seems to be a challenge.
So you see, these 6-month check-ups are important ways to have a healthy mouth and enjoy a bright smile between visits! They can help you save time and money by helping you avoid problems, or minimize those that do occur.