We all know how vital it is to care for our general health. However, sometimes we can lag behind in preventative care, particularly for our teeth. You could have switched to a different dental plan, not found a new dentist, or been busy. Whatever the reason, it is critical to regularly and frequently visit a dentist for dental exams and check-ups because preventative care is better than cure.
Aside from the cosmetic benefits, preventative dentistry can help you avoid or minimize several dental health issues by keeping your teeth and gums healthy. If you are looking for a reliable dentist for your regular dental exams and check-ups in Lomita, our credible dentists at Washington Dental are ready to help you.
We treat our patients like family and will be there for you and your family to ensure you have the oral health and smile you deserve to face the world confidently. Read on for everything you need to know about dental exams and check-ups.
What to Expect During Regular Dental Exams and Check-Ups
Regular dental exams and check-ups are vital for your oral health and well-being. While flossing and brushing your teeth daily can help keep your teeth clean, regular dental exams and check-ups can help remove persistent plaque build-up you cannot remove with your toothbrush.
Most people use the terms dental check-up and exam interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings in dentistry. Generally, a dental hygienist will take care of dental check-ups, while a dentist will handle dental exams because they are more technical and require expertise. Here is what to expect during these two procedures, respectively:
If it is your first dental visit, the hygienist or certified dental assistant will ask about your medical history. He/she will want to know about the health conditions that you have and the medications you are currently on, including over-the-counter medicines.
If it is not your first dental visit, the hygienist will ask about any changes in your health conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, and pregnancy. Like a first-time visitor, you should also let your hygienist know whether you are currently on new medications.
The primary reason for revealing or disclosing your health condition to the hygienist is to avoid any complications during the treatment and to ensure you have the best care during the treatment process. Once the hygienist is aware of your medical history, he/she will begin the dental check-up procedure with a thorough teeth cleaning, where he/she will:
- Use various dentistry instruments and tools to scrape off tartar and plaque build-up from the surface of your teeth and below the gumline.
- Polish your teeth to remove persistent plaque build-up and stains.
- Floss your teeth using a special dentistry string to lift and remove food and plaque stuck in between your teeth.
After cleaning your teeth, the hygienist will report any findings or noticeable changes in your dental and oral health to the dentist for further examination and treatment.
During a dental exam, your dentist will do a quick dental check-up and examine your gums, throat, soft palate, and neck to check for abnormalities. When examining the health of your gums, the dentist will use a special dentistry tool known as a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the pockets between your gums and teeth.
If your pocket depth exceeds 3 millimeters (mm), it could indicate that you have periodontitis. However, if the depth of these pockets is shallow or less than 3mm, your gums are healthy.
Depending on your age, dental health, and oral disease risk, the dentist could recommend X-rays. X-rays can help diagnose oral and dental problems often hidden and unnoticeable by our naked eyes, including:
- Jawbone fractures.
- Impacted teeth.
- Decay between your teeth.
If the dental examination reveals something unusual, your dentist will recommend appropriate treatment to restore your dental and oral health. Once the dental examination is over, your dentist will advise you and give you home-based oral and dental health care tips to help you avoid any further or new oral health complications.
How Often You Need to Visit the Dentist for Dental Exams and Check-Ups
Generally speaking, visiting a dentist's clinic twice a year (every six months) for routine dental check-ups and exams is advisable to allow your dentist to monitor and understand your dental health progress. However, if you have any progressive dental issue that requires close monitoring, your dentist could need you to schedule dental visits more often.
For instance, if you have periodontitis, your dentist could require you to schedule an appointment every three (3) months to keep the progression of the disease at bay.
Regular dental exams and check-ups allow your dentist to see whether oral or dental health abnormalities have formed since your last visit. That is why it is advisable to stick with one dentist who will keep your dental and oral health records and quickly notice any abnormalities in your teeth or oral health.
Reasons Regular Dental Check-Ups and Exams are Important
Having to schedule a dental visit every six (6) months is not something to look forward to for many people. However, it is one of the most important steps to protect and improve dental and oral health. If you are wondering what the point of visiting your dentist regularly for dental check-ups and exams is, below you will find compelling reasons you should never skip any dental appointment:
Early Detection of Oral Cancer
In addition to examining your teeth and gums' health, your dentist can detect any abnormality in your mouth, including tumors that grow into cancer, during these routine appointments. Without knowing or noticing the early signs and symptoms of its onset for early intervention, oral cancer can grow to become a life-threatening issue.
Thankfully, dentists have the proper training and skills to detect these abnormalities during regular dental exams and check-ups for quick intervention. Recognizing signs of cancer during its early stages is the key to treating and managing it successfully because it worsens with time.
Using a procedure known as a Velscope cancer exam, your dentist will use a special light to detect whether there are dead tissues in your mouth, often caused by tumors. With this painless exam, your dentist can easily detect early signs of cancer during regular dental exams to stop its progression.
Can Help Prevent Tooth Decay and Cavity Issues
Even with regular flossing and brushing of the teeth, some plaque deposits are challenging to remove. When the plaque builds up and hardens into tartar, removing it becomes even more difficult without professional assistance. Tartar is the brownish and sticky film that forms on the surface of your teeth, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive and erode your teeth using their acidic excretions.
During your regular dental appointments, your dentist will examine your teeth to check for early signs of tooth decay, including tartar, cavities, and white spots on your teeth. When the dentist detects plaque or tartar on the surface of your teeth, he/she will remove them to keep tooth decay and cavity issues at bay.
If left untreated, tooth decay could require a filling, a crown, and other restorative services to treat, which is expensive. Fortunately, you can protect your teeth from attacks by destructive bacteria that thrive in tartar by scheduling regular dental check-ups and exam appointments, which are cost-friendly.
Helps Keep Gum Diseases at Bay
Plaque buildup and tartar do not only cause cavities but can also cause gum disease when they form below your gum line. In most cases, the early onset of gum disease will show no symptoms, making it challenging to detect when you have this disease. Luckily, dentists have the skills to detect gum disease in its early stages.
During the early stages of gum disease, also known as gingivitis, the bacteria in the plaque buildup below your gum line will cause your gums to detach from your teeth, creating spaces for more bacteria to thrive. Without early intervention, gingivitis will progress to become periodontitis, which is more severe.
Although gingivitis causes unpleasant symptoms like inflammation, these symptoms are reversible when the infection is detected early. However, if left untreated, it becomes periodontitis, which causes irreversible damage to your gums and teeth-supporting structures, eventually leading to tooth loss.
During routine dental check-ups, your dentist will ensure your gums are firmly attached to your teeth. Your dentist will also check for signs of gum disease, including:
- Swollen gums.
- Red gums.
- Tender gums.
- Bad breath.
- Receding gums.
All these are indicators that you have gum disease, and early intervention is critical to preventing its progression to severe stages (periodontitis). If the dentist detects these symptoms, he/she will focus on treating the underlying cause during your routine dental visits.
Aside from removing the plaque buildup, which is the cause of the disease, your dentist will give you home-based remedy tips to reverse the bacterial attack and accelerate the healing process. Generally, improved oral health habits like regular teeth brushing, tongue brushing, and avoiding tobacco products will eliminate gum disease, leaving you with healthy gums.
Will Give You a Chance to Consult Your Dentist About Cosmetic Procedures
Although your dentist will perform thorough dental cleanings during your routine dental check-ups, you can consult him/her about cosmetic procedures necessary to improve your smile's appearance. Examples of cosmetic procedures you would need to improve your teeth' appearance for a brighter and more attractive smile include:
- Teeth Whitening
Professional teeth whitening can add an extra sparkle to your teeth' appearance beyond what routine daily brushing and flossing provide. Unlike daily teeth brushing and cleaning that removes plaque from the surface of your teeth, an in-office teeth whitening procedure can help remove persistent medical-related and age-related discolorations, giving you a whiter and brighter smile.
Generally, during an in-office professional teeth whitening procedure, your dentist will do the following:
- Prepare your mouth by covering your gums and lips to prevent irritation.
- Apply a bleaching gel (hydrogen peroxide) to the aesthetic zones of your teeth.
- Focus a special blue LED light on the teeth for approximately fifteen (15) minutes to activate the gel.
- Repeat the second and third procedure above two or more times to achieve the teeth whiteness shade you want.
Several people are reluctant to strengthen and straighten their teeth because they dislike the appearance of traditional metal braces and the possible discomfort they could experience when wearing them. If this sounds like you, you could be an excellent candidate for Invisalign.
Invisalign is a new, ground-breaking teeth-straightening method that uses clear or invisible plastic aligners to move your teeth to their ideal position over time. Unlike metal braces, Invisalign or clear aligners are removable, meaning you can remove them to brush your teeth or eat.
However, remember to fix them back as soon as possible because removing them too often can delay or interfere with the success of this orthodontic treatment option. The more committed you will be to wearing your Invisalign aligners for the period required by the dentist, the less time it will take to achieve your desired smile appearance.
Helps Keep Systematic Health Issues at Bay
Routine dental check-ups and exams can help the dentist detect underlying, systematic health issues that could go undetected. In addition to checking your gums, tongue, and teeth for any sign of abnormality, the dentist will also check your jaw, neck, and lymph nodes (located below your jawline) for any lumps, swelling, or any other abnormality.
If your dentist detects any abnormality, he/she will alert you and refer you to the appropriate medical practitioner for treatment. While swollen lymph nodes do not hurt or cause discomfort, when identified and checked early by the right medical practitioner, that abnormality could be a sign of other diseases, including cancer.
Without scheduling regular dental visits, there is no chance for you to notice these abnormalities in time for immediate treatment. Although checking for these abnormalities takes the dentist less than two minutes, an underlying health issue is detected early before progressing to severe levels.
Helps Boost Your Overall Health
There is a connection between your oral health and your overall health. Staying on top of your oral and dental health through regular dental exams and check-ups can help keep several health issues at bay, including Alzheimer's. When bacteria attack your gums, they become inflamed, releasing chemicals that travel to your brain, causing Alzheimer's.
With prolonged exposure to or contact with these chemicals, certain parts of your brain can begin to deteriorate, leading to brain loss. While daily flossing and brushing your teeth will not eliminate the onset of Alzheimer's, these oral health habits can help prevent it. Other health issues you can suffer from or experience due to poor oral health habits include the following:
- Lung disease.
- Heart disease.
For all these reasons, you cannot overlook the need to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups, even if you do not have a dental or oral health issue.
Can Help Reduce or Prevent Bad Breath
Any person can have bad breath, also known as halitosis, from time to time after eating onions, garlic, or foods with a strong odor. However, chronic bad breath that does not disappear with regular brushing could mean you have an underlying oral health issue or condition requiring immediate treatment.
Although bad breath could be due to other health issues like dry mouth or heartburn, in most cases, it is due to poor oral health habits. Fortunately, this issue is treatable through routine dental cleanings to remove food stuck between the spaces in your teeth and microbes that cause bad breath.
Can Help Keep Bad Habits in Check
Several bad habits could negatively impact your oral and dental health, some of which you will not notice are causing issues. Examples of these bad habits include the following:
- Teeth grinding.
- Jaw clenching.
- Biting your nails.
- Chewing ice.
- Brushing your teeth vigorously or too hard.
- Eating hard or sticky foods.
- Drinking red wine or coffee.
During regular dental visits, your dentist can check for possible damage caused by these bad habits, which you could otherwise not notice. Being informed about the repercussions of specific bad habits allows you to alter your diet and lifestyle choices to prevent or avoid further damage to your teeth and oral health.
Your dentist can also fix the damage caused by these bad habits during these routine check-ups and help you stay on top of your dental and oral health.
You Will Receive Helpful Education About Home-based Oral Care
During routine dental visits, your dentist will have a chance to educate you about ways to improve your dental and oral health at home to maintain a beautiful and charming smile. Since technology is advancing daily to make our lives easier, your dentist will also educate you on new inventions you can use to improve your dental health, including the latest and most effective electric toothbrush.
Your dentist will also encourage you to ask dental and oral health questions for appropriate and professional advice. Asking questions and seeking clarification from your dentist about home-based oral care ensures you are on the right path and doing everything necessary to maintain or improve your oral health.
Your Dentist Can Check Your Dental Restorations to Ensure They are Firm and Effective
If you have fillings or any other dental restorations on your teeth, you will benefit from regular dental exams and check-ups. With time, dental restoration appliances like braces can move out of position, slowing the success of the treatment.
During these routine dental check-ups, your dentist will check your dental appliances and adjust them as required, if necessary, to give you the desired results as soon as possible. If you have a missing filling, your dentist can replace it during your routine check-up appointment.
Reduce Dental and Oral Health Care Costs in the Long Run
Finally, routine dental exams and check-ups help prevent unnecessary costs in the long run because your dentist will detect and fix any health concern before it becomes problematic and costly. For instance, when gum disease is detected early before progressing to severe levels (periodontitis), it will save you a lot of money in the long run because advanced levels of this disease are costly to treat.
Tips on How to Take Full Advantage of the Dental Exams and Check-Ups Benefits
To enjoy the most benefits from your routine dental exams and check-up appointments, you must do your part at home by maintaining an excellent oral and dental healthcare routine. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the bacteria that attack your teeth and gums are persistent and can develop even after receiving professional cleaning.
For that reason, it is advisable to do the following in between your dental visits or appointments:
- Stay hydrated.
- Brush your teeth daily using fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss your teeth daily.
- Use fluoridated mouthwash.
- Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
- Avoid smoking or using other tobacco products.
- Keep scheduling regular dental check-ups and exam appointments.
- Replace your toothbrush regularly.
Take Away Notes
Regular dental exams and check-ups are the cornerstones of maintaining top-notch dental and oral health, especially if you wear braces. Although dental visits are dreaded experiences, with modern technology, you can be sure of utmost comfort during each visit to your dentist.
If you are looking for a dentist for you and your family's routine dental exams and check-ups, the following tips can help narrow down your options. Consider the dentist's:
- Licensing credentials.
Find a Reliable Dentist Near Me
Maintaining proper oral and dental health requires more than just brushing and flossing your teeth daily. It is a lifetime commitment to your overall well-being and health, and scheduling frequent appointments with your dentist is one part of it.
At Washington Dental, we are passionate and eager to help you and your family maintain top-notch oral health and the bright smiles you deserve through routine dental exams and check-ups. If you are looking for a credible dentist in Lomita, you can count on us to offer you the professional services necessary to stay on top of your dental health. Call us at 310-326-5183.