Checkups and Cleaning

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Here are a few common misconceptions around preventative oral health maintenance:

“I can clean my teeth just as well at home…”

When you haven’t been to the dentist for a while, you can begin to justify your absence by insisting that your teeth are served just as well by their oral health routine of brushing and flossing.

While it’s true that regular brushing and flossing does do wonders for the overall health of the teeth, it’s still natural to have some buildup of tartar around the base of the teeth if you don’t have a professional cleaning regularly. This doesn’t reflect any fault in your habits – the reason lies in the environment inside the mouth. Behind the lower front teeth, for example, is a common area to develop tartar due to the calcification of minerals found in the saliva. Since our salival glands are under the tongue, this is where most of it will sit when we are asleep. A dental cleaning offers scaling – a method of safely removing the tartar from the enamel without compromising it. Regularly removing this tartar from the teeth makes it easier for bacteria to be rinsed away by our saliva, due to their smooth surface.

Removing tartar also prevents the teeth from staining, since tartar is porous and easily stained by the foods we eat and drink. If you have been thinking about whitening your teeth, first consider whether your regular cleanings are up to date.

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“Bleeding gums means stop flossing…”

It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but if your teeth are bleeding when they are flossed it is time to increase the frequency of this important maintenance. Teeth and gums should feel comfortable and unaffected by the floss passing between them.

Up to 40% of the surface area of our teeth are rendered inaccessible to a toothbrush – that’s the area between the teeth. You wouldn’t wash only 60% of your body, and neither should you where it comes to your teeth. Cavities between teeth are common in those who don’t floss, since bacteria and food nestle deep between the teeth and attack the with an acid bath. Not only does this acid and bacteria cause cavities, but it greatly irritates the soft tissues. Gums that are red and swollen are unhappy gums on their way to gingivitis – and a great way to confirm is whether they bleed during flossing.

Every mouth is different, and crowding or other alignment issues can sometimes make it difficult to use floss effectively. Talk to your dental hygienist to get tips and insight into what products and techniques would be helpful to you.

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“My teeth aren’t alive…”

It’s easy to understand why many of us don’t consider our teeth to be ‘alive’, but a quick look at the inner anatomy of a healthy tooth confirms that our teeth have a blood supply. That’s right, your natural teeth are as alive as the rest of you!

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“Cutting sugar means only cutting out candy…”

If only this were true! Unfortunately, since teeth are negatively affected by the acid produced when bacteria consume sugars, we should aim to eliminate all carbohydrates that have the same effect. This means cutting candy as well as breads, pastries, and chips. To decrease the impact that these foods have on the teeth, avoid snacking and consume all food at mealtimes only. Don’t sip soda throughout the day – drink it all at once during a meal to increase the likelihood that sugars will be moved out of the mouth as you consume your food.

“If there’s nothing wrong, there’s no reason to go…”

If it’s been six months or more since your last visit, it’s time for a checkup with your dentist.  Even if you don’t have any pain, discomfort or immediate concerns, a checkup is important. Consider that the visual portion of an oral checkup is only the initial portion of your appointment. What follows are a number of important checks that go beyond what’s visible to the naked eye. Digital X-rays give your dentist important information about what is going on in your mouth as far as the health of your jawbone, the roots and inner teeth and even whether there are cavities developing between the teeth. This important imaging alone is reason enough to attend regular oral health appointments. The ability to identify serious conditions such as the onset of a dental cyst prevents conditions from becoming severe before being addressed. Finally, your dentist uses light technology to see beneath the first layer of skin in the mouth (cheeks, tongue, and throat). This may lead to early identification of some forms of oral cancers.

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“If I am getting enough calcium, my teeth will be strong…”

While calcium is an important factor in tooth health, medical and dental fields have copious evidence that vitamin D is important for the health of teeth, bones, and immune system. Ask your dentist how much daily vitamin D they recommend for you and your family.

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