According to the American Dental Association (ADA), everyone should be receiving a routine dental exam and cleaning biannually. From childhood, we are instructed to brush our teeth at least twice daily and to floss once a day to keep our teeth and gums clean and healthy. However, dental hygiene cannot and should not stop here. Seeing a dentist every six months is just as essential to ensuring that your smile lasts a lifetime.
There are a number of different parts that comprise a dental exam. Before the cleaning, a dentist or hygienist will examine your mouth and check for tooth decay, symptoms of gum disease, issues with alignment and bite, loose or chipped teeth, damaged fillings, as well as signs of oral cancer and other conditions. The dentist may also order a set of X-rays of the jaw and teeth. These X-rays will indicate potential problems including decay that may not be visible on the surface of the teeth.
After your tongue, gums, teeth, and any appliances have been examined and your provider is satisfied that you are not suffering from any dental difficulties, the cleaning will commence. The overall purpose of the cleaning is to remove all plaque and tartar from the teeth. There are a number of foods and beverages that can increase the buildup of plaque which, in turn, can lead to eventual gum disease. Smokers, in particular, are more likely to develop excessive plaque deposits. The first stage of gum disease, gingivitis, can often be corrected but, if left untreated, periodontitis can set in which can lead to tooth loss.
After all of the plaque and tartar have been removed from the teeth, the dentist or hygienist will then polish your teeth using a special compound and floss. The cleaning will also often be followed by a fluoride treatment. Fluoride has been shown to increase the strength of teeth as well as stave off decay.
Once the exam and cleaning are complete, the dentist will speak with you about the health of your teeth and how to improve your brushing and flossing habits if improvement is necessary. You will then be instructed to schedule your next appointment in six months unless otherwise recommended by your dentist. If you have braces or another dental appliance or you have been diagnosed with a condition that needs frequent care, you may be asked to return for an appointment more often.