When was the last time you had a dental cleaning? If you think it doesn't matter, you need to read on to learn about the importance of dental prophylaxis. This simple procedure is a major part of an oral health care regimen needed to prevent cavities, gum disease and tooth loss brought on by dental disease. Prophylaxis can prevent the need for a costly dental treatment, such as a tooth filling or gum disease treatment. And you only need to do it twice a year.
The medical term for a professional dental cleaning, prophylaxis is purely a preventive measure. Part of your dental checkup, prophylaxis is used to remove dental plaque and other irritants from the oral cavity.
As these deposits build on your teeth, they form dental tartar, which contributes to most dental problems. Unfortunately, some of these deposits can't be removed with regular brushing and flossing. Prophylaxis is one way to ensure a clean bill of oral health -- at least for the next six months!
Dental prophylaxis is more than just a tooth cleaning. During the exam, several measures are used to monitor and improve the health of your teeth. First, the dental hygienist will take X-rays to look for any signs of tooth decay. Your dentist will review the X-rays and also check for any dental problems with a thorough oral exam. Next comes the removal of deposits from your teeth with an ultrasonic dental cleaning or scaling and root planing. Your dentist will most likely discuss with you any treatment plans he or she feels are necessary. Once you're in the clear, the dentist or dental hygienist may polish your teeth to give you a gleaming smile.
Dental prophylaxis is essential not only for maintaining your teeth, but is also used to treat the early stages of gum disease. Your dentist uses special tools to remove dental tartar, which you can't do on your own. Without regular dental visits, dental tartar can build up and start to form under the gum line. This eventually can lead to periodontal disease, which left untreated, may cause tooth loss. Advanced stages of gum disease may allow bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. Studies have shown that gum disease has actually been linked to heart disease and stroke!
Here are other reasons to see your dentist for prophylaxis on a regular basis:
Dental Education -- Your hygienist can look for teeth that have a larger buildup of dental tartar and show you areas that need improvement in your oral hygiene regimen.
Cosmetic Purposes -- Prophylaxis helps remove some stains from your teeth.
Health Reasons -- During the exam, dentists often screen for oral cancer. Also, dental health has been linked to overall health. Not only can oral problems affect your health, but symptoms of some physical ailments are found in the mouth. Many dentists are trained to look for signs of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, HIV or AIDS, and many other conditions.
Children's Dental Health -- Children are extremely vulnerable to dental problems, and have special needs when it comes to their teeth. Fluoride or dental sealants are often applied during exams to strengthen teeth and help prevent tooth decay. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends for children to have their first dental appointment by the age of one. Children who suffer from dental anxiety and fears can be taken to a pediatric dentist for their appointments.
There are no ifs, ands or buts about it: If you have teeth, you need prophylaxis. It's recommended that most patients receive prophylaxis at a dental office at least every six months, and patients with periodontal disease should have it every three to four months. Like any dental procedure, there are some things to consider before your dental checkup:
1. You may experience some sensitivity following prophylaxis. Plaque and tartar form a shield over teeth, and their removal will expose teeth to sensitive elements for a short time. Proper brushing and flossing will limit plaque and tartar from forming on teeth, making your dental visits a little easier.
2. For patients with heart conditions, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to be taken prior to the dental cleaning. Tell your dentist about your medical history, allergies and prescription medications you are taking prior to your first appointment. Be sure to update your medical records as needed.
3. Most dental plans cover two dental cleanings a year, but be sure you check your dental insurance coverage before accepting treatment. If you're hesitating to make an appointment because you're paying out-of-pocket, consider this: Prophylaxis is a preventive measure that can help prevent tooth decay and other dental problems. Without it, many dental conditions will go unnoticed and grow out of control. A dental exam twice a year can reduce the need for major dental treatments at a much greater expense down the line.
Dental prophylaxis is probably one of the greatest investments your can make in your dental and overall health.