Basic Dental Care - Routine Checkups
Your dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Many people should see their dentists once or twice a year. Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gingivitis, and other health problems.
- Your dental hygienist will begin to clean your teeth by scraping hard mineral buildup (tartar) off of your teeth with a small metal tool. Then the hygienist will floss your teeth, use a polishing compound, and apply fluoride. Cleanings usually aren't painful.
- Occasionally your dentist will want to take X-rays. The X-rays take only a few minutes.
- Your dentist or technician will have you put on a heavy apron to shield your body from X-rays. Everyone else in the room will either wear a protective apron or step behind a protective shield.
- Your dentist or technician will have you bite down on a small piece of plastic. This will help align the teeth properly for the machine. Your dentist or technician will repeat this process several times to get pictures of all your teeth.
- If needed, your dentist will put a sealant on the chewing surface of your back teeth to help prevent cavities. Sealants keep food and bacteria from getting stuck in the rough chewing surfaces or grooves of your teeth, and they protect your teeth from plaque.
- Your dentist or hygienist may apply a fluoride solution directly to your teeth to help prevent tooth decay. Your dentist may recommend a series of fluoride applications.
- If you are prone to infections, or if infections are particularly dangerous for you, you may need to take antibiotics before you have some types of dental work. Talk to your dentist or doctor if you have questions about the need for antibiotics. You may need to take antibiotics if you:
- Your dentist or hygienist may ask you about the foods you eat. What you eat and whether you get enough vitamins and minerals can affect your dental health.
- If you have active tooth decay or gum disease, your dentist will talk to you about changing your brushing or flossing habits. In severe cases, he or she may recommend antibiotics, special mouthwashes, or other dental treatments. If your teeth and gums appear healthy, your dentist will recommend that you continue your usual brushing and flossing.
How Often Should Teeth Be X-Rayed?
People who fall into the high risk category who may need X-rays taken more frequently include:
- Children . Children generally need more X-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are smaller. As a result, decay can reach the inner part of the tooth, dentin, quicker and spread faster.
- Adults with extensive restorative work, such as fillings to look for decay beneath existing fillings or in new locations.
- People who drink a lot of sugary beverages to look for tooth decay (since the sugary environment creates a perfect situation for cavities to develop).
- People with periodontal (gum) disease to monitor bone loss.
- People who have dry mouth -- called xerostomia -- whether due to medications (such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, and others) or disease states (such as Sjögren's syndrome, damaged salivary glands, radiation treatment to head and neck). Dry mouth conditions can lead to the development of cavities.
- Smokers to monitor bone loss resulting from periodontal disease (smokers are at increased risk of periodontal disease).