The term “dental checkup” can be misleading because what happens at the dentist’s office goes far beyond a simple check-up. A dentist appointment should be considered part of your routine dental care because it involves cleaning your teeth and gums more deeply than is possible at home. It’s also an occasion to get personalized instruction about what your brushing and flossing regimen should look like to ensure optimal oral health.
The Source of Dental Troubles
We typically think of the mouth as a static environment, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our mouths are microcosms where bacteria gather — both good and bad. The quality of your oral health depends largely on factors occurring on a microbial level. When your mouth’s equilibrium shifts to favor harmful bacteria, oral problems inevitably result. One common example is dental caries.
Strictly speaking, dental caries is caused by harmful bacteria, with the most common culprit being Streptococcus mutans. The bacteria feed on decomposing food in the mouth, especially sugars, and produce acid as a by-product. That acid mixes with saliva to form dental plaque, a sticky bacterial substance that corrodes the teeth.
Over time, dental plaque wears on the tooth enamel, causing holes in the teeth. When plaque hardens into tartar, a rough and porous substance, the gum tissues may be damaged. Tartar eventually leads to receding gums and gum disease, the most common cause of tooth loss.
A routine dental cleaning addresses these common risks:
- Removes Tartar Deposits
Professional cleanings involve a dental procedure known as scaling, which is performed by dental hygienists. Scaling involves scraping the debris from the teeth using special dental tools. Larger tartar deposits are removed using an ultrasonic scaler, an electric tool that breaks down tartar deposits. This procedure goes a long way in restoring oral health by eliminating the main problem behind gum disease.
- Smooths out the Tooth Surface
Oftentimes, a dental practitioner may polish the surfaces of your teeth using a special paste. Polishing removes stains from the enamel, smoothing out the surface of the teeth. Smoother teeth are less likely to attract oral bacteria, which lowers your possibility of developing a cavity. Polishing also helps to remove accumulated dental plaque, improve aesthetics, and reduce corrosion in any dental restorations you may have.
- Strengthens Tooth Enamel
Another aspect of routine dental care is fluoride treatment. Fluoride is a cleaning agent that can be applied in the form of a gel, foam, varnish, or rinse. It strengthens the enamel through remineralization, the process by which fluoride, calcium, and phosphate are deposited back into the teeth. Remineralization strengthens the structure of the teeth, making fluoride treatment one of the most effective ways to prevent, and in some cases, even reverse, dental caries.
Routine Dental Care at Penn Dental Medicine
Routine visits to the dentist are essential to address bacterial buildup, a key contributor to both dental decay and gum disease. Every person’s mouth is different, which means that some people will experience minimal plaque buildup while others suffer accelerated rates through no fault of their own. You should brush and floss every day to reduce these risks and be sure to schedule regular visits to the dentist for a professional cleaning.
Penn Dental Medicine offers high-quality dentistry services at very affordable rates, making it possible for many Philadelphia area families to enjoy preventive care. As a dental school clinic, we offer superior attention at a lower cost to patients. Our student dentists are supervised by faculty at the forefront of their field and patients benefit from the expertise of multiple dental professionals. To schedule your appointment, please give us a call at 215-898-8965.