I’ll repeat that again. Cavities don’t hurt. Sometimes even when they get very deep they still don’t cause any pain. That’s why many people feel as though they have no cavities.
It is very important to visit your dentist at least every 6 months. A dental exam is a critical part of your oral health. A lot more goes on during an examination than just a cleaning.
Why go to the dentist?
People usually see their dentist more often than their family doctor. A medical questionnaire is reviewed and all medications are inquired about.
A comprehensive examination is performed by the dentist at the initial appointment.
A full set of x-rays will be taken of new patients. X-rays are now digital and in high definition. The smallest of cavities can be detected with digital x-rays. The dentist will also be on the lookout for bone loss, gum disease, infections, and impacted teeth (think wisdom teeth). Occasionally a cyst, or even a tumor can be found – and treated early.
An oral cancer screening exam is done. The lips, tongue, floor of the mouth, neck and throat are checked for signs of cancer.
Dental examination: The teeth are examined for decay (cavities), decalcification (loss of mineral), wear (from grinding or brushing). The nerves of the teeth (the roots) are examined for infections.
Restorative Exam: The existing restorations - fillings, crowns, bridges, root canals are checked to ensure that they are sound. Yes you can get a cavity under a filling or a crown. Old fillings can also wear down, get cracks, or even fracture.
Gum and bone evaluation: The teeth are held solidly in place by the gums and jawbone. Bone loss is also a silent, painless disease. Plaque, bacteria, and tartar cause inflammation that can lead to bone loss around the teeth.
What is done during a cleaning?
Tartar removal (scaling): Tartar (calculus) is the food and bacteria that have calcified onto your teeth. I use the analogy of food that has hardened on dishes overnight. Tartar is removed gently with ultrasonic and hand instruments.
Plaque removal (prophylaxis): Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. The bacteria is the reason for having red, inflamed gums (gingivitis), that leads to gum disease (periodontal disease) if left untreated. A polishing with a fluoride paste removes the plaque and stains from the surfaces of the teeth.
Fluoride is applied to the teeth to strengthen the enamel and to prevent cavities.
Oral hygiene instruction: Brushing and flossing techniques will be reviewed and reinforced to improve overall oral hygiene.
Your dentist is a vital member of a team dedicated to keeping you healthy. The importance of preventing disease and detecting problems early cannot be stressed enough.
When is your next dental checkup?
Dr. Nilesh Salgar graduated from McGill Dentistry in 1994.
He maintains a private practice in Kirkland, Quebec, focusing on Esthetic and Implant dentistry.
Dr. Salgar is a Diplomate of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI) and a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD)
He can be reached at (514) 697-9947