Cleanings and Recare
The best way to maintain a healthy mouth is to see your hygienist regularly for a routine cleaning and check-up. During this type of visit,the hygienist will provide you with scaling, polishing, fluoride, and x-rays (based on your individual needs). The dentist usually comes in at the end to check the teeth for any discrepancies. Not only does this routine visit keep the teeth and gums clear of harmful bacteria and deposits, it allows your oral care providers the chance to check and re-check your teeth for any changes and sometimes predict and prevent certain problems with the teeth and surrounding tissues.
The following are some of the things the hygienist and dentist will look for:
Periodontal (gum) Disease: Hygienists are trained in assessing and preventing periodontal disease. In short, this is an irreversible disease that results in the plaque bacteria causing the bone and structures surrounding the teeth to break down and essentially rot away. Without these structures, there is nothing to hold the teeth in place. In severe cases Periodontal Disease can result in infection and/or tooth loss. Your hygienist not only cleans the plaque deposits off the teeth in order to prevent Periodontal Disease progression, but will help give you the knowledge and tools you need to care for and maintain your teeth at home
Cracks, cavities, and failing restorations: With regular check-ups and recare appointments, it is more likely that the hygienist and dentist will be able to find problems with the teeth before these problems can cause pain or infection. It is beneficial to catch a problem, such as a cavity, while it is small rather than large in order to prevent complications during the restorative process.
Oral Cancer Screening:
During the recare appointment, the hygienist takes a good look around the mouth to assess the oral tissues for any abnormalities or signs of oral cancer. He/she can also give you tips on how to do this at home and what some of the signs of oral cancer are.
Patients are treated based on their individual needs and concerns. For this reason, the hygienist might recommend different recare intervals to help improve the oral health status of the patient. Some people are prone to decay, some people present with more inflammation and tenderness of the gums, some build the deposits on the teeth quicker than others, and some people are susceptible to Advanced Periodontal Disease. Depending on what the hygienist and dentist find during the assessment of the mouth, they may recommend the following intervals.
3-4mos- Usually these are called “Periodontal Maintenance Appointments”. These appointments provide more scaling per year, in order to remove the plaque bacteria more frequently and promote healthier gums and a lower chance of developing gum disease.
6-9mos- This is usually the standard amount of time between cleanings. If the patient does not require a lot of additional maintenance/help from the hygienist and their gums and teeth are in a stable and healthy state, this timeframe will suffice.
12mos- This interval is not usually recommended, as more frequent recare/cleanings benefit the health of the mouth better; However, some people do not have Dental Benefits and cannot afford to come more often than this. And that’s okay; annual cleanings/recares still allow dental providers to assess the teeth on a regular basis. This type of interval does, however, require more diligent home care practices from the patient.
Benefits of Routine X-rays
Bite-wing X-rays are recommended to be taken every 12months during the recare appointment. These x-rays allow the hygienist and dentist to see between the teeth and also the surrounding structures that cannot be seen by the naked eye. The dentist will often use x-rays to diagnose decay/cavities between the teeth. The hygienist can use the x-rays to check for bone loss associated with Periodontal Disease and see deposits deep between the teeth that need to be removed. In certain instances it is difficult, if not impossible, to diagnose or address patient concerns without an x-ray.
Some people worry that the amount of radiation associated with annual x-rays is excessive; however, studies have shown that the amount received by the patient is very minimal, especially with newer digital x-ray sensors that need even less exposure time than the traditional x-ray film.