Regular dental exams help protect your oral health and general well-being. A dental exam gives us a chance to provide tips on caring for your teeth and to detect any problems early — when they're most treatable.
Regular dental exams are an important part of preventive health care. During a dental exam, the dentist will identify gum inflammation or bone loss. The dentist will evaluate your risk of developing tooth decay and other oral health problems, as well as check your face, neck and mouth for abnormalities. A dental exam might also include dental X-rays or other diagnostic procedures.
During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist will likely discuss your diet and oral hygiene habits and might demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques. Other topics for discussion during a dental exam might include:
Any medications you're taking
Use of tobacco products
Consequences of tooth loss
Benefits of crowns, fixed bridges or dental implants
Use of dentures
A dental exam also gives you the opportunity to ask questions about oral health.
A dental hygienist at Zent Family Dentistry performs dental cleanings. A dental cleaning is also called a prophylaxis, or a prophy for short. Prophylaxis literally means a preventative treatment of a disease. Dental cleanings are an important part of good oral hygiene. The dental cleaning is done to remove plaque, calculus (hard deposits aka tartar), and stain from teeth.
Dental cleanings are intended to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. The hygienist will also floss and polish the teeth. Reviewing efficient brushing and flossing techniques is also a routine part of the dental cleaning at Zent Family Dentistry. Many times, the hygienist will discuss and provide you with free samples of different hygiene instruments and aids depending on your individual needs.
Did you know almost 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers this year? And that the 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64 percent? When cancer is detected and treated early, treatment-related health problems are reduced.
The oral cavity includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat (pharynx) starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.
During your dental visit, your dentist can talk to you about your health history and examine all areas of your mouth for signs of mouth and/or throat cancer. The screening will consist of a visual inspection of the mouth and palpation of the jaw and neck. Visual oral cancer screenings are a part of every comprehensive or periodic dental exam. Regular visits to your dentist can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily. In between visits, it's important to be aware of the following signs and symptoms and to see your dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks.
The symptoms of mouth or throat cancer can include:
a sore or irritation that doesn't go away
red or white patches
pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
a lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
Research has identified a number of factors that contribute to the development of mouth and throat cancers. Smokers and excessive alcohol drinkers older than 50 are the most at risk. More recently, the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, has been associated with cancers of the oropharyngeal region that is the part of the throat at the back of the mouth. HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers are related to the increasing incidence of throat cancers in non-smoking adults.
HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers typically develop in the throat at the base of the tongue and near or on the tonsils making them difficult to detect. Although HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage, people with HPV-positive cancers have a lower risk of dying or having recurrence than those with HPV-negative cancers. It is likely that there is a complex interaction of many external and internal factors that play a role in the development of HPV-positive cancers.
If you have noticed a suspicious area in your oral cavity, please call your dentist and have the area looked at as soon as possible. Early detection is the best defense against oral cancer.
VelScope® Oral Cancer Screening
The VelScope® oral cancer screening is an adjunctive screening system that helps to identify, evaluate, monitor, and mark abnormal oral lesions and is used in combination with traditional visual exams. Thanks to this amazing new technology, dentists and hygienists can quickly and painlessly screen for oral cancer.
All Adults should have an annual VelScope® exam because ¼ of oral cancer victims are non-smokers, don’t drink, and have no lifestyle factors to heighten their oral cancer risk. In fact, more than 70% of oral cancers result from viruses, such as the HPV virus.
The screening involves a few simple steps and only takes about one minute. Your dentist or hygienist dims the lights and examines your mouth using the VelScope® light wand. If VelScope® finds a problem area, the spot will become illuminated and “shine” distinctly from the surrounding tissue. The VelScope® is a great adjunct to traditional visual oral screenings because the solution and light wand allows us to see more than what we can see on a traditional visual exam.
If your dentist or hygienist notice a suspicious area in your mouth, a biopsy of the tissue may be prescribed to acquire a diagnosis. Zent Family Dentistry does some minimally invasive biopsies in our office. More invasive biopsies are referred to an oral surgeon or periodontist.
Digital dental X-rays are a useful diagnostic tool when helping your dentist detect damage and disease not visible during a regular dental exam. How often X-rays should be taken depends on your present oral health, your age, your risk for disease, and any signs and symptoms of oral disease. For example, children may require X-rays more often than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults. Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and then decide whether or not you need X-rays.
If you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend X-rays to determine the present status of your oral health and have a baseline to help identify changes that may occur later. A new set of X-rays may be needed to help your dentist detect any new cavities, determine the status of your gum health or evaluate the growth and development of your teeth. If a previous dentist has any radiographs of you, your new dentist may ask you for copies of them.
Exposure to all sources of radiation -- including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays -- can damage the body's tissues and cells and lead to the development of cancer. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of X-rays is extremely small.
Advances in dentistry over the years have led to the low radiation levels emitted by dental X-rays. Some of the improvements are new digital X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to the small area being X-rayed. In 2012, Zent Family Dentistry updated all of their x-rays to become digital. Digital x-rays have up to 75% less radiation than traditional x-rays.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps fight tooth decay. It is found in public water supplies, toothpaste and many other dental products.
Often called, “nature’s cavity fighter,” fluoride helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay can be seen. Research shows that fluoride helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, you are preventing cavities and strengthening your teeth’s enamel.
A dentist or hygienist can also apply fluoride to the teeth as a gel, foam, or varnish. These treatments contain a much higher level of fluoride than the amount found in toothpastes and mouth rinses. Zent Family Dentistry mostly uses fluoride varnish as the main form of fluoride treatment. The varnishes are painted on the teeth in one or two minutes. After a fluoride application, you can eat or drink almost anything. We advise you not to drink anything hot in temperature right after the varnish application. We also ask that you don’t brush the varnish off until nighttime.
Brushing your teeth is an important part of your oral hygiene routine. For a healthy mouth and smile the ADA recommends you:
Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth allowing you to reach all areas easily.
Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
Make sure to use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
The proper brushing technique is to:
Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.
Of course, brushing your teeth is only a part of a complete oral care routine. You should also make sure to:
Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Tooth decay-causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. This helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
Flossing is an essential part of any oral health care routine. The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day to achieve optimal oral health. By flossing daily, you help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where the toothbrush can't reach. This is important because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. Flossing also helps prevent gum disease and cavities.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.
Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth -- usually the back teeth (the premolars, and molars) -- to prevent tooth decay. The painted on liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and groves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. No anesthetic or numbing is needed when sealants are placed.
Typically, children are candidates for sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in depending on how deep the grooves are in these teeth. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14.
However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants.
Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for many years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wear at regular dental check-ups.