Why a Dental Cleaning is not JUST a Cleaning
Words can really pack a lot of punch, depending on how they are used of course. The word “JUST” for instance. Saying that you JUST had a dental cleaning simplifies what you have had done, implying that it may not be important to you and it’s JUST another chore checked off the list. A dental cleaning is so much more than JUST a dental cleaning. Thinking about what is actually done when you are at the dentist, it is a lot for one hour and can greatly impact your life for the better.
What many fail to remember is that all things that enter the body first pass through the mouth and therefore either be ground up by the teeth or touch the teeth in order to enter the body. Over time the remnants of leftover food or drink that remain in the mouth deposit bacteria which in return form clusters together and cause a coating of sticky substance known as plaque. This plaque must be removed from the mouth within a short period of time or these bacteria begin to irritate the gums and cause tenderness and bleeding known as gingivitis which may be reversible with a professional cleaning. If these sticky bacteria clusters are not disturbed they quickly begin to multiply and congregate and cause a hardening of the material on the teeth called tartar. The millions of bacteria species living within these harden deposits cause the human body to recognize a harmful environment and cause an autoimmune disease in the mouth known as periodontal disease. When periodontal disease is present, the body's natural reaction is to try and protect itself and migrate away from these harmful bacteria which causes bone loss around the teeth. Bleeding gums, pus, bad breath, cavities and mouth pain are very likely side effects of tartar below the gums. If these harmful bacteria are not professionally removed the body continues to diminish all the bone that hold teeth in and tooth loss will occur.
Every day, you look at yourself and certain things may look normal to you that have slowly made an appearance after some time. Spending too much time in the sun without a hat or without the use of sunscreen can cause squamous cell carcinoma anywhere on your face. Now, when you make a trip to JUST have your teeth cleaned, your hygienist may notice that there is some sort of new growth or a new mole that to you, looks normal but in fact may not be. That same logic can be applied to the inside of your mouth. Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are major risk factors when it comes to oral cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of oral, head, and neck cancer is essential. It can sometimes be too late and be found as late stage three and four disease. So when you have JUST another dental cleaning, remember that there could be something for your hygienist to find.
Many individuals may think that a dental cleaning is JUST going in and getting gums poked and teeth scraped; however there are so many more procedures performed during the dental cleaning than others may think. A professional cleaning begins with a full medical history review as many may not know that the oral health is directly linked to other health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer's and many more. Also many medications that are consumed daily have a major effect on the oral cavity and can affect the teeth as well. Then X-rays are taken as a diagnostic table to tell any signs of cavities, bone loss, infection, cysts or TMJ complications. A very detailed chart of the bone level existing on each patient is then charted and evaluated to proceed with the best treatment for the individual. Then professional instruments are used to remove all harmful bacteria from above and below the gums in order to bring the mouth back to health. The dental professional will then polish the teeth to smooth out all imperfections as the sticky bacteria is less likely to adhere to a smooth surface.
An incredibly large problem is that many people will not make that trip to the dentist until something is hurting so bad they can’t sleep at night. When you go for JUST a dental cleaning, the hygienist may take x-rays. The patient raises the question, “Is it absolutely necessary to take x-rays today?” The beauty of an x-ray is that they can detect so much more than JUST a cavity between two teeth. Certain X-rays show the entire cranial cavity, the bone levels surrounding the teeth, cysts or abscesses, root resorption, tumors, and developing teeth. Having one x-ray taken is worth knowing and understanding what may or may not be happening and developing in your mouth when you go in for JUST a dental cleaning.
Please ask yourself this question the next time you are heading to the dentist for your six month checkup, “Is this really JUST a dental cleaning?” Your dentist and dental hygienist are there for YOU and YOUR health. They are there for PREVENTION and to help with a diagnosis if needed and to help you through the process.
-Laura Wahl, RDH and Kortni Lorson, RDH