You've probably been going to the dentist most of your life since your parents took you as a child. You get a check-up and you get a clean.
The Checkup is self explanatory (and we might go into the details in a future post).
But the clean, "I clean my teeth every day, why do I need a dentist to do it twice a year as well" you ask. Well I am going to let you know why we do and what we do whilst cleaning your teeth.
Well firstly what is a 'clean', in dentistry there are two common forms of cleaning Prophylaxis and Scaling. Lets discuss them both
This is where a rubber cup is used in a hand piece is used with a paste (similar to toothpaste but gritty) to clean and polish each individual tooth.
This is effective at removing stains and soft plaque from your teeth and ensures that they are clean from plaque, free from external stains like coffee, tea and red wine.
We ensure that all areas of the teeth are thorougly cleaned so you can maintain them effectively with toothbrushing and flossing.
Usually done on its own for children (as they are less likely to form calculus) and in concert with scaling for adult patients.
Scaling is required when the patient has formed calculus build up on their teeth. What is calculus you ask! Calculus is a hardended calcified build up of plaque (the soft 'furry' feeling when you need to brush your teeth). When plaque is accumulates it becomes calcified by the saliva and sticks hard to your teeth so it cant come off without a professinal clean.
But you say, "Some hard stuff on my teeth, sounds pretty harmless. Calculus is the major cause of periodontal disease ('gum disease') it causes inflammation and bleeding from the gums. The inflammation in turn destroys the bone below the gum which supports the tooth, this can lead to loose teeth or gum recession which can leave you looking 'long in the tooth'. Unfortunately these changes cannot be reversed and the bone does not regrow after the calculus is removed. Therefore the only effective treatment is prevention!
Another common side effect of calculus is halitosis (bad breath), and despite what you see on TV from tooth-brush commercials the tongue is not the main culprit! The type of bacteria that are often present around calculus are called anaerobes (they don't like oxygen) there the same type that you use to ferment things. They are well known apart from causing gum disease to also produce bad breath causing volatile chemicals (see this research). The best way to combat bad breath is good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) and to have professional cleans and remove the environments where these anaerobic bacteria like to live (calculus).
A common place you might feel calculus buildup is behind the lower front teeth but it builds up at different rates all over the mouth. Your dentist will clean all the different areas that get calculus buildup and inform you of how best to clean these areas to minimise your buildup. As part of your scaling we also, as a final step, prophy (polish) your teeth to get off any remaining stain