Although this might seem like a silly question, we find that many patients are unaware of what is done at their routine hygiene visits and why. The term “cleaning” is typically used to describe these visits, but this word is actually misleading regarding what is done at these appointments and their importance for our oral health. The technical name for these hygiene visits is dental prophylaxis. The word prophylaxis is used in other areas of medicine as well, and its definition is “action taken to prevent disease.” This really is the goal of routine dental hygiene visits: to prevent or slow the progression of conditions of the teeth and mouth.
It is true that removing plaque and calculus deposits from the surface of the teeth by a skilled dental hygienist is an important part of these visits. Such tooth deposits allow bacteria to grow and over time can result in inflammation or infection of the teeth and gums. Equally as important as the actual cleaning of the teeth is the evaluation of the current condition of the teeth and gums. If detected early enough, many conditions of the teeth and gums may be treated more conservatively or prevented altogether. Our doctors and hygienists will evaluate each individual patient’s risk for dental conditions (such as decay or gum disease) and develop a plan to prevent or manage such conditions. Oftentimes that involves discussion of the best ways for patients to care for their teeth between these visits. Although routine dental hygiene visits are an important part of maintaining a healthy mouth, there is abundant research that shows that what is done on a daily basis may be even more important. Proper diet and oral hygiene are critical components to maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
Why are routine hygiene visits important?
Routine visits with a member of our hygiene staff are important for monitoring and improving the health of the teeth and gums. Over time, harmful plaque and calculus accumulates on the surface of the teeth. These deposits can result in conditions such as tooth decay, gingivitis, or periodontal disease. The consistent and routine removal of these deposits can help prevent these conditions from arising and maintain the health of the mouth and teeth.
Furthermore, the early detection and diagnosis of conditions that may be present are important for timely and conservative treatment. At each visit with our hygienist, one of our doctors will discuss with you any concerns you may have about your oral health. They will evaluate the teeth and gums for any changes as well as perform a routine oral cancer screening.
In the very early stages of tooth decay, we may be able to remineralize (harden) the affected tooth enamel to prevent further progression and the need for fillings. If decay has progressed beyond this point, it is always better to restore cavities when they are small rather than waiting and allowing the affected area to grow. The larger a cavity becomes, the larger the filling is needed to be to restore that cavity. This results in a higher likelihood of sensitivity or tooth pain presenting either before or after the tooth is restored. Early treatment of tooth decay has fewer risks and is less expensive. See our fillings page for more information.
The same is true for conditions of the gums or bone. Periodontal (gum) disease is a progressive condition that will worsen with time. If signs of periodontal disease are detected early, the likelihood of treatment being successful increases and overall treatment cost decreases. See our page on periodontal treatment for more information.
What are the benefits of preventive dental visits?
How can newer technologies improve the quality of my dental care?
Here at 44 West Dental, we employ a number of technologies to improve the care and oral health of our patients at their hygiene visits.
Current digital x-ray sensors are quicker and more accurate than traditional film sensors. They accomplish this while using less than half the radiation of traditional methods. At 44 West Dental Professionals, we take patients’ concerns about minimizing radiation seriously and only prescribe x-rays when necessary for each individual patient.
We strongly believe in involving our patients in all decisions regarding their care. We use intraoral cameras to photograph and monitor areas of concern. These photographs allow us to be more conservative in our treatment recommendations.
We have been paperless for over 5 years now. By having all digital charting, we can be more efficient and accurate in documenting our patients’ care. It also allows improved communication between our office and those of other medical or dental specialists.
How can I schedule a hygiene appointment?
Whether you are an existing patient here at 44 West Dental Professionals or are looking for a new dental home, we would love to work with you to improve your oral health. You may give us call us at (616) 530-2200 to schedule an appointment today!