One of the most misunderstood aspects of dentistry is the preventative aspect. Usually a patient comes into the office with pretty, white healthy teeth and no uncomfortable feelings in his or her mouth. When decay (a cavity) is found and the patient has not had sensitivity, our staff has achieved our goal for preventative dentistry. Detection of decay is not always easy, especially between the teeth, which is why diagnostic x-rays are necessary. When sensitivity or pain is noticed and there is no prevention, it is too late. Pain is usually the indicator that decay has grown into the center of the tooth and reached the nerve. At this point, the only option available is a root canal or extraction. After a root canal, the tooth needs to be crowned, or if extracted needs to be replaced with an implant or bridge. When a nerve is removed, the life and integrity of the tooth is affected. The best way to prevent this is for routine preventative dental prophylaxis appointments, which are normally every six months, but can be every three to four months. Our goal here is to catch any dental issues at an early stage in order to prevent or delay long term effects with minimally invasive procedures, such as fillings, fluoride treatments, or sealants.
Routine preventative dental prophylaxis appointments consist of scaling (removing soft and hard deposits, known as plaque and tarter) and polishing teeth. This appointment should be carried out regularly in order to prevent and control periodontal and other diseases, as well as monitor and detect any decay. During a cleaning appointment, the hygienist will examine the tongue, gums, teeth, and all other areas in the mouth. The hygienist will also measure and record the attachment of the gums to your teeth (probing), in order to determine periodontal (gum) disease. X-rays will be taken to see any decay that is between the teeth, under an existing restoration, or just not in plain view of the naked eye. The dentist will do an exam that consists of screening for oral cancer, checking for decay, then checking notes and viewing x-rays to decide what, if any, treatment needs to be performed. Any finding or concerns will then be discussed and the best treatment for each individual patient will be scheduled.
When Calculus is Detected:
Plaque that is not completely removed every day by brushing and flossing leads to a hard substance known as tartar (or calculus). This hardened plaque can no longer be removed by brushing or flossing, but can be removed by the hygienist/ dentist. (Calculus is an adherent calcified or calcifying mass that forms on the surface of natural teeth and dental prostheses. Ordinarily, calculus consists of mineralized bacterial plaque)
Why We Need to Take Digital X-Rays/Radiography:
Radiography refers to the use of x-ray radiation to create images of structures of the body. Like medicine, digital radiography is gradually replacing the traditional dental radiographs using film. Either technique uses low levels of radiation to create a black and white picture of the various structures in and near the mouth. X-rays are used inside the mouth to examine the teeth, the jaw-bone, and dental restorations.
Dental x-rays play an important role in the diagnosis of decay and failing crowns and fillings, the correct placement of dental implants, and the proper treatment of teeth requiring root canals. X-rays are utilized to help with evaluation of the upper and lower jaws, the sinuses and the temporomandibular joints. All dental x-rays, including digital x-rays, use very low levels of radiation and are very safe. Protective lead aprons can be used to cover various body parts x-rays are taken.
How do X-Rays Help?
Dental x-rays or radiographs are very important. They allow the dentist to see things about your oral health that cannot be seen by the naked eye. X-rays are utilized to help with evaluation of the upper and lower jaws, the sinuses and the temporomandibular joints . These items include cysts (sacks of fluid that form on the roots of teeth), cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, invisible decay that occurs between teeth, and the location of teeth that haven’t grown all the way in. X-rays allow the proper diagnosis of decay and failing crowns and fillings, the correct placement of dental implants and the proper treatment of teeth requiring root canals.
By using an x-ray to diagnose these problems, we can help save you money in the long run from surgeries or other treatments that might become necessary if we didn’t find the problem. In some cases, where dental x-rays show the location of tumorous growths, x-rays can be responsible for saving your life.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
Modern dental x-ray machines are very safe. We use only state-of-the-art, low radiation machines. All dental x-rays, use very low levels of radiation and are very safe. Protective lead aprons can be used to cover various body parts x-rays are taken. Protective lead aprons can be used to cover various body parts such as the abdominal area or the thyroid gland during procedures requiring x-rays.
The amount of radiation exposure your body receives on an airplane flight from Los Angeles to New York exceeds the amount of exposure you will receive from a modern dental x-ray machine. Contrast this minimal exposure with the risk of not finding an illness until it is too late, and you can see why we prescribe regular diagnostic x-rays.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride decreases dental decay. Since 1945, the U.S. Government has advocated the controlled addition of fluoride to public drinking water. In small amounts, ingested fluoride seems to strengthen the enamel while it is being formed in young children or pregnant women. Recommended levels of fluoride in water should range from 0.5mg – 1.0mg per liter of water with 0.7mg per liter as optimal.
In rare cases, extreme excesses of fluoride in water will change the appearance of the enamel, making permanent teeth look discolored and pitted. Applying fluoride to the teeth in the form of toothpaste or gels helps prevent tooth decay and can also decrease the sensitivity of exposed root surfaces.