For some people, the fact that they haven't visited their dentist in some years doesn't mean they're keen to resume those regular checkups. For whatever reason, if it has been a (long) while since you last had a checkup, the delay may make you even more hesitant. Surely it's inevitable that your dentist will find a problem? All you might need is a professional dental cleaning, which really isn't invasive. But since you and your dentist have been on an extended break from each other, it's natural for something as minor as professional cleaning to make you a little nervous. You don't need to be.
Likely the first thing the dental clinic will do is diagnostic testing, which involves an x-ray. These are usually performed annually in order to take a look at the parts of your teeth and gums that can't be assessed with a visual inspection. An x-ray is standard process, so don't be concerned that it automatically means something is wrong.
Plaque and Tartar Removal
Next, you will need a professional cleaning. This will be carried out by your dentist or a dental nurse. The first part of cleaning involves scraping plaque and tartar (calcified plaque) from the teeth. This may involve an automatic bur, which will result in vibrations. Some people find this unpleasant (which might be partially why you haven't been to the dentist for some time). Your teeth won't feel anything, but the vibrations can be felt in the roots of your teeth. Typically, no anaesthesia is given for cleaning, but if you're particularly nervous or sensitive to the process, your dentist can numb your gums.
You may need root planing, which is simply a deep clean of the roots of your teeth. These roots are protected by cementum, which is similar to the dental enamel that coats your teeth. There can be plaque and tartar on this cementum, so your roots will need attention.
Brushing and Flossing
Once your tartar has been removed, your teeth will be brushed. An electric toothbrush and a specialist toothpaste will be needed for this part of the process. The toothpaste is noticeably gritty, allowing it to literally buff away the last traces of your plaque and tartar. After this, the spaces between your teeth will be flossed—either manually or using a water flosser.
The final stage doesn't apply to all patients, but a fluoride treatment is common. Fluoride cannot rebuild dental enamel that has been lost, but it can strengthen enamel in the early stages of erosion.
And that's about all you can expect from your professional cleaning. It doesn't seem so bad, does it? Yes, your dentist may note a problem that must be corrected, but this is not a foregone conclusion. And the more time that goes by between your dental visits can increase the likelihood of a more serious problem. So perhaps it's time to get to know the staff at your local dental clinic again. Contact a dentist in your area to learn more.Share
27 December 2021
I have worked as a school nurse for decades. Children come to me with all sorts of scrapes and bumps and bruises. Black eyes from playing football, sprained wrists from falling off the monkey bars and stomachaches from too many sweets are common complaints. However, the issue that seems to cause the greatest angst is tooth problems. Sometimes a child will have a second tooth knocked out when playing sport and parents arrive in tears. At other times, children come to my office crying because their friends are teasing them about teeth that are discoloured or stick out. I take an active interest in the latest dental news so that I can give parents and children comfort and advice. I have included some of my collected wisdom on these pages. Perhaps this information can help you understand some options when faced with a dental problem. Thank you for reading.