Cleaning & Prevention

Cleaning and Prevention

Preventative dental measures help to avoid serious and costly dental problems and treatment. It is the secret to ensure a brilliant smile!

Preventing dental disease starts at home. Practice good oral hygiene and follow a healthy balanced diet. Your dentist and oral hygienist take prevention further in dental surgery by promoting, restoring and maintaining your oral health.

Prevention also includes regular dental examinations, cleanings and X-rays. Sealants and fluoride are great preventive treatments that help protect the teeth.

A preventive programme is a combined effort by you, your dentist and dental staff. It aims to preserve your natural dentition and supporting structures by preventing the onset, progress and recurrence of dental diseases and conditions.

Dental examinations

A comprehensive dental examination will be performed during your first dental visit. Regular check-up examinations with your dentist will include the following:

  • Evaluation of teeth for tooth decay
    All tooth surfaces are checked for decay using the appropriate dental instruments.
  • Examination of existing restorations
    All current fillings, crowns, dentures, etc. are checked to see if the restorations are still satisfactory.
  • Diagnostic dental X-rays (radiographs)
    These will be taken to check for new decay, bone loss, cysts and any other dental problems.
  • Evaluation for gum disease
    The gums and bone around the teeth are checked for any signs of periodontal disease.
  • General screening
    The face, neck, lips, tongue, throat and gums are checked for any abnormalities, growths, tumors or any signs of disease.

Cleanings

Professional dental cleanings, often called scaling and polishing, are performed either by a dentist or an oral hygienist. Scaling and polishing includes:

  • Removal of calculus (tartar)
    Calculus is calcified (hardened) plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, cannot be brushed off and must be removed either with special dental hand instruments or with a mechanical scaling instrument.
  • Removal of plaque
    Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible, whitish to brown deposit that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food particles and saliva. Bacteria (germs) in plaque produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums and acids that attack and soften tooth enamel. This is how gum disease and dental decay start.
  • Polishing of teeth
    Polishing is done to remove stains and the last traces of plaque that remain even after scaling. Polishing also leaves the teeth nice and smooth and the mouth tasting clean and fresh.

Dental X-Rays

Dental X-rays, or radiographs, are one of the major diagnostic aids that dentists use to detect dental problems not visible during a regular dental examination. Dentists use this essential, preventative tool to gain information and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities. X-rays also assist in compiling a proper treatment plan. Without X-rays, there is always a risk that problem areas may go undetected.

Digital X-Rays

Digital X-ray technology is a fairly new development in dental radiology. Digital X-ray machines use electronic sensors instead of X-ray films. These sensors capture digital images that are stored on a computer. They can be instantly viewed and enlarged on a computer monitor. One of the main advantages of digital X-ray technology is the easier manipulation of X-ray images. This makes diagnosing of dental problems even more accurate.

X-rays are used to detect:

  • Dental abscesses or cysts
  • Disease inside a tooth or below the gum line not visible to the naked eye
  • Decay below the surface of the tooth or between teeth
  • Loss of bone surrounding the teeth
  • Tumors – these can be cancerous as well as non-cancerous
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Incorrect tooth and root positions
  • Impacted teeth

Dental X-rays are safe

Patients are often concerned about their safety when dental X-rays are taken. Dental X-ray machines produce only very low levels of radiation. Studies have shown that the amount of radiation exposure from a full-mouth series of X-rays is approximately equal to the amount of natural radiation that a person receives in a single day from natural sources in the environment.

When are dental X-rays taken?

The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist will recommend when X-rays should be taken. This depends on the findings during regular dental examinations, based on your dental history and signs and symptoms of dental disease.

A full mouth series of dental X-rays or a panoramic extra oral radiograph is often taken during the first visit for new patients. This is only repeated when essential for diagnostic purposes.

Bite-wing X-rays are X-rays taken of the top and bottom teeth, whilst biting together. These X-rays are often taken during routine dental examinations (check-up visits) to detect new dental problems.

Dental X-rays help to detect and treat dental problems earlier and easier. In the long run, this will save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort and eventually your teeth.

Sealants

A sealant (also referred to as pit and fissure sealants) is a thin, resin (plastic) coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth.

Dental decay most often begins in deep pits and fissures. Since these are difficult to clean, plaque easily clings to these areas, making them very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing these deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.

Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits. They should be renewed when needed.

How are sealants applied?

Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or oral hygienist. The whole process takes only a few minutes per tooth.

First, the teeth to be sealed are cleaned and dried. A weak acid solution is applied to the enamel surface to etch the teeth and to help the sealant bond to the teeth. After the teeth are rinsed and dried, the sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep pits and fissures. Depending on the type of sealant, the material will either harden automatically within a few minutes or will be cured with a special dental curing light.

Fluoride treatment

Fluoride is most effective in preventing tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride are well known and its use as a preventative measure is advocated by numerous health and professional organisations.

How fluoride works

Fluoride can reach and strengthen teeth in one of two ways:

Topical fluoride is found in toothpastes, mouth rinses or gels. It strengthens teeth by making the outer surface of tooth enamel harder and more resistant to decay. When needed, dentists and oral hygienists will apply topical fluoride gels to teeth during regular dental visits.

Systemic fluoride reaches teeth from drinking water and most foods. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement in drop or gel form and will be prescribed by your dentist when needed. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants. Tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years.

It is very important not to give supplementary fluoride to children without consulting a dentist. It is equally important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.

Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth while they are developing inside the gums, by hardening tooth enamel and making it more resistant to decay.

Most people receive sufficient fluoride from food and water. However, in special cases this is not enough to help prevent decay. Your dentist or oral hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:

  • Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
  • Exposed and sensitive root surfaces.
  • Fair to poor oral hygiene habits.
  • Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake.
  • Inadequate exposure to fluorides.
  • Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications.
  • Recent history of dental decay.

 

Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay. It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks and visit your dentist on a regular basis.

Home Care

Personal home care plays a vital part in maintaining dental health and a bright smile. This includes eating healthy balanced meals, limiting the eating of snacks, and correctly brushing and flossing to control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.

How to brush

Brush at least twice a day. Brushing before going to bed at night is most important! The flow of saliva decreases during sleep and creates favourable conditions for bacteria to multiply and play havoc with your teeth and gums. This is the very reason we wake up in the morning with a dry, foul tasting mouth and night breath. Brushing before bedtime denies bacteria the food particles they feed on during the night.

  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Place the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums and gently brush using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you feel the bristles on the gums.
  • Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
  • Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside of the front teeth.
  • Make sure you don’t skip any teeth.
  • Brush the surface of your tongue. This will remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Electric toothbrushes are easy to use and very effective in removing plaque. These brushes are recommended and your dentist or oral hygienist will be able to demonstrate the correct use.

How to floss

Flossing is the only way to clean between teeth and under the gumline. It cleans these spaces, disrupts plaque from building up and prevents damage to the gums, teeth and bone. Floss at least once a day, preferably before bedtime!

  • Take 30 to 40 cm of dental floss. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 5 cm of floss between the hands.
  • Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert it between teeth using a sawing motion.
  • Curve the floss into a ‘C’ shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down and with a sawing motion, cleaning the side of each tooth.Floss holders can be used if you have difficulty using regular floss. Superfloss is used to clean under fixed bridges and beneath and around orthodontic braces. Ask your dentist or oral hygienist to demonstrate.

Rinsing

Rinse your mouth with water after brushing and/or flossing. This will help to remove remaining particles of food and plaque, loosened by brushing and flossing. If you are unable to brush after meals, rinse your mouth properly with water or a mouthwash to remove as much remaining food particles as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns about dental treatments or procedures, contact your dentist today!