Preventive (or preventative) care is a term given to the many services Dr. Davis offers to improve your oral health and to prevent future problems. A dental "cleaning," also called a prophylaxis, is a term that is used broadly to describe a number of preventive procedures that occur while you are in the dental chair every six months, all of which are imperative to keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Prophylactic visits may include checking your bite and jaw alignment, taking measurements, removing decay-causing plaque and tartar from your teeth, probing the pockets between your gums and teeth, polishing your enamel, checking your bone levels, flossing in difficult to reach places, applying fluoride, scanning for oral cancer, checking your teeth for pits, fissures, or fractures, and monitoring your levels of decay and infection by taking x-rays. Preventive care is most effective when it is started early (we recommend around age three) and done consistently over time (every six months tends to be ideal for most people).
When preventive care has not been done consistently over the course of a person's life, he or she is more prone to developing bacterial infection in the form of gum disease and bone loss. Gum disease is often painless, and you may not know that you have it until your gums and the bones that support your teeth are seriously damaged. Fortunately, gum disease can be treated in its early stages by undergoing a "deep" cleaning, a process called scaling and root planing which entails cleaning out the sensitive pockets that have formed between your gums and teeth. Left untreated, gum disease will eventually lead to tooth loss, but it has also been associated with rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and certain types of cancer. It is important to note that certain medications and even sometimes a person's genetic makeup predisposes him or her to developing gum disease despite undergoing routine preventive care. In these cases, Dr. Davis will help you to determine the most effective course of treatment for your particular situation.
What does preventive care do?
Removes plaque and tartar build-up from teeth
Helps to prevent infection and decay
Decreases the likelihood of developing gum disease
Improves the appearance of teeth and gums
Monitors changes in oral health
What can I expect?
Your hygienist will begin your visit by taking your blood pressure. Because Dr. Davis likely sees you more frequently than your regular family physician, it is important for him to monitor your vital signs. What follows is a series of measurements that will provide a snapshot of your jaw's range of motion. If you are due for x-rays, your hygienist will take them so that Dr. Davis can check for decay, fractures, cysts, or tumors. Bitewing x-rays that show all four quadrants of your mouth are typically taken once per year, and a panoramic x-ray that takes an image of your mouth from ear-to ear is recommended every five years. Your hygienist may also take photos of any teeth that have excessive staining, deep grooves, pits, or soft sticky spots that need to be watched for future decay. She may also record the depth of the connections between your gums and teeth, making note of any pockets that are more than 3mm deep.
Once your hygienist has given your mouth a complete overview, she will begin to use dental instruments or a Cavitron (a tool that removes debris from teeth by using ultrasonic sound waves) to systematically scrape away plaque and tartar from your teeth and gum line. Afterwards, she will typically floss your teeth, then use a rotating polishing bur dipped in paste to polish your enamel. Unless a patient requests otherwise, our office offers a topical fluoride treatment to both children and adults. Your hygienist and/or Dr. Davis may give you instructions and recommendations particular to your teeth. Following these instructions and recommendations will go a long way to ensuring the viability and health of your teeth over the course of your life.