You rotate your tires every six months. You change your oil every 5,000 miles. You change your contacts every one to three months. You change your cat litter twice a week. You get a dental exam and cleaning every six months.
We are pretty good about changing our cat litter and contacts. And, we usually remember to rotate the tires and get our oil changed. But, do you actually visit the dentist every six months? You may think, “As long as I am brushing my teeth twice a day and flossing once a day, why is it important to also schedule a cleaning twice a year?”
Dentists have the necessary tools, on top of brushing and flossing, to keep your mouth in tip-top shape. In fact, the tools they use all have a specific job, and the job cannot be done on your own. Let’s look at some of the tools used by dentists and dental hygienists to better protect your mouth at each cleaning.
First tool we see is the mouth mirror. If you have ever had your teeth cleaned, you know about the tiny mirror. This tool is used to check around your teeth before they begin cleaning. They are looking for swollen gums, signs of gingivitis, and other concerning signs.. Once they have done the once or twice around, they use this mirror to help see where the plaque and tartar build up is to scrape it off.
Next they pull out the scaler. This tool is the one that scrapes off all the plaque and tartar that has built up over time. The more plaque you have, the more scraping you may hear. This is normal. Some people have more plaque build up than others, but removing as much as they can will help your teeth stay healthy. Removing plaque from around the gum line helps prevent bacteria from getting into your gums, keeping you healthy.
During the scraping process, the hygienist could clean off the plaque bits with the ultrasonic scaler. The warm water from this tool not only helps wash the plaque and bacteria off the tooth, but helps with the friction heat. The friction from scraping all the plaque off causes heat. The water helps pull that heat away from your tooth.
Throughout the cleaning, you will get to use the saliva ejectors aka spit sucker. This is the tool that seems to suck your lips off. They use this to suck the extra water out of your mouth. Parts of the scraped off plaque and tartar are also sucked up.
Polishers are the tools they use with the not so great tasting toothpaste. This tool does what its name says, polishes your teeth. The paste removes leftover stains and any tartar left after the scraping step. They polish the inside or your teeth, the bottom, and the outside.
Once the surface area of your teeth are scraped off and polished, they work on the crevices in between your teeth. The tool used for this is floss. This step is important to get bacteria from between your teeth, helping to prevent cavities. They slide the floss up each side of your tooth and rotate what part of the floss they use, like you do when you floss, right?
X-rays happen once a year for most patients. This allows the dentist to take an even closer look at your teeth. The x-ray finds spots where a cavity could be forming. They can also see if your teeth are moving and the bone health. The pictures get an in-depth look at the overall health of your mouth.
My guess is that you don’t have access to any of these tools listed. Good news, your dentist does. Regular cleanings and check-ups are so important and must be conducted by a trained Dental practitioner. It’s important to Keep your teeth clean, healthy and happy on a regular basis.