Regular dental checkups are the cornerstone to maintaining good dental health. Most patients benefit from bi-yearly checkups which include teeth cleaning, teeth x-rays, and cavity check. We also monitor gum health, teeth health, orthodontic development and screen for oral cancer.
While we do our best to assure the work we do will last a long time, you will have to do maintenance to make sure you get the mileage you want out of your teeth. The forces that you can unknowingly apply to your teeth during chewing and teeth grinding, as well as the acidic environment that certain foods and plaque produce, can take a toll on dental work,
Fillings need to be replaced periodically. There are four predictable signs of failure for silver fillings - a gray halo in the tooth around the filling, a gap that is visible between the tooth and the filling, a crack in the filling, and a crack in the tooth around the filling. If any of these signs exist, the filling should be considered for replacement. Under the filling, dark colored tooth decay can hide and will grow to include more of the tooth if not treated. With tooth colored fillings these signs are usually easier to detect. In either case, once detected a failing filling should be replaced.
Crowns last longer, but also need to be replaced when they show signs of failure. A crown will let tooth decay in at the seam between the tooth and the crown which is usually near the gums. Signs of failure include evidence of decay on the x-ray at the seam between the tooth and crown, a dark coloration at the gum line at the seam, or when checked by the dentist the tooth will feel softer. When a crown has one of these signs of failure, it should be considered for replacement. If enough of the tooth gets soft with decay under the crown, the crown may come off, or the tooth could break at the gum line.
When a patient has experienced some loss of the supporting bone and gums around the teeth, a simple teeth cleaning may not be adequate. This loss can happen from missing too many teeth cleanings over the years and allowing tartar buildup to occur which damages the bone and gums that support the teeth. Each person is unique and some people will accumulate tartar more quickly than others, making them more at risk for experiencing these problems. Once bone loss has occurred, the anatomy changes over time allowing for more tartar collection in between the teeth underneath the gum. While flossing daily helps, it becomes less effective and other hygiene aids must be introduced. Studies have shown that plaque, when it it not completely removed, organizes into tartar and becomes toxic to the bone in around 90 days if not removed. This is why it is important to do periodontal maintenance visits every 3 months.
Implants are a wonderful substitute for natural teeth when they must be removed. Implants must be monitored differently than a natural tooth. X-rays should be taken to show the bone around an implant yearly. Also, implants are cleaned with different instrumentation that will not scratch the implant. For a patient that has an implant, it is important to follow the recommended implant maintenance plan.
Prevention indicates that you are taking steps before you have disease, in order to prevent disease from happening. Below are some common recommended prevention treatments that can be used along with the problem that they are designed to prevent.
If you have your teeth cleaned every 6 months, it decreases your likelihood of developing periodontal or gum disease.
If you have your fluoride treatment at your checkup, your likelihood of developing tooth decay decreases.
Sealants help cover the grooves of the teeth and protect them from tooth decay.
A large part of the population grinds their teeth at night and the wear can be very destructive to teeth. Grinding can cause notches at the gum-line of the teeth from stress caused by the constant excessive forces, as well as flat surfaces worn into the teeth causing the enamel to erode. Clenching can cause irreversible cracks and lines in the teeth that once they appear cannot be removed, only covered by veneers or crowns.