What Does a Dentist Do?
Regularly seeing your rockford dentist illinois is one of the most important things you can do for your oral health, and for your overall health, yet more than 35% of adults in the U.S. don’t visit their dentist regularly. While brushing and flossing regularly and properly can help prevent diseases of the oral cavity, like cavities and gingivitis, they aren’t 100% effective, and professional dental cleanings are necessary to prevent and treat these diseases. Regular dental visits can also help detect other conditions that affect the oral cavity and treat conditions that can affect not only the oral health, but the overall health. Dentists perform a few different tasks in their daily practice, from cleaning to cancer screenings, and it’s helpful to understand the breadth of a dentist’s skills if you’re curious about what it is that a dentist does.
The foundation of a dentist’s day is the routine checkup. Dentists perform routine checkups along with a dental hygienist, who works closely with the dentist and professionally cleans the teeth. The dentist will examine your mouth and your teeth and assess your oral hygiene. They’re looking for areas of concern, where there might be tooth decay or softened enamel on the teeth; they’re checking your gums, measuring for signs of gum disease or bone loss; they’re evaluating the way your top teeth meet your bottom teeth, called your bite; and, if you still have any primary teeth, they’re assessing the development of your teeth.
Sometimes, at a routine checkup, dentists or dental hygienists will take x-rays. X-rays can provide a lot of information dentists can’t get from a visual and manual examination. They can help the dentist determine whether the bone that supports the teeth is healthy, and they can uncover the existence of cavities between the teeth. In children, x-rays can be used to determine the position and arrangement of the permanent teeth that are developing in the jaw, helping the dentist prepare for and possibly prevent future issues or concerns. There are several different types of x-rays that show different areas in different ways, and your dentist will explain the kind of x-rays they recommend for you and tell you what they’re hoping to learn from them.
Dentists also evaluate the oral cavity, examining for oral cancer. Early detection of oral cancer is essential, as is the case with most types of cancer, and an oral cancer screening is part of every routine checkup. To screen for cancer, your dentist will wrap a strip of gauze around your tongue, holding it to the side and visually checking for any signs of cancer, and they will feel your neck and the outside of your jaw.
A dentist, or dental hygienist, will also clean your teeth, helping to prevent periodontal disease. They’ll use specialized dental instruments to scrape off tartar, and they’ll polish the surfaces of your teeth, using a special paste to remove stains and restore the shine of the enamel. They’ll also floss your teeth. For patients who are especially prone to cavities, or for children whose teeth are still developing, a professional cleaning might be followed by a fluoride treatment. Topical fluoride treatments are recommended for children to strengthen enamel as it develops in the years when children are most prone to cavities. Fluoride treatments are applied with a swab or brush or in a tray, or they may be given as mouthwash. The fluoride solution contains a much higher concentration of fluoride than toothpaste and is left on the teeth for a few minutes and allowed to absorb.
Dentists also apply sealants to the chewing surfaces of the teeth, usually on the molars. These sealants are intended to prevent cavities and last anywhere from 5 to 10 years. Any patient with no decay or fillings in their molars can receive sealants, though they are most often given to children and teenagers. The procedure for applying sealant is quick and painless and can easily be performed during a routine examination.
Finally, your dentist and dental hygienist will review your home care instructions. Based on patterns they see at each checkup, they will counsel you on the proper way to brush and floss your teeth, specifically. They may also offer recommendations for dietary changes or habit modification, when these things affect your oral health; for example, if you are a smoker, you are at a higher risk for gum disease and other oral conditions, and it’s not a bad idea to talk to your dentist about smoking cessation options. Don’t be afraid to ask whatever questions you need answered, as your dentist is there to help prevent problems with your mouth and teeth, and keeping you educated and informed is an important step in prevention.