Dental Exams and Cleanings

healthcare and medicine concept picture
Considering how important our teeth are to our overall health, it’s interesting that so many people overlook the importance of their twice-yearly professional cleanings and exams with their dentist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 40 percent of U.S. adults and 20 percent of kids don’t see a dentist regularly.

That’s unfortunate because diligent home oral hygiene coupled with these regular exams and cleanings are all just about anyone needs to keep their oral health in tip top shape. Good hygiene usually heads off issues such as gum disease, teeth that need extraction, root canals, and the like. Why is this? We spot issues such as decay long before anything more than a filling would be required. And we can see signs of gingivitis before it evolves into gum disease.

But NYC dentist Dr. Angela Abernathy and our team at Boutique Smiles of Manhattan need to see you to keep your teeth healthy. Here’s a little more about what happens at our twice-yearly professional cleanings and exams at Boutique Smiles of Manhattan.

Why do I need to see the dentist every six months?

young woman during a dental checkup
As you can see from those somewhat horrifying statistics from the CDC, many people don’t believe seeing their dentist every six months is necessary.

Why is six months the timeline for these exams and cleanings? It’s not an arbitrary number. Six months is about the length of time it takes plaque to harden into tartar to a degree in your mouth that it should be removed. While brushing and flossing remove plaque every day, that same plaque hardens into tartar if you don’t brush enough and also in some places such as the inside of your lower teeth (where everyone builds up tartar). Tartar can only be removed by a professional hygienist using a dental pick.

When you get beyond six months, tartar can begin to creep under your gumline, and that spells the beginning of gum disease.

I take care of my teeth, so why do I need to come in every six months?

You brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. At least that’s your story and you’re sticking to it. Truth is, many people are lackadaisical brushers and only occasional flossers. Do you brush for two minutes every time? Do you hit every tooth, the gumline, the roof of your mouth, and your tongue? Do you truly floss every single day?

You can see where the average person has the opportunity for plaque and tartar to develop. Actually, even if you provide excellent home hygiene, tartar will still build up in the usual spots. For most people, that is the inside of all the lower front incisors, and possibly other spots. Only a dental pick used by a professional hygienist can break away tartar once it has formed. And as mentioned above, if tartar continues to build it will eventually start to move under the gumline and nothing good follows that.

Plus, if Dr. Abernathy and our team see you every six months, rather than every two years, we can spot a problem such as slightly receding gums or a small area of decay early on when it is easy to fix or to reverse a trend. That makes it easy to keep your oral health in good form. This keeps things like root canals, tooth extraction, and gum disease out of your future.

What happens during my dental exam?

When we see you every six months, there are two parts to your visit: an oral exam and a professional cleaning. There’s a reason we pull on your tongue, push on your glands below your jawline, and use picks to probe areas on your molars — it’s all part of catching oral health problems early. Here’s what we cover with our exams at Boutique Smiles of Manhattan.

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  • Diagnostic dental X-rays:  X-rays are crucial in detecting decay, possible tumors, cysts, and bone loss in the patient. X-rays also determine the position of each tooth and its root. We employ the latest technology to keep our diagnostic options at the forefront of the industry, such as CariVu for detecting dental decay.
  • Oral cancer screening: We check your gums, tissues, throat, tongue, lips, face, and neck for any signs of oral cancer. The number of patients with oral cancer as a result of the human papillomavirus (HPV) has been growing.
  • Evaluation of gum disease: We check the gums as well as the bone surrounding the teeth for signs of periodontal disease.
  • Examination of dental decay: Every tooth surface will be examined for decay.
  • Examination of existing dental restorations: Your existing dental restorations — fillings, crowns, bridges, veneers, etc. — will be checked for stability and wear.

How is a professional cleaning different than home hygiene?

At Boutique Smiles of Manhattan our registered dental hygienists perform your professional cleanings, also known as “dental prophylaxis.” Here’s what they do:

  • Calculus (tartar) removal — Calculus, which builds when plaque has calcified and become a hard substance bonded onto your teeth, will be removed during your cleaning. It is commonly found above and below the gum line and can’t be removed by tooth brushing alone. Dental picks are needed to completely remove tartar, breaking the bond it has formed on the tooth surface.
  • Plaque removal — Plaque is a nearly invisible, sticky substance that forms on the teeth. Along with saliva and food debris, bacteria are found in plaque. Not removing plaque, and its bacteria, leads to gum inflammation, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.
  • Teeth polishing —This final step polishes the teeth, removing many stains and any remaining plaque remnants.

What are some signs I need to see the dentist other than my regular exams?

at the dentists office picture
OK, we’ve now established that we should see you every six months at our beautiful Boutique Smiles of Manhattan office on East 60th Street. Beyond those regular professional cleanings and exams, there are certain signs that you need to call us before then. Here are five things that would dictate a need to make an appointment:

  • There is blood when you brush — Everyone’s gums bleed a bit occasionally, especially if you’ve been remiss in flossing and suddenly get back to it. But if you’re seeing blood in your spit regularly when you brush, that’s a sign of gum disease. We need to see you soon.
  • You have loose teeth — A loose tooth (or teeth) is a serious situation. Little kids losing their baby teeth have loose teeth often when they are in the process of falling out. Not adults. Permanent teeth should be firmly anchored and feel secure. If you notice a loose tooth — maybe you banged it in a touch football game or something — you need to see Dr. Abernathy. She can stabilize the tooth, so you don’t end up losing it.
  • Bumps or sores in your mouth — The occasional canker sore or cold sore is nothing to worry about. But if you have sores in your mouth that either aren’t healing or are perpetually recurring, you can’t ignore them. These could be signs of oral cancer.
  • Recurring bad breath — Stale breath happens to everyone occasionally. But recurring bad breath is not a sign of oral health. We need to see you to find the cause. It could be something easy to fix, and you can quit worrying about your breath in social situations; or it could be a sign of a dental problem such as early stage gum disease.
  • Persistent jaw pain — For about 10 million Americans the act of chewing, talking, or otherwise using their jaw can be an exercise in pain. They have temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly known as TMJ or TMD. This condition is a sign that your jaw could be misaligned. Or it could be a simpler cause, such as clenching your teeth at night. Dr. Abernathy should see you; she can help get you past the pain.

Schedule Your Consultation Today!

Interested in scheduling your dental exam or next teeth cleaning with NYC cosmetic dentist Dr. Angela Abernathy? Call Boutique Smiles of Manhattan today at 212.262.2952 or click here to schedule your consultation today!

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