An Ounce of Prevention

Preventative Dentistry Burlington

Prevention.  Always your best choice.

The first step in any treatment process is always gathering information - a step which is especially important in dentistry.  With every new patient, we start with a medical history review and then move on to the extra-oral areas and finally the intra-oral areas.  This exam is designed to be exhaustive, and will identify any necessary modifications to treatment due to health concerns, the health and function of the temporomandibular joints, the regional lymph nodes, the soft tissues inside the mouth, including objective measurements of the health of the gingiva, and the condition of every tooth and restoration.  A cancer screen is also completed during this process and the relationship of the upper jaw to the lower jaw is also recorded.  The value of such a thorough, RECORDED exam is that it provides a baseline for comparison against any future findings.  It is for this reason that a comprehensive exam is usually conducted every three to five years.
 

Preventative Dentistry Burlington

Recall Exams

The recall exam is the more common exam, done usually once every six to nine months.  We are primarily checking for any signs of decay, gum disease or pathology.  The primary objective of these exams is to detect, as early as possible, any problems and to deal with them in the earliest stages.  These exams tend to be much quicker than comprehensive exams.  However, if there are significant problems discovered, a separate appointment will be scheduled for you so that the dentist can more thoroughly investigate the situation, discuss any treatments that may be necessary and answer any questions you may have.

 Preventative Dentistry Burlington

Radiographs

Radiographs are indispensable tools in the diagnosis of decay and/or disease.  Their use is governed by the ALARA principle - As Low As Reasonably Achievable - as prescribed by the Ministry of Health.  In other words, we will take as few radiographs as possible that will still give us the information that we require to make a sound treatment decision.  While you will most likely recall the cavity detecting radiographs that are taken once per year, there are many other uses for them.  They are exceptionally useful in detecting abscesses that may have formed around the root tips of teeth, they help us to determine whether or not bone loss is occurring around the remaining teeth and if so, comparison of one year’s radiographs to the previous year’s will tell us how quickly the bone loss is occurring.  Prior to surgical procedures such as extractions or implant placements, radiographs are critical in telling us where structures such as nerves and sinuses are relative to where we will be operating.  Pathological conditions such as osseous (bony) tumours can also be detected by a good radiograph.  

 Preventative Dentistry Burlington

Scaling and Root Planing

The key to understanding the value of the ubiquitous hygiene appointment is understanding how calculus (tartar) develops.  Everyone has bacteria in his/her mouth.  They exist both on the soft tissue as well as on the teeth.  The tendency of the bacteria is to first group together as a film over the teeth, and then multiply and thicken.  This biofilm (or plaque) is the fuzzy covering you feel on your teeth in the morning before you brush.  When the bacteria is still in this soft state, it can be effectively disrupted and removed by brushing and flossing.  However, if any of the plaque is left undisrupted for more than 48 hours, the calcium in saliva will begin to calcify the plaque.  At this point, the plaque becomes calculus, the hard, stone-like buildup on your teeth, teeming with bacteria, and completely resistant to brushing and flossing.  It is simply too hard and too firmly attached to the teeth for you to remove at home.  More importantly, the calculus that forms underneath the gumline begins to elicit an inflammatory response like a dirty sliver, ultimately leading to bone loss.  Removing this calculus is the reason for your hygiene appointments.  With a number of highly specialized instruments, our hygienists meticulously plane every surface of every root of every tooth, ensuring that the bacteria-laden calculus is removed and the inflammation is halted.  

 Preventative Dentistry Burlington

Fluoride Treatment

There are two ways that fluoride benefits you.  The first is while your teeth are still developing inside your jawbone.  At this very early stage, fluoride is incorporated into the very makeup of the tooth which makes it much more resistant to demineralization and ultimately, decay.  For this effect to take place, you only need to be exposed to 0.7 to 1.2 ppm of fluoride, or what’s present in your tap water.  The other manner in which fluoride protects you is when your hygienist applies it directly to your teeth at the end of your appointment.  When your teeth are treated this way, you actually get calcium fluoride deposits on the surface of your teeth.  This source of fluoride is only released when the tooth is exposed to the acid produced by the decay-causing bacteria.  The fluoride is then incorporated into the surface of the tooth, again protecting it from future bacterial assaults.  There is also the added benefit of the fluoride inhibiting the activity of the bacteria, further protecting your teeth from decay.  

It is important to point out that whether or not fluoride treatment is administered, is determined on an individual basis, just like every other form of dental treatment.  You should feel free to ask our dental team whether or not you would benefit from fluoride.

Preventative Dentistry Burlington