Oral Hygiene 101

Visiting the Dentist

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. A dentist is an important partner in keeping your teeth clean and healthy, so don't let your anxiety keep you away.

You cannot go it alone. No matter how well you care for your teeth at home, you still need regular checkups and cleanings, and in the rare case of a dental emergency, you'll be glad the professionals are around. 

The Checkup

Has fear kept you away from the dentist for so long that your teeth hurt just thinking about it? If so, fight your fear with facts. A checkup is certainly nothing to worry about, and knowing what's going to happen should allay your fears. Here are a few things you can expect when you visit the dentist for your semi-annual cleaning and exam:

Cleaning. A professional cleaning involves more than a simple brushing and flossing. Your dentist has special instruments and techniques to clean your teeth more thoroughly than you can at home. 

First, your dentist or dental hygienist removes the tartar, or calculus, that has built up on your teeth. This hardened plaque is removed with a sharp tool called a scaler. Some dentists use a device that can remove the tartar with ultrasonic sound waves instead of a scaler, but both methods do the same thing.

After the tartar buildup has been removed, your teeth are polished with a special paste and a rotating rubber polisher. The polishing process not only brightens your teeth, but it also gives them a very smooth surface, making it difficult for bacteria and plaque to take hold.

In addition to these steps, children may also receive an extra treatment to make their teeth stronger and more cavity resistant. A fluoride wash is a topical application of fluoride that can protect the tooth enamel.

Examination. After a thorough cleaning, the dentist checks on the health of your teeth and gums. This part of your visit includes:

  • Examination of the soft tissue, during which the dentist checks the interior of your mouth for signs of any disease.
  • X rays to get a more accurate picture of any suspected decay, to examine teeth that have not yet emerged, or to assess the progress of periodontal disease. They can also locate any cysts or lesions on the jawbone. (X rays are usually considered optional unless it's your first visit to that particular dentist or regular examination reveals a problem that requires a more extensive evaluation.)

Your teeth need lots of care and attention to ensure life-long good oral health. Visit the links below for more information about protecting and caring for your teeth.

  • If you're not vigilant in your oral hygiene, an assortment of afflictions can attack your teeth and gums. Learn more in How Dental Disease Works.
  • Do you wish your teeth had just a bit more sparkle to them? How Tooth Whitening Works takes a look at procedures you can undergo to brighten your pearly whites.
  • When you have an ache in your teeth, getting rid of it is the only thought in your head. In How to Relieve a Tooth Ache, find out how to deal with dental distress.

Brianna Politzer is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, nutrition, and technology. She has contributed to many consumer publications, including The Home Remedies Handbook, Women's Home Remedies Health Guide, and The Medical Book of Health Hints and Tips.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.