Proper treatment of a dental condition can only follow proper diagnostics. A patient is recommended to be examined by a dentist twice a year. A dental exam consists of extra- and intra-oral exams and collecting or updating health information. The purpose of an extraoral exam is to exclude for the presence of any sign of benign or malignant growth as a result of cancer, note any possible asymmetry or enlargement of lymph nodes. The intraoral exam also includes an oral cancer screening which is done by examining soft tissue, mucosa, gums, tongue, and teeth. The examination of the gums also aims to detect any possible gum disease. The symptoms of gum disease include swelling, bleeding, and/or receding of the gums.
Radiography, or the taking of x-rays, is performed during a dental exam to detect the signs of gum disease and possible damage of the teeth due to dental decay or cavities. Following analysis of the dental exam, including x-rays, a dentist will propose and discuss all possible treatment options. Treatment options may vary in complexity and cost. The dentist will guide the patient in choosing the optimal treatment plan which fits his budget or will be covered by his dental insurance.
Dental hygiene is the cornerstone of oral health. Gum disease, as well as tooth decay, are caused by bacterial growth around the teeth. Bacteria feed on teeth and produce toxins as a byproduct, which act to destroy the collagen structure of the gum leading to the beginning stages of gum disease, also called gingivitis. The symptoms of gingivitis include bleeding and swollen gums and bad breath. If not taken care of, this will progress to the next stage of gum disease, periodontitis. There are three stages of periodontitis: beginning, moderate, and advanced. The symptoms of periodontitis are gum recession, bone destruction, and loose teeth. Moderate and advanced periodontitis lead to teeth loss, treatment for which vary from removable dentures to bridges to implant placement. It is vital to brush teeth regularly with a soft brush using circular or sweeping motions and moderate pressure for at least two minutes. Another critical aspect of oral hygiene is flossing. Flossing acts to remove bacterial plaque that builds up between the teeth. Alternatives to flossing are using an interdental toothbrush or using a water irrigation device, such as Waterpik. These irrigation devices use a robust water stream to remove interdental bacterial plaque. In my practice, I have found that some patients prefer using devices such as the Waterpik to flossing. All three methods of cleaning between the teeth are very effective and allow a patient to support gum health. Even with regular brushing and flossing, some plaque stays behind and mineralizes to form dental stones, also called tartar. Cleaning effectively at home, while vital, is not sufficient to maintain oral health. An essential part of oral hygiene is semiannual oral health cleaning and checkup by a dental professional. A dentist checks how effectively a patient cleans his teeth, removes remaining tartar buildup, examines teeth for cavities, and screens for oral cancer.