The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups and Cleanings

woman smiling during a regular dental checkup at summit dentistry spokane

They say that eyes are the windows to the soul, but your teeth might just be a window to your overall health.  As we go through life, we start off with a set of baby teeth, which eventually fall out and make room for our adult teeth.

All of these teeth have been with us our entire lives, and though our baby teeth wear through and we might get the illusion that we have a second chance with teeth, we really don’t.  Our adult teeth are all we get to last us a lifetime of regular use.

It is crucial that we practice good oral care and maintain the health of our teeth and gums.  Regular brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings are all ways to ensure our smiles last a long time.

Your Teeth and Regular Checkups

We use our teeth every day to chew our food.  Each tooth has a specialized function that allows us to cut through meat and vegetables, and even grind down tougher food such as grain and fiber so that our digestive process can more effectively extract nutrients from our food. Teeth are some of the hardest parts of the human body, even harder than bone.  Teeth are comprised of a root, which includes a nerve as well as a blood supply to feed the pulp and dentin of the tooth.

The tooth is surrounded by a hard layer of enamel, which resists friction, and chemical damage from acidic food and drink, and allows us to chew our food.  Each tooth is held in its place in the bone of your jaw by your gums.  Brushing and flossing help remove buildup of excess food and particles that might begin to corrode your enamel.  Once the enamel is breached, this is called a cavity, which allows the infection to enter the tooth and cause tooth decay and other infections.

Teeth Longevity

We put our teeth through a lot of punishment.  Not only does the mechanical process of chewing begin to wear out the working surface area of our teeth, but some of us treat our teeth like a toolbox to cut into candy wrappers, snip thread, and even hold things when our hands are full (using teeth as anything other than chewing food is not recommended by your dentist).

Other punishments we inflict on our teeth are through full-contact sports, grinding them at night due to stress, and eating foods that are high in sugars or acids.  Over time, this kind of punishment can wear down the protective enamel and allow infection to spread into the dentin and roots.  Eventually, these teeth might break apart or become abscessed and spread infection, and bad odor, and require surgery or removal to protect your health.

Why Oral Care Helps

Removing these corrosive particles on your teeth reduces the damage acids and abrasion can take on your teeth.  Your saliva and leftover food particles create polymers such as plaque and tartar, which eventually cover your tooth.  Your toothbrush can’t get under this coating and eventually, cavities can form.

Brushing with toothpaste isn’t always enough.  Flossing helps extract food from below the gum line in places a toothbrush cannot reach.  Over time, buildup of food can harm the root which isn’t protected by enamel.  This area just below the gum line is extremely susceptible to cavities, lesions, and buildup.  Your dentist has special training and tools that can remove plaque and tartar without damaging your tooth enamel.

Regular semi-annual visits to your dentist are a good way to make sure that buildup your toothbrush and flossing can’t remove is cleaned off by a trained professional.  The longer you go between visits, the more difficult it might be to remove buildup, and the more likely damage is done by bacteria underneath.

Consequences of Poor Oral Health

All sorts of things can contribute to your oral health.  Since we only have one set of adult teeth to take care of, these factors can lead to tooth loss and other health problems. Regular dental checkups not only allow you to catch serious problems early on but routine cleanings and checkups can improve your dental health to prevent extensive procedures later on.

  • Discolored teeth: Yellowing and wear on teeth might be an indication of poor oral health.  Enamel may thin over time and neglect, leading to serious oral health problems.
  • Cavities: Treatment for cavities requires that the affected area be removed by drilling and replacing the damaged enamel with metal fillings or amalgam.  Continued cavities may result in tooth breakage or cracking, which can lead to infection.
  • Abscesses: Infections in your teeth can lead to abscesses, which are pus-filled areas in your gums, which indicate system infection.  Abscesses have been known to break and release toxins into the bloodstream through the jaw, affecting the brain, spreading infection, and even leading to death.
  • Gum disease: Periodontal disease might require tooth extractions or dentures, due to chronic infections. Early signs of gum disease might be bad breath, recessed gum lines, and even horizontal lesions on your teeth.
  • Smoking and tobacco: Tar and nicotine not only discolor teeth but adversely affect gum health.  The carcinogens in tobacco have also been linked to oral cancers and may accelerate tooth loss, and contribute to chronic bad breath, and even death.
  • Poor diet: Refined sugar reacts with saliva and basically feeds oral bacteria and creates acids that begin to dissolve your tooth enamel over time.  Poor diet may also lead to diabetes, which can accelerate tooth decay and gum disease due to the prevention of blood flow to your teeth.
  • Medications: Certain medications can adversely affect your tooth and gum health.  Chemotherapy and radiation can lead to serious problems, and regular checkups are a good way to make sure your teeth are happy and healthy.

Other Procedures You Need to Know About

If you don’t keep up with your oral health through regular brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings, you might need to have any number of these procedures to try to reverse the damage done.  These may be uncomfortable and expensive procedures.

  • Scaling and root planing: a procedure that removes tartar and plaque from your teeth and roots.  The roots are planed smooth again to ensure a better attachment to your gums.
  • Full-mouth debridement: Similar to scaling and root planing, this procedure uses a variety of tools to remove plaque above and below the gum line.  The procedure might be painful, and leave your teeth and gums feeling sensitive for a while afterward.
  • Root canals: When the pulp and dentin of the tooth have “died” the tooth can be salvaged by removing the soft materials inside through this method. Crowns and other prosthetics might be needed for aesthetic and functional use.
  • Tooth extractions: Complete removal of the tooth due to decay, splitting, and breakage.  Partial replacements, such as bridges or implants, or complete dental reconstruction might be needed to replace teeth and ensure your quality of life.

Other Benefits of Checkups

Checkups have other benefits as well. Your dental hygienist is not only looking for indications of your current oral health, but also other important factors that might be signs of problems throughout the rest of your body.  Your oral health can be an indication of certain cancers, diabetes, stress (due to night grinding or breakage), or dietary deficiencies and other health problems.

Oral bacteria have been linked to problems such as heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and kidney disease. Though not necessarily a cause of these health problems, a dentist might be able to suspect symptoms of a problem happening elsewhere in the body, due to whatever is going on in the mouth.

Schedule an Appointment With Summit Family & Cosmetic Dentistry Today

Your teeth are a crucial part of your overall health, not just your oral health.  Regular checkups and cleanings go a long way to fostering a better quality of life, reduced costs on future surgeries, and giving you a good reason to show off those teeth whenever you smile.

If you would like to learn more about how you can better care for your teeth, contact us to set up a visit with one of our trained professionals today!