Periodontal exams are vital in the maintenance of your oral health as they are used to assess the health of your gums and teeth. They can help your dentist diagnose gum diseases, gingivitis and periodontitis. These exams can also reveal receding gums, exposed roots, tooth grinding and other problems, making periodontal exams vital to maintaining proper oral health. Regular dental exams are important as they can reveal evidence of gum disease in its early stages.
During your periodontal examination, your dentist will check:
- For any lumps or abnormal areas in the mouth
- Whether any of your teeth are missing or loose
- The color, texture, size and shape of your gums
- Whether you have fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures or implants
- How much plaque is on your teeth
- The depth of the space between your tooth and gum
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease that causes inflammation of the gums. Dental x-rays can determine if the inflammation has spread to the supporting structures on the teeth so treatment can be started to correct the problem. Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis goes untreated, which makes periodontal exams vital to preventing and putting an end to gum diseases.
Your dentist will complete a periodontal exam with each visit, emphasizing the importance of regular, routine visits to your dentist’s office.
Scaling and Root Planning
Some cases of acute periodontal (gum) disease that do not respond to more conventional treatment and self-care such as flossing may require a special kind of cleaning called scaling and root planing.
The procedure begins with administration of a local anesthetic to reduce any discomfort. Then, a small instrument called a “scaler,” or an ultrasonic cleaner, is used to clean beneath your gum line to remove plaque and tartar.
The root surfaces on the tooth are then planed and smoothed. If effective, scaling and root planing helps the gums reattach themselves to the tooth structure. Additional measures may be needed if the periodontal pockets persist after scaling and root planing.
When facial reconstruction, including procedures involving the oral cavity, is called for, a specialist is needed. Surgical procedures of the neck and head area are performed by a maxillofacial surgeon.
Common maxillofacial procedures include denture-related procedures and jaw surgery.
Protruding chins, crooked or buck teeth or misaligned teeth are good candidates for maxillofacial surgery.
In some people, jaws do not grow at the same rate; one may come in larger than the other, or simply not be aligned properly with other bony structures in the skull. This can cause problems other than appearance issues; an improperly aligned jaw can cause problems with the tongue and lips, and speech and chewing problems as well. Jaw surgery can move jaws into their proper place.
Other kinds of maxillofacial surgery can correct problems with upper facial features such as the nose and cheek.
In addition to correcting jaw problems surgically, orthodontic appliances such as braces may be needed to restore bite relationship and ensure continued proper alignment of the jaw. In some cases, tiny wires or small rubber bands may be needed to keep the jaws in place and promote faster healing. In other cases, small “fixation” screws or plates may need to be inserted in the jaws to facilitate easy movement of the jaws following surgery.
People who have worn dentures for a long time can sometimes experience loss of gum tissue and even bone, mostly from the wear and tear of the appliance on the soft tissues of their mouth.
In extreme cases, maxillofacial surgery, including bone grafts, manipulation of soft tissues or even jaw realignment, may be performed to correct such problems.
If you lose one or more permanent teeth, an indentation may result in the gums and jawbone where the tooth used to be. When no longer holding a tooth in place, the jawbone recedes and the resulting indentation looks unnatural. Ridge augmentation is a procedure that can recapture the natural contour of the gums and jaw. A new tooth can then be created that is natural looking and complements your smile.
Many people associate the high-pitched whirring of a dental drill with pain. Just the sound alone can make many people wince.
A relatively new technique called air abrasion uses powerful particles of aluminum oxide to remove debris and decay. The most exciting thing for patients is that air abrasion is painless and, in some cases, doesn’t require an anesthetic.
Air abrasion leaves behind a gritty feeling in your mouth, which is simply rinsed away almost instantaneously using a small suction device.
Tiny cracks and imperfections on a tooth can be fixed using air abrasion. Although air abrasion is not suitable for work on crowns and bridges, it is often used for bonding procedures, and on tooth restorations involving composite, or tooth-colored fillings.
Bleaching and non-bleaching products are the two basic kinds of whitening products available today.
Non-bleaching products normally use abrasives or chemicals and only remove surface stains on teeth.
Bleaching products work with a chemical called peroxide and can brighten your teeth several shades.
Another process employs the use of a special gel that is placed inside a flexible device you wear around your teeth for a certain period of time. After you remove the device, you must use a second bleaching agent, followed by a special light to activate the chemical action.
Mildly stained teeth usually only require one session of bleaching.