Do you think of your routine dental cleaning as a necessary chore or an opportunity to check in on your oral health? If you have always considered your biannual cleanings as a box to be checked, we’d like to help you change your perspective.
At Sierra Smiles, we consider your visit for a dental cleaning part of a comprehensive hygiene wellness visit. It is your opportunity to ask questions about your oral health, create a plan for keeping your mouth healthy between visits, and so much more. Your dentist packs a lot into a single visit. Read on to learn why your twice-yearly visit to Sierra Smiles is more than “just a cleaning.”
Northern Nevada Dentists Dedicated to Detecting Early Signs of Oral Cancer
Your hygiene wellness visit includes a critical cancer screening. Oral cancer is a dangerous, fast-moving cancer that can rapidly become difficult to treat as it develops. It’s most common in older adults in their sixties. However, one in five cases occurs in individuals under the age of 55. Men are twice as likely as women to get oral cancer.
Oral cancer risk increases with a variety of factors. The top risk factor is, of course, tobacco use. Smoking or using chewing tobacco dramatically increases your chances of oral cancer. If you are a tobacco user, it is really important to inform your dentist. Even if they can’t get you to quit, they can be more vigilant. Alcohol is another risk factor for oral cancer, as is HPV. Please share these risk factors with your dentist. Early detection is critical to preventing the disease from progressing.
According to the American Cancer Society, most oral cancers are found around the tongue, gums, palate, tonsils, and oropharynx. While your regular physician may do a check of your mouth during an annual physical, they will not examine your mouth with the same attention to detail as your dentist. Your hygiene wellness visit not only includes thorough screening, but it also creates a healthy mouth baseline for your dentist to monitor any suspicious new findings.
Your hygienist will perform a full-mouth probe known as a periodontal screening. If you follow the Sierra Smiles blog, you have probably noticed that we think gum health is a pretty big deal. Eighty percent of Americans have some form of gum disease, leaving them vulnerable to infection, tooth loss, and even bone loss. Gum disease is also linked to issues like premature birth, heart problems, and diabetes.
A periodontal screening assesses your gum health. Healthy gums should be firm, pink, and fit tightly against the tooth. The screening begins with a visual examination of your gums. Your dental care team will use a high-powered light and other tools to check the appearance of the tissue for discoloration, swelling, irritation, redness, bleeding or pus. The next step is to check for periodontal pocketing.
Periodontal pocketing is a key sign that you have gum disease. Since the healthy baseline for healthy gums is a snug fit around the teeth, space is a sign that something is wrong. Your hygienist will measure the space between the gum and the tooth to determine the severity of the pocket. The deeper the pocket, the greater the chance of infection and tooth loss.
Sleep and Airway Screening
Sierra Smiles has been performing sleep and airway screenings in Nevada’s Reno and Tahoe areas for a long time now. Sleep is such an important part of your body’s complete health. Like gum disease, poor sleep puts you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and mental health conditions that impact your quality of life.
During your sleep and airway screening, we ask you about your sleep habits. We will ask brief questions about how rested you feel each morning and how you go about your day. We examine your airway, tongue and jaw to see if there are visible abnormalities that could contribute to poor breathing or a sleep condition.
If you have complaints about your sleep health, we can also set you up with a sleep study to learn more about how your body actually “rests” when you are at rest. We also provide options for non-invasive sleep appliances that can help you treat sleep apnea and other airway issues.
Professional Cleaning with a Registered Sierra Smiles Dental Hygienist
Now, we’ve made it full circle back to what you thought was the sole reason for your visit: your dental cleaning. You can probably see now why we have shifted to calling it a hygiene wellness visit!
Your dental cleaning and exam will be performed by a friendly, highly trained, professional dental hygienist. Using specialized tools, your hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth and around the gumline. This process will not harm your teeth — your hygienist is experienced in precision techniques. If you have a build-up of plaque, this portion may be a little more time-consuming. Don’t be discouraged. It will create a blank canvas for you to prevent it from occurring in the future.
After plaque and tartar removal, and a bout of flossing, your hygienist will polish your teeth with a special toothpaste and high-powered brush. You will then be asked to rinse before receiving a fluoride treatment to provide prolonged protection before your next visit — a little primer on that newly blank canvas.
Your hygienist may perform other treatments during your cleaning, such as applying sealants. However, the steps above are a pretty good example of what to expect during your next hygiene wellness visit.
Schedule Your Next Hygiene Wellness Visit
Now that you know why your biannual exams are more than “just a cleaning,” we would love to help you schedule yours. Contact us now to set up an appointment. If you’re a returning patient, we look forward to welcoming you back. If you’re new to Sierra Smiles, check out the new patient specials available at all of our convenient Northern Nevada offices.