A dental check up should be one of the most important dates in your diary. However, due to our more hectic schedules, it can be sometimes easy to overlook or postpone them.
One of the more recent EU based oral health surveys indicated that 55% of Maltese residents visit their dentist for a dental check up once in the previous 12 months. To put it into perspective, the Dutch were the most frequent visitors to the dentist, as 79% indicated they visited the dentist once in the preceding 12 months.
While the UK has a myth of bad teeth (think Austin Powers movie), the survey results tend to disprove this stereotype as the British are the 2nd most frequent visitors to the dentist with 72% of survey respondents stating they visited the dentist at least once in the previous 12 months.
This shows that Malta is still far behind when it comes to dental check ups and oral health in general.
The following article will hopefully remove the sense of anxiety people have when it comes to dental health. We shall cover the following topics:
- 8 benefits of a regular dental check up
- What happens during a routine dental check up?
- How often should you have a dental check up?
Benefits Of A Regular Dental Check Up
#1: Save Your Teeth
The biggest cause of tooth loss in adults is gum disease. According to research by the Centre for Disease Control and prevention, 47% of people over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease. This figure increases more as you age (70% of adults over 65 have periodontal disease). Periodontal diseases occur due to infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support your teeth. Regular check ups can prevent gum disease and therefore save your teeth.
#2 Keep Your Smile White And Bright
Regular tooth cleaning which is part of the dental check up removes any stains on your teeth caused by tobacco, coffee, tea, wine, cola, fruit juices, curries, soy sauce, beetroots, etc., ensuring your smile is white, bright and ready to dazzle!
#3 Protect Your Overall Health & Well Being
There have been some recent studies showing the overall health benefit of looking after your teeth. Women can cut the risk of heart attacks by 33% with regular dental care according to a study published by the University of Berkeley in California. Another US based study reported that people who have regular dental check ups have lower overall healthcare costs due to early detection.
#4 Can help save your life
One of the most unforgiving forms of cancer is oral cancer. Part of your regular dental check up will include the dentist analysing your mouth for early signs of these type of cancer (at Savina Clinics, oral cancer screening is an integral part of the regular check-up). Early diagnosis is vital for the successful treatment of oral cancer.
#5 Lighter on your wallet
A dental health check up is relatively inexpensive, and just like your car, if not maintained regularly, it will lead to costlier expenses down the line. Do not scrimp on your oral health as it will come back to haunt you later.
#6 Keep bad breath at bay
Bad breath can be avoided, and a regular health check up is the first step in combating halitosis. Not only does a regular cleaning prevent bad breath but it removes built up tartar and calculus, resulting in a fresh and clean mouth making you look and feel better.
#7 Can help you sleep better
Grinding of your teeth when you sleep is one oral health sign of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is where someone stops breathing for short intervals during the night, leading to increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Your dentist may recommend use of a night guard to help protect the teeth from grinding or for severe cases, refer you to a specialist.
#8 Setting a good example for your children
Kids often tend to mimic their parents. Sometimes this can be bad depending on the actual activity, but not so for regular dental check ups. If your children get used to the habit of regular oral check ups, then not only will they continue the practice later in life, but they will also ensure their kids keep up this healthy routine.
What Happens During a Routine Dental Checkup?
A dental check up usually consists of two distinct areas:
- Hygiene Session (more commonly known as a tooth cleaning session)
- General Oral Check Up
Once you arrive at the dental practice, the receptionist will greet you and ask you to take a seat while they inform the dentist and the registered dental hygienist you have arrived.
Your Dental History
You will first meet the dental hygienist who will ask you a series of questions about your medical history and if this is your first visit to the clinic. If it is not your first visit, they will ask you if there have been any significant changes in your medical history since the last visit. It is important for the staff to know of any health concerns you may have along with any anxieties or allergies to ensure you get the best care possible.
Once the hygienist has discussed your medical history, they will then begin work inside your mouth. The first step in this process is tooth cleaning. This procedure usually lasts 10-15 minutes, depending on the current state of your teeth. The procedure involves removing built up plaque and tartar above and below the gum line as well as thorough flossing of all your teeth to remove any plaque or food particles that are stubbornly holding on tightly to your teeth.
The hygienist will then use a tooth polisher (an instrument with a rotating head and coated in slightly coarse-grained paste) to give your teeth a shiny and smooth finish. Not only does the polish make your teeth shine but it also removes any remaining residue that was previously missed during the teeth cleaning. The extra benefit of tooth polishing is it makes your teeth smoother which in turn makes it harder for plaque buildup to occur.
Once your teeth are fully clean, it is now time to make a full examination of your mouth to investigate any problem areas thoroughly. A probe made from metal with a small angled mirror positioned on top will be used to look in the difficult to see areas. This tool is also used to check for weakened tooth enamel and dentin. Dentin is found beneath your enamel and communicates with the nerves in your teeth. Once exposed, it can have painful ramifications.
They will also look for swelling in any area of the mouth as well as checking for mouth sores or redness. The final test is to measure the area between the top of your gum line and where the gum tissue attaches firmly to your teeth (called periodontal pockets). A measurement between one and three millimetres is the ideal result.
The final part of the procedure is to check if there are any issues below the surface of the mouth. Any issues not visible to the naked eye can be determined by the taking of x-ray pictures of your mouth. Dental x-rays are a painless procedure. The dentist or hygienist will ask you to bite down on a piece of plastic designed to keep your jaw in line while the x-ray machine is placed beside your cheek, and the x-ray image is taken. The x-ray image will show both the roots below your gum line and your jaw bones, therefore giving your dentist a full picture of your exact oral health condition and needs.
This exam is performed by the dentist (as opposed to the hygienist) and will first start by carefully looking over your x-rays to spot any underlying conditions (loss of bone, fractures or other specific issues below the visible gum line) and then perform the following checks:
The Dentist will survey the outside of your jaw while you are biting down to ensure there is no jaw joint clicking or popping as well as checking if the bite is smooth and aligned.
A close examination of the teeth will determine if they are cracked or smoothed down due to teeth grinding or jaw clenching.
The final check will be an oral cancer preventative check by feeling behind your jaw and neck to ensure there are no suspicious signs that may indicate precancerous lesions.
Dental Check Up Results And Advice
Once all the above is complete, the dentist has a full understanding of your current oral health condition. At this stage, the dentist may schedule a further appointment to begin work on any trouble areas identified. If you do not require any urgent treatment, the dentist will advise you on ways to take better care of your teeth from home to ensure long lasting good oral health. By following the dentist’s advice carefully, you are protecting yourself from more extreme and costly procedures in the future.
How often should you have a dental check-up?
The most common response to this questions is every six months. However, it all depends on the individual. Some people are more prone to dental issues than others, so while some people can easily go one year without needing a check up, others may be required to go every three months. The following groups may need more frequent dental check-ups; regular smokers, pregnant women, diabetics, people with gum disease or with weak immune system response to bacterial infections.
Looking For A Dental Checkup In Malta?
Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.
Click here to book your next dental check up at Savina Dental Clinic (Gozo or Malta clinics).
Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics