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Are you the type of person who makes to-do lists? Many of us are. Things we need to get from the store, items that need to be repaired or replaced around the house and events at school are among the things we need to remember to do. These and many other things are very important. So when was the last time you noted the need to make an appointment for your next dental cleaning and examination?

Dental checkups are important to ensure that your teeth and gums continue to be as healthy as possible.

I like to advise getting a cleaning followed by an exam on the same day, if possible. For one thing, a professional dental cleaning is extremely thorough. This will enable the hygienist to not only clean and polish your teeth, but also remove plaque and tartar.

Plaque is a bacteria that forms in the mouth and covers your teeth after you eat. Sugars or starches are two of the main plaque-causing culprits. The problem is that the acids produced by plaque can stay on your teeth long after you eat, eventually eroding your tooth enamel and sometimes, causing decay and other problems. This is why it’s important to brush your teeth after every meal. If you don’t do this regularly, plaque can harden, turn into tartar and eventually cause gum disease.

During your cleaning, the hygienist will make notes about anything that might be cause for concern and provide that information to the dentist. Following your cleaning, the dentist will thoroughly examine your mouth. He or she will look for such things as gum inflammation, cavities and other potential issues.

Some dentists also perform a periodontal screening, which can determine if a gum disease has manifested. For example, you might have gingivitis, which makes your gums swollen and sensitive.
At this point, your dentist will either give you a clean bill of health or recommend treatment. If further treatment is necessary, this is a good time to ask questions and listen closely to the dentist’s responses. Understand clearly what’s being said as well as the possible ramifications on not taking action promptly if that’s what the dentist is recommending. Also, clarify what exactly you should be doing and when. Including brushing, flossing, what types of foods to eat and avoid. If there’s an issue that needs to be cleared up, your dentist might suggest using a specific mouth rinse for a predetermined period of time, many of which are available in your local supermarket or pharmacy.

Finally, your dentist or hygienist might give you a new toothbrush. Many do. We tend to recommend those with soft bristles, which are more gentle on your mouth and gums.

So, if you haven’t had a dental cleaning and exam in some time, make an appointment today. Your mouth will thank you, and you’ll be doing everything you can to prevent or address problems.