Regular examination of the teeth and gums by a dental hygienist can detect when problems are developing and allow for planning to address and prevent problems through referrals to a dentist and regularly scheduled dental hygiene visits. A dental hygienist can perform the following services during a visit:
Oral Cancer Screening: The hygienist will examine the lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth, throat and the head and neck for any abnormal lesions. The incidence of oral cancer increases with age, and earlier detection means better prognosis.
Examination of the gums and teeth
- Gum disease evaluation: The hygienist will evaluate the gums for signs of gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a reversible condition in which inflammation of the gums is present. Periodontitis is an irreversible condition in which some of the bony support around teeth has been destroyed due to infection of the gums. Deep gum pockets around the teeth can make daily oral hygiene challenging, and a dental hygienist may recommend regular professional cleaning every 2-4 months depending on the health of the gums and bony support around teeth, as well as the individual or caregiver’s ability to perform good daily oral hygiene. Regular professional dental cleanings and good daily oral hygiene are important for removing irritants to the gums, and maintaining good health.
- Evaluation for potential decay: The dental hygienist will examine all the surfaces of the teeth, identifying damaged surfaces and suspicious lesions or cavitations. These areas will be referred to a dentist for further evaluation. The hygienist will also evaluate risk factors for developing decay, including the exposure of root surfaces due to gum recession, dry mouth, poor daily oral hygiene, and lack of adequate fluoride exposure. A high concentration fluoride treatment is often recommended for individuals who are at risk for developing decay.
- Evaluation of existing restorations: Your loved one may have old silver fillings, crowns, bridges or other dental restorations. Old fillings may crack or chip, and decay can develop around the edges of restorations. The hygienist will examine the integrity of these existing fillings, and note any potential decay, breakdown or other problems. These areas will be referred to a dentist for further evaluation.
Denture Care: Many seniors wear partial dentures or full dentures. We provide professional denture cleaning services, removing calculus (hardened plaque), plaque and debris. The hygienist will examine the individual’s mouth to assess the health of the gums and hard tissue that underlie the denture. Poorly fitting dentures may cause sores, and the hygienist will refer findings to a dentist.
Fluoride Treatments: Fluoride is important for preventing decay and arresting (stopping) decay from developing. Conditions such as gum recession, dry mouth, and poor daily oral hygiene contribute to higher risk of developing tooth decay. A high concentration fluoride treatment is frequently recommended at dental hygiene appointments for patients at risk of developing decay. Additionally, a hygienist may recommend a dentist’s prescription for a high concentration fluoride toothpaste.Dental Cleanings
- Calculus (tarter) removal: Calculus is hardened deposits firmly attached to the teeth. Calculus forms when plaque sits on the teeth too long and becomes calcified. It cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. Calculus can form both above and under the gumline, and can harbor bacteria that irritate the gums, leading to periodontal (gum) disease. A dental hygienist will use special instruments to removed calculus that forms both above and below the gumline.
- Plaque removal: Plaque is a soft, sticky, translucent film that forms on the teeth daily. It is a living and growing substance made up of bacteria, food particles, and saliva components. Some bacteria cause tooth decay. Others irritate the gums and cause periodontal or gum disease if not removed regularly with routine oral hygiene.
- Polishing: Over time, food and beverages such as coffee and tea can leave stains on the teeth. Polishing removes stains from the teeth as well as any plaque not cleaned off the teeth during brushing or a dental cleaning.
Referral to a Dentist: We recommend that each individual we serve be examined by a dentist at least once every six months. Any suspicious lesions or conditions of the soft or hard tissues of the mouth are referred to the dentist of your choice.