Most people feel that family dentist appointments are to find out about the health of teeth. Patients expect to find out if there are any teeth that have cavities or are abscessed. Some may only visit the office when a tooth is hurting.
However, what many people forget is that healthy gums are the foundation of a healthy mouth. Prioritizing gum health is just as important as keeping teeth cavity-free. Gum disease is often preventable by simply using special oral hygiene aids and techniques. It is essential that patients have proper gum assessments at each routine checkup so that gum disease can be detected and treated in the early stages.
Strategies to keep gums healthy
A dentist or dental hygienist employs a number of techniques and strategies to keep patients' gums healthy. At a routine visit at a family dentist, a patient may encounter any or all of these steps in the gum disease prevention and treatment process.
Baseline data collection
It is important for the dentist to be able to compare gum health at the present visit to that of the last appointment. A hygienist may use a special instrument called a periodontal probe to measure the spaces between the gums and teeth. These spaces are called pockets and are measured in millimeters. Three millimeters and under are considered healthy, while any readings over that may require further assessment. These measurements are recorded in the patient file for future reference. Patients can ask for an overview of probe depths at each hygiene appointment to monitor gum health.
Oral hygiene aids
If the family dentist finds that a patient is struggling with gum problems, they may recommend special oral hygiene aids to help with homecare habits. Sometimes patients are unable to clean around teeth effectively with their current method and may need extra help to achieve good oral hygiene. An electric toothbrush, floss holder or medicated rinse may be suggested. The hygienist may spend some of the appointment time instructing the patient on how to use these effectively.
Gum disease treatment
If the dentist concludes that there is gum disease, they may recommend going through a deep cleaning procedure known as scaling and root planing. The patient may then be encouraged to come to cleaning appointments every three to four months instead of six. During the deep cleaning, the dentist will numb the area being cleaned and the hygienist will use special instruments to clean under the gums. This is typically done in two appointments so the patient will be comfortable and so the hygienist can give each area the attention it needs.
Detecting and managing gum disease is an essential part of every patient's oral hygiene care. Therefore, it is important that the patient is aware of and compliant in the steps the dental team takes to improve gum health. This can build a trusting relationship between the patient and provider, which is one of the most important aspects of choosing a family dentist for oral health needs.
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