1) Why do I have to have x-rays when I have a dental examination?
X-rays are an essential diagnostic tool and no examination is complete without x-rays. Dental decay, failing restorations and infections are not always clinically obvious when the dentist does a visual examination. Most dentists will take bitewing x-rays on both sides of your mouth to see if there is decay between teeth and ensure that all existing fillings are sound and adapted well to tooth structure. Sometimes an OPG (orthopantamogram) is taken to show all the teeth, bones, TMJs (tempromandibular joints) and sinuses to have an overall view of the dental and oro-facial structures. These x-rays are very important in showing the position of wisdom teeth. OPGs can also show the extent of bone loss in periodontal disease and they can show if there are any underlying abscesses in heavily filled teeth.
2) How often should I have my teeth professionally cleaned?
Professional scaling and cleaning is vital for the maintenance of gingival and periodontal health. The age, health and hygiene practices of an individual are determinants in how often they need to have their teeth cleaned. People who don't have strict home hygiene practices often need to have professional cleaning every 6mths. Plaque forms daily and when it is not removed by brushing and flossing, it calcifies to form calculus (tartar) which can only be removed professionally.
The frequency of scaling and polishing may also be influenced by smoking and underlying medical conditions (eg: diabetes). Periodontitis (adult gum disease) is a condition which is prevalent in smokers and diabetics. These patients may need to be monitored closely and they may require professional cleaning more frequently.
People who are diligent with brushing and flossing may not accumulate plaque or tarter as quickly or in quantities that warrant cleaning sooner than 9-12 months. This needs to be determined by the dentist or hygienist at your initial examination.
3) Is it true that metal fillings are not good for my general health?
This is a highly debated issue which has no clear answer. There have been numerous studies supporting amalgam (metal) fillings as the strongest and most durable fillings available. They have ceased being as popular with patients over the years because of their unaesthetic appearance but also because of fear about the mercury component in these fillings. The truth is that you're likely to consume more mercury from a meal of 'fish and chips' than what you would from your amalgam filling.
Our policy is that if you already have a metal filling and there are no problems with it, we will leave it alone. If however the filling is fractured, leaking or there are signs of decay then we will replace it and give you the option of the material you'd like us to use. This is usually a choice between tooth coloured composite resin, tooth coloured porcelain or in some cases gold fillings.
4) When should children start visiting the dentist?
Children should start to become familiar with the dental environment usually by about 3-4 years of age. By this stage they will have all of their baby teeth and it's important for the dentist to assess the health of these teeth and make sure that the alignment and bite is normal. The first visit is usually a casual visit where the child will be free to explore the surgery so they can feel comfortable in a dental setting.
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