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Rewinding the Years: Dental Care Tips for Older Adults


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Rewinding the Years: Dental Care Tips for Older Adults

Once my children were grown and on their own, I decided it was time to care of me. One of the first things I did was make an appointment with the dentist. I quickly discovered that years of not keeping up with my own dental care had taken a heavy toll on my teeth. Whereas I thought my teeth were just fine, the dentist pointed out several problems that were going to require a lot of work. When talking to friends, I found out that many of them were in the same boat. This blog is for people like me who just did not have time to keep up with their own dental care.

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An Overview Of Dental Cleaning Tools

For many children, and even some adults, the tools that are used during a professional dental cleaning can be a source of anxiety. Most people without dental training don't have an understanding of the purpose of a dentist's tools or why so many are required to clean teeth. Here is an overview of the tools your dentist will use so you know what to expect from a dental cleaning.

Locating Cavities

When you go for a cleaning, one thing your dentist will do is examine your teeth for cavities. An overhead light and hand mirrors are the basic tools he or she will use to look at your teeth from every angle. The long handles on these mirrors allow the dentist to spot otherwise hidden cavities in the very back of your mouth.

The next basic set of tools your dentist will use are probes. Probes are used to feel the dental enamel and locate cavities that are hard to see or located beneath the gum line. Sickle probes have a small pointed hook that is good for feeling behind and between teeth. Periodontal probes have thin ends that are made to slide between the teeth and gums.

Cleaning Tartar

Plaque that remains on your teeth for an extended time will eventually harden into a substance known as tartar. Tartar is impossible to remove with normal brushing and is usually located in areas that are hard to reach with a standard toothbrush. Your dentist will use scraping tools known as scalers and curettes to remove tartar.

Scalers are made to scrape tartar off the teeth above the gums. Scalers have hooks on the end with a sharp edge that conforms to the curve of enamel to completely remove tartar. Curettes have bowl-shaped scrapers on the end that can be inserted between the teeth and gums to scrape tartar away from the roots of the teeth. Scratches left by these scrapers are removed using a buffing tool called a burnisher.

Cavity Repair

The tools that are used to clean out cavities can be some of the most alarming to patients. Perhaps the greatest source of anxiety is the anesthetic needle. While getting a shot in the gums isn't something to look forward to, cavity cleanings would be much more painful without it. The anesthetic that is used is fast-acting, so you won't feel anything at the injection site within moments.

When your dentist places a filling, he or she will first need to remove decayed material inside the cavity with a dental drill. Because the tissue is already dead, you will feel nothing during the drilling, especially after anesthetic has been administered. Many dental drills have a built-in light and water sprayer so that the dentist can use a single tool to clean cavities.

Advanced Tools

In addition to hand tools, your dentist has an array of advanced tools available for use while cleaning. X-rays can be used to ensure that no cavities are missed and your dental pulp is healthy. Dental lasers are another option for removing tartar that can remove tartar more quickly and accurately than traditional tools. Lasers are also less likely to cause bleeding or inflammation than scraping and drilling.

Understanding the purpose of the tools your dentist will use makes it easier for you or your children to be comfortable during a dental cleaning. Remember that no matter how scary your dentist's tools may look, their purpose is to keep your teeth bright and healthy, and your dentist has the right training and experience to keep your discomfort to a minimum.

For more information on dental cleanings, contact a dentist near you.