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Professional Cleanings
Professional cleanings performed by a licensed dentist or hygienist are just as important to your dental health as daily brushing and flossing. Using specialized tools and training, your hygienist or dentist will:

• Remove plaque build-up from the surfaces of teeth. Bacteria in the mouth form plaque, which collects on teeth and causes decay, gum disease, and gingivitis.
• Remove tartar from teeth surfaces. Tartar, or calculus, is plaque that has become so hardened on the teeth that its removal requires special procedures. Tartar below the gum line is also an indication of gum disease.
• Remove surface stains from teeth through polishing.

Examinations
Regular examinations by your dentist help detect and prevent health issues before they become serious. Consistent dental check-ups help catch problems when they are small and easier to treat. Left unattended, small treatable problems become worse and may require more extensive, expensive procedures to repair. Dental examinations generally include the following:

• Gum disease screening
• Oral cancer screening
• Visual tooth decay evaluation
• Visual gum disease examination
• Gum pocket measurement and tracking
• X-ray examination to detect: tooth decay, cysts, tumors, problems below the gums and other hidden issues

Regular examinations by a dentist are very important for your health. Remember, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." –Benjamin Franklin

X-rays (Radiographs)
Dental x-rays are a primary tool for early identification of dental problems. Dentists can detect issues with x-rays before they become problems saving you money in the long run by preventing the need for more extensive, expensive procedures or surgeries. X-rays are primarily used to detect:

• Internal tooth decay
• Cysts (fluid filled sacks at the base of your teeth)
• Tumors, both cancerous and non-cancerous
• Impacted teeth
• Teeth that are still coming in

Digital X-rays Advantages
Digital x-rays have several advantages over traditional film based x-rays:

• They emit up to 90% less radiation
• They are ready for examination nearly instantly
• They can be viewed on a computer screen
• Their image can be refined and enlarged
• They are greener; no chemicals are needed for processing

Sealants
Sealants are generally used to help prevent tooth decay on the biting surfaces of back teeth (molars). The natural grooves of these teeth can trap food that can resist casual brushing and rinsing. If left in place, the trapped food allows bacteria to multiply, eventually causing tooth decay and requiring costly attention.

Sealants are painted directly onto the tooth's biting surface where they seal the natural grooves to help prevent tooth decay. While sealants are durable, they are not permanent. They can last up to 5 years of normal wear before needing replacement.

Sealants offer a cost-effective, preventative step to reduce the chances of tooth decay on the chewing surfaces of molars. However, they do not replace the need for regular brushing and flossing.

Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)
Gum disease accounts for approximately 70% of all tooth loss in adults. Early signs of gum disease include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing, and gums that are red, inflamed, or swollen.

Gum disease and tooth decay are caused by the same bacteria. These bacteria form plaque beneath the gum line, which eats away at the bond between tooth and gum. If deterioration is allowed to continue, "pockets" form in between the teeth and the gums. Pockets deeper than 3mm may require special treatment to remove the bacteria and plaque. Without treatment and continuous maintenance, gum disease will eventually weaken the bonds that hold the teeth in place.

There is no permanent treatment for gum disease. However, it can be kept under control with proper personal hygiene and regular visits to a trained dentist or hygienist.
Dangerous Effects Stress Can Have on Your Mouth
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Long-term stress can wreak havoc on our bodies since stress is only meant to be a short-term response to fight-or-flight situations. It's not surprising that long-term stress can be a threat to our oral health.

Direct Stress-Related Threats to Oral Health
The most common stress-related disorder is teeth-grinding, also known as bruxism. Teeth-grinding during sleep wears down teeth, damaging the enamel and exposing teeth to cavities; severe bruxism can loosen teeth or remove them completely. TMJ disorder is also triggered by stress, and it inflames the jaw and ears with pain and swelling.

Indirect Stress-Related Threats to Oral Health
Long-term stress weakens our immune systems, rendering us vulnerable to illnesses. Canker sores are one possible problem that can arise from an immune system compromised by stress. Long-term stress also increases the odds of developing gum disease, which causes a variety of problems such as loose or missing teeth, bleeding gums, and bad breath. Dry mouth can be triggered by stress, depression, and bad habits that stem from stress such as smoking and nail-biting.

Lower Stress for Your Mouth's Sake
The longer stress persists, the more damage it can do to our bodies, so controlling our stress levels should be a high priority. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep is a great first step, though external aid such as guidance from a primary care provider and mouthguards may be needed to facilitate this. Professional counseling or talking with a trusted friend can help people with stress cope and prioritize. Finally, making to-do lists and scheduling relaxation time will make daily life more manageable.

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