The connection between a healthy body and a healthy mouth has been well established. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, low birth weights in babies, miscarriages even pancreatic cancer and Alzheimer’s disease have been linked to the heath of your mouth.
The first person you see at your regularly scheduled dental visit is usually a Registered Dental Hygienist. The dental hygienist is often associated with “just a cleaning”. Whether a periodontal patient on a schedule of every three months or a routine patient on a six month recare schedule check for more. Your hygienist is on a mission to gather data.
Top Five Screenings done by your Dental Hygienist
Health History Review
Changes in your medical history can dramatically change your oral health. Medications can cause dry mouth or lower your immune response to the bacteria that normally forms on your teeth. Additional aids such as natural healing gels or even at home fluoride treatments may be indicated. Sleep apnea and snoring can be treated with an oral appliance. Asthma treatments may also cause complications in the mouth. There are endless associations. Let your hygienist and doctor know every change or new medication you are taking even over-the-counter remedies such as aspirin, health supplements and vitamins. Include the dosage. It makes a difference.
Blood Pressure Screening
Recent information suggests one in five persons has high blood pressure referred to as a silent disease. According to the American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp, in the US 56,561 people died from High Blood Pressure in 2006. The only way to detect HBP is through a screening. Regularly scheduled dental appointments offer an ideal opportunity to check blood pressure.
Oral Cancer Screening
Yes, your hygienist should be pulling your tongue. Checking the lymph nodes and muscles around the face and neck area, checking all the areas in the mouth including the lips, throat, sides, back and under the tongue are important diagnostic check points. Oral cancer rates have not dropped and early detection is key. The Oral Cancer Foundation, http://oralcancerfoundation.org, notes one person per hour, 24 hours per day dies in the US from Oral Cancer. These statistics can be lowered with earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment.
Taking digital radiographs or scans, using an intra-oral camera, the diagnodent (decay detecting device) and through a tactile and visual scan your hygienist checks for areas of disease, wear and decay. The condition of existing restorations will be noted along with any changes in previously restored teeth or in the way your teeth bite together. During the use of an intra-oral camera often the patient begins to point out areas of concern by themselves.
The soft tissue survey includes checking digital radiographs and scans for bone loss, cysts, tumors and a constricted airway. The space between the gum tissue and the teeth will be measured and recorded in a process called periodontal charting (1-3 mm is considered within normal limits anything deeper simply can not be cleaned properly with a toothbrush or floss). The hygienist notes areas where bleeding occurs. Healthy gums do not bleed at all. Collection of information regarding the color and consistency of the gum tissue, recession of the gum tissue or mobility of the teeth completes the data collection.