Teeth cleaning and checkups
It is important to attend a regular dental checkup, so that any potential oral health issues can be flagged up, and to assess your overall level of oral health. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to visit the dentist for a checkup once every six months - however, some people may need to attend less frequently, and others might need to go more often; this will depend on the health status of your teeth and gums, as well as risk factors.
A typical dental checkup will involve an examination of your teeth, gums and mouth. You may be asked if there have been any changes to your level of oral health since your last visit, and if you have any medical conditions which could present a higher risk of dental problems, such as diabetes, an autoimmune disease, or bleeding problems. You might also be asked about your diet, and advised on oral hygiene best practices, such as brushing and flossing.
Following a physical examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, you may choose to have your teeth cleaned. This typically involves the removal of plaque and tartar, brushing with an electric brush, expert flossing, rinsing, and the application of fluoride treatment.
Depending on the outcome of your check up, your doctor may recommend necessary treatment and schedule a follow-up appointment.
If your teeth are worn, damaged or are decaying, you might need a dental filling. Fillings are used to fill in holes which are the result of damage to your teeth, bolstering the tooth structure. It should be noted that by brushing your teeth regularly and maintaining a healthy diet, you can help to prevent the need for tooth fillings.
If the pulp of a tooth has become infected or damaged you may need root canal treatment, which replaces the pulp with a filling. The pulp consists of tissues, fibres, nerves and vessels, and is located in the tooth's central hollow. This procedure is also referred to as endodontic treatment, and has a high success rate, restoring tooth function in the vast majority of people, and lasting for a long time.
Tooth extractions involve one or more teeth being removed. They are considered as a last resort in dentistry, and you might need one if; you have deep decay, affecting the tooth surface and the pulp; you have extra teeth which are causing other teeth to move out of place; you have periodontal disease, which has eroded your gums and underlying bone; you are getting braces and need to create room for your teeth to be properly aligned; or if you have fractured teeth which cannot be repaired via a root canal treatment.
Tooth extractions can relieve pain and alleviate discomfort. They may need to be supplemented by other procedures to replace the tooth which has been extracted.
Dental crowns are caps which are placed over a tooth, strengthening it, while restoring its size and shape. You would typically need a dental crown to; restore a tooth which has broken or worn down severely; protect a weak tooth; hold together a cracked tooth; secure a dental bridge; support a damaged tooth with a large filling; cover a dental implant; cover a tooth which is misshapen; cover a tooth which is discoloured; or cover a tooth which has already had root canal treatment.
Teeth straightening is able to achieve a more harmonious symmetry between the teeth, jaw and face. Teeth straightening treatments are able to improve dental function by aligning the teeth, balancing the forces exerted on the teeth when you perform actions such as talking or chewing. Straightened teeth are recognised as being easier to clean, which can help to reduce the chances of gum disease and cavities. The treatment can also result in a smile which you are happier with, leading to increased confidence.
There are various teeth straightening treatments, including; orthodontic appliances, ceramic brackets, 'invisible braces', functional appliances, and surgery.
Bite correction treatments are used when the teeth or jaw are not fitting together satisfactorily and can include orthodontic treatment to improve bite alignment and function. Using braces or clear aligners, your bite can improve, and your teeth can be straightened concurrently. Bite alignment treatment can help to prevent speech problems, social anxiety, and reduce the chances of injury to your teeth or jaw joints.
Gum treatment is used to treat periodontal disease, and methods will be determined by the disease's type and severity. Non-surgical gum treatment methods include; scaling and root planing, which removes tartar and plaque from affected gums and smooths the tooth root; and laser gum treatment, which treats the gingival pocket by transmitting light energy which removes diseases tissue, while decontaminating gum pockets.
Surgical gum treatments include; pocket depth reduction, which strengthens the supportive structure around the tooth by extracting harmful bacteria from the pockets; gum grafts, which uses gum tissue from another part of the mouth to cover roots which have become exposed and restore the gum line; crown lengthening, which adjusts the level of the gums and bone, allowing the restoration of a tooth, or for cosmetic purposes; and ridge augmentation, which assists in recreating the gums' natural contour, regenerating tissue and the jaw bone following a tooth extraction.
A range of cosmetic teeth treatments are available to whiten teeth; reversing the effects of stains. You can buy many types of teeth whitening systems over the counter, but in many cases, the most effective treatments can be provided by professional dental care clinics. Common treatments include; professional bleaching, which involves the application of a whitening product onto the teeth, while your gums are protected; and laser whitening, which uses a laser or light in order to activate a chemical, achieving a colour change more quickly. How much does teeth whitening cost? That will depend on the type of treatment you prefer.
Dental prosthetics are appliances which replace missing teeth or cover up defects. They can be crowns, implants, dentures, bridges and veneers. Dental prosthetics can either be permanently fixed or removable. The best type of prosthesis would be recommended by a dentist or prosthodontist.
Types of dentists in Australia
So what does a dentist do? Here are the different types of dentists which you are likely to come across in Australia:
A general dentist will conduct normal dental examinations and provide teeth cleanings. They would typically make referrals to the other types of dentists when you need a procedure or service which a general dentist is not qualified to offer. General dentistry is recognised as the most common type of dentistry.
Cosmetic dentists can treat teeth which are discoloured, broken, chipped, worn, or misshapen, giving you a more satisfactory smile. They typically offer a wide range of treatments such as teeth whitening, dental bonding, dental veneers, dental crowns, dental implants, inlays and outlays, and dental braces.
Holistic dentists offer alternative approaches to standard dentistry, guided by the principle that oral health is interconnected to overall health. Holistic dentistry uses biocompatible restorative materials and can promote optimal structural relationships between the teeth, jaw, head and neck.
Periodontists specialise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, and are experts in oral inflammation treatment, as well as the placement of dental implants. They can be relied upon to recommend the latest techniques for treating periodontal disease and also have knowledge of cosmetic periodontal procedures.
Orthodontists are dental specialists trained in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of dental irregularities. They offer several treatment options for the correction of issues such as bad bites, poor jaw alignment and crooked teeth. In addition to their dentistry degree, an orthodontist will typically spend several more years training specifically in orthodontics.
Endodontists specialise in the maintenance of teeth via endodontic therapy. Endodontic therapy involves procedures which are focused on the pulp - that is the teeth's soft inner tissue. You can expect an endodontist to be trained in providing various forms of endodontic therapy, as well as the diagnosis of issues which require such therapy.
Australian Dentists Associations
The Australian Dental Association (ADA)
is the national body for dentistry in Australia. It was founded in 1928. Its objectives are to support its members, encourage the improvement of the public's oral and general health, and to promote the "ethics, art and science of dentistry".
How often should I visit a dentist?
"How often should you go to the dentist?" Let's address a very common question with regards to oral health. As a very general rule of thumb, we can say that you should visit your dentist every six months. However, the question is more complicated than that, because some people need to go more or less often, depending on the status of their oral health.
If you have an ongoing problem with your oral health, you are likely to need more frequent visits. Rather than being a general guideline, the recommended frequency of dental visits should be based on evidence, and the risk level attached to the individual.
An important thing to remember is that regular visits are necessary, regardless of exactly when you make an appointment. Regular check ups allow your dentist to examine your mouth and check for any problems - including gum disease, tooth decay, or more serious conditions such as oral cancer. There is also no exact recommendation for the frequency of dental cleaning, but cleaning is usually incorporated into your routine check ups.
Dental care tips FAQs
How much do dental treatments cost?
So how much is a dental checkup? According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA) (https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/dentists-and-dental-care/dental-treatment/articles/dental-fees), the average cost of a "periodic check-up including an examination, scale and clean and a fluoride treatment" in 2019 was $215. The cost of your visit to the dentist will be determined by the nature of the treatment which is carried out.
Where can I find a bulk billing dentist?
You may be able to access dental care at no cost with a bulk billing dentist, which means that Medicare benefits are accepted as full payment for the service.
Are you asking yourself "how do I find bulk billing dentists near me?" The Australian government's Health Direct
website has a health service finder tool which allows you to locate your nearest bulk billing dentist. You may able to book online dentist appointments via these clinics. Be sure to check specifically what dental services are covered by Medicare. You can also use Localsearch to easily compare local dentists, payment methods accepted, and more.
Does Private Health insurance cover dental treatments?
Private health insurance offers differing levels of coverage for dental treatment in Australia, including Medibank dentists. To be sure of the level of coverage you have for dental treatment, you should check your insurance policy brochure. This document should contain details of your dental health insurance coverage.
If you are covered for general dental, you can expect this to include treatments which are largely preventative; such as oral examinations, cleans, scale and fillings. Major dental will typically cover surgical procedures such as gum disease treatment, veneers and emergency treatment.
You can also arrange cover for; endodontic treatment, for tooth decay; and orthodontic work, such as treatment for jaw irregularities.
How often should I brush my teeth?
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to brush your teeth twice every day for around two minutes. Skipping brushes can lead to plaque - a 'film' of bacteria - building up on the teeth. Plaque can contribute to both tooth decay and gum disease. Aim to cover every part of your teeth's surface area, and remember that the longer you brush, the more plaque you can eliminate.
How often should I floss my teeth?
Making time to floss once a day can help to clean out the bacteria which is found between the teeth and prevent plaque build up. While there is no set time to floss, many people prefer to incorporate it into their morning ritual, or before they go to bed.
When do I need an emergency dentist?
If you have a serious dental issue outside of office hours, it is likely that you will need an emergency dentist. Serious signs to look out for include; severe pain; bleeding; losing a tooth; an infection or access in your mouth, or around your mouth; or bleeding from the mouth. If you need dental treatment to stop bleeding, severe pain or save one of your teeth, this can be cause to call an emergency doctor.
What toothpaste should I use?
Toothpaste comes in many forms in today's market. Fluoride toothpaste is one of the most common - fluoride is a natural mineral which is proven to combat tooth decay and the occurrence of cavities. It protects your teeth by strengthening tooth enamel and reversing acid damage by delivering minerals to areas which have begun to decay.
Other varieties of toothpaste include; whitening toothpaste, tartar control toothpaste and toothpaste for sensitive teeth. You should choose a toothpaste which suits your needs, and is approved by the Australian Dental Association.
Why do I grind my teeth?
There are several reasons why you grind your teeth, also known as bruxism. It could be due to crooked or missing teeth, or an abnormal bite. Anxiety or stress can be a factor, and there is also the possibility it could be caused by sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Most people grind their teeth in their sleep, so are not consciously aware of it. The symptoms of bruxism include an aching jaw or headache. Your sleeping partner may notice a grinding noise as you sleep.
How can I prevent tooth decay?
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay. There are also several other measures you can take depending on your needs, including - rinsing your mouth, visiting your dentist regularly for a check up, using dental sealants to seal off parts of the teeth which tend to collect food, avoiding regular snacking, eating foods which are better for your teeth, and drinking tap water (which contains fluoride) and tea to help wash away food particles.
What causes bleeding gums?
The predominant cause of bleeding gums is plaque buildup at the line of the gums. This results in inflamed gums or a condition called gingivitis. When plaque that isn't removed it turns into tartar, this can lead to bleeding and an advanced gum disease called periodontitis.
There are many ways you can help to prevent bleeding gums, such as stopping smoking, increasing your intake of vitamins C and K, rinsing your mouth with saltwater, eating fewer carbohydrates, and maintaining a good level of oral health in general.
Should I use a mouthguard when I play sports?
For certain sports, mouthguards can be a vital piece of kit. From football and rugby to lacrosse and basketball, wearing a mouthguard can significantly reduce your risk of a mouth or jaw injury. Mouthguards should be flexible, fitted plastic protectors which are placed over the teeth, protecting your oral structures when playing sports.