While proper home care is the first step in maintaining oral health, it is essential to have professional cleanings every three to six months, as needed. These visits, referred to as "dental prophylaxis," are generally performed by a board-certified dental hygienist whose training specializes in keeping a patient's optimal oral health maintained. A dental hygienist uses special instruments to remove plaque and calculus (tartar) from hard-to-reach areas and reinforces proper preventative home care techniques. During these visits, the dentist will also perform an exam of the entire mouth to ensure that oral health is properly upheld.
One key component of oral health is protecting the deeply grooved teeth in the back of the mouth which are susceptible to sticky foods and bacteria, possibly resulting in the formation of cavities. Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay. Sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (pre-molars and molars) where decay most often occurs.
Used as a topical agent, fluoride actually has the ability to re-mineralize areas of teeth that have begun to decay and to halt further degradation. Fluoride is present in toothpaste and can be applied in higher dosages in varnishes and gels by a dental professional.