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Dental Exam & Cleanings

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Regular tooth brushing, as well as professional dental cleaning, is essential for oral health and to prevent tooth decay. A professional cleaning will help your teeth shine brighter and feel cleaner than they previously were. Each time you visit our dental office in Foley, you will receive a professional teeth cleaning and an oral exam. Let the team at Townsley Family Dentistry schedule an oral exam to pinpoint any potential problems with your teeth.

Oral Exams

What to expect during an oral exam? What is the dentist looking for?

During an oral exam, your dentist at Townsley Family Dentistry will look for signs of cavities and gum disease in your mouth, typically using a small mirror to see your teeth from different angles. Then, the team at Townsley Family Dentistry evaluates your risk for tooth decay, root decay, and gum or bone disease and will check your bite and jaw for any issues. 


For a thorough examination, Dr. Townsley and Dr. Richardson may also discuss your diet, hygiene habits, and need for fluoride treatment to be sure you are well-informed of their importance and how they affect your dental health. Other lifestyle factors, such as the use of tobacco products or any medications you regularly take, and their impact on your oral health may also be part of the consultation and examination.

Why are exams important?

Having regular oral exams is essential for your dental health because prevention and early detection allows your dentist to prescribe the appropriate treatment plan. Letting a cavity or gum disease go untreated can cause more significant problems down the road. However, keeping this habit can also help protect your body’s overall health. 


In addition to diagnosing oral and dental health conditions, an experienced dentist can also recognize early signs and symptoms of certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or lupus during a thorough examination. Through a dental professional’s recommendation to see your primary care physician, you may catch problems like these early, which is best.

How often should I have a dental exam?

Dentists usually recommend for patients of all ages to have a dental exam every six months. However, if you have certain conditions, like periodontal disease, your doctor or dentist may recommend more frequent visits to monitor your condition. 

Hygiene Treatment

What is a hygiene treatment like?

A routine dental visit typically consists of both an oral examination as well as a hygiene treatment, also referred to as a dental cleaning.  At Townsley Family Dentistry in Foley, AL, patients can expect the following during a dental hygiene treatment:


  • The hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from between your teeth and around your gum line. A scaler (a hook-shaped scraping tool) and a small mirror are the typical tools used for this process.

  • The hygienist will further clean your teeth with a high-powered brush, which may create a grinding noise at times but should not cause pain. This removes any tartar left over from the scaler and gives your teeth a deep cleaning. 

  • Flossing and rinsing come next to remove anything left over from the previous cleaning steps. 

Fluoride Treatment

What is a fluoride treatment?

A fluoride treatment is the application of fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral that bonds with tooth enamel to repair weak enamel and prevent decay.

A fluoride treatment is a quick and painless treatment performed at the end of a hygiene treatment. For most patients, our dentists recommend fluoride treatment at every regular cleaning. Fluoride treatment can be administered as a gel-filled mouthpiece that fits over your teeth for one minute or a varnish that hardens through contact with saliva or as a mouthwash. Depending on the method used, you may be asked to avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after your treatment. 

Benefits of fluoride treatment:

  • Fluoride is used in dentistry to strengthen tooth enamel, which can help prevent tooth decay and sensitivity. 

  • Fluoride treatments also help rebuild teeth and reverse early signs of cavities. To sum it up, fluoride is both a natural defense and an offense in your battle against tooth decay. 

Is fluoride treatment safe?

While it is best to talk with Dr. Townsley about any safety concerns you have with your treatment, there are a few good things to know about fluoride: 

  • Fluoride is a mineral naturally occurring in water, soil, air, plants, and rocks. 

  • People get fluoride naturally through foods and water. 

  • Many public water supplies also have fluoride added to them because of its benefits concerning tooth decay. 


The main risk involved with fluoride use is dental fluorosis, which is caused by an overuse of fluoride and is found almost exclusively in young children. The cause is usually swallowing too much toothpaste, and the result is harmless white spots that form on the teeth. The CDC has stated that fluoride is both safe and effective when used appropriately in dental care. 

Oral Cancer Screening

What is an oral cancer screening like?

During an in-office oral exam, the dentist may perform an oral cancer screening by checking your face, neck, and mouth for any abnormalities that may indicate signs of oral cancer. This is most often done through a visual examination for any growths or lesions, but other tests may be used to look for any abnormal cells in your mouth. 

Who needs an oral cancer screening?

Regular oral cancer screenings should be performed on adults over the age of 20. However, an important topic in discussing which patients need screenings for oral cancers is risk factors. Some lifestyle risk factors include: 

  • tobacco use 

  • heavy alcohol consumption

  • a history of significant sun exposure

  • previous oral cancer diagnosis is also a significant factor


If any of these lifestyle or health conditions apply to you, then you may be at greater risk of oral cancer. When reviewing your medical and dental history, Dr. Richardson or Dr. Townsley may recommend a screening more frequently to provide early detection.

How often should I have an oral cancer screening?

Typically oral cancer screenings are recommended every 1 to 3 years. If you are over 20 years of age or if you have never had an oral cancer screening, it is important that you visit our Foley, AL, dental office for your first screening as soon as possible. After your screening, the dentist will recommend how frequently you should be screened. If you are a high-risk patient, we may suggest annual screenings. 

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