Cleaning & Prevention


Dental Exams

  • We will evaluate your overall health and oral hygiene
  • Your risk of tooth decay, and gum or bone disease will be determined at your dental exam
  • After a thorough exam we can determine your need for tooth restoration
  • Assessment of stains or deposits on your teeth will help us accurately the proper dental cleaning schedule for you
  • Demonstrate proper cleaning techniques for your teeth or dentures
  • Proper techniques for cleaning your teeth at home will be demonstrated
  • Dental X-rays




During a dental exam, our staff will also ask about any health problems you have or medications you’re taking and discuss how they might affect your oral health. Any medication that contributes to dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay. If you have diabetes, for example, you’re at increased risk of gum disease.

You will have an opportunity to ask questions, your concerns matter and we welcome the time your questions. Counseling about diet, smoking and other lifestyle factors that may affect your oral health may be discussed during a dental exam.

Dental X-rays

Dental X-rays are a necessary diagnostic tool, to determine the extent of disease process that may be present in your mouth. Here at Dr. Gemmell’s office we take digital radiographs. This is very exciting because you are exposed to a very LOW level of radiation, in some cases, up to 80%! Digital diagnostic radiographs are so important for monitoring the following:

  • Decay between the teeth that may not be seen or felt by a visual/tactical examination
  • Cysts or abscesses
  • Problems that may be occurring inside a tooth or below the gum line
  • Bone Loss
  • Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors
  • Poor tooth and root positions
  • Developmental abnormalities such as too few teeth, malpostioned teeth or too many teeth.

During your first visit to our office we will take a full mouth series of films, about 18 total. This will allow Dr. Gemmell and your dental team to access the total condition of your mouth. This series is only repeated about every 5 years.

Bitewing X-rays are used during checkups to look for tooth decay. This typically happens yearly depending on your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Panoramic X-rays are taken every 3 years, as needed. Your first panoramic xray may be taken to determine if you have 3rd molars (wisdom teeth), sinuses, fractures, and any abnormalities.

Oral Cancer Exams

During your dental exam, Dr. Gemmell or your hygienist will look for any signs of oral cancer. He or she will feel the area under your jaw, the sides of your neck, and the insides of your lips and cheeks, as well as examine your tongue and the roof and floor of your mouth.

Dental Cleaning

dental exam roomProfessional teeth cleaning is sometimes referred to as prophylaxis (or prophy for short). It’s a Greek word which means “to prevent beforehand” – in this case, it helps prevent gum disease.

Plaque refers to a soft, sticky, bacteria infested biofilm.

Calculus (also known as tartar) refers to the hard deposits that form if the soft, sticky plaque is not removed daily by flossing and brushing.

Your teeth are continually bathed in saliva which contains calcium and other substances which help strengthen and protect the teeth. This is a very good thing, but it also means that we tend to get a build-up of calcium deposits on the teeth. Calcium deposit is a chalky substance will eventually build up over time. Usually it is tooth colored and can easily be mistaken as part of the teeth, but it also can vary from brown to black in color.

If the calculus or tartar is allowed to accumulate on the teeth it will unfortunately provide the right conditions for bacteria to thrive in proximity to the gums. The purpose of the cleaning and polishing is to remove this harmful, bacteria breading, environment.

How is teeth cleaning done?

Our dental hygienists use specialized instruments to gently remove these deposits without harm to the teeth. Depending on the severity of deposits that have accumulated your hygienist may use one or more of the following.


Typically used first is an ultrasonic instrument which uses tip vibrations to dislodge larger pieces of tartar. It washes away plaque and hard debris while keeping the area at a proper temperature spraying a cooling mist of water. The device emits a high pitched humming sound. This may seem louder than it actually is because the sound gets amplified inside your head, much the like sound an electric toothbrush makes.

The ultrasonic instrument is not sharp and cannot cut your teeth. Most often our patients are comfortable during the use of an ultrasonic scaler. It is very important to share with your hygienist if you are feeling discomfort.

If you have not had a professional dental cleaning within a year, it may take more time to remove these deposits. It can be compared to cleaning your house, if it isn’t accomplished regularly, you can expect to be working at it much longer.

Hand Instruments

Once the larger pieces of calculus have been gently removed, your hygienist will change to finer hand tools to remove smaller deposits and make the tooth surfaces smooth. Fine hand instruments are curved to match the different curves of the teeth. A light scraping motion is used to remove whatever wasn’t flushed by the ultrasonic instrument


With all debris removed and surfaces smooth your hygienist may polish your teeth. Polishing is done using a handheld slow speed hand piece. Attached to the hand piece is a soft rubber tip that spins. A gritty toothpaste-like material called prophy paste is spun on all surfaces of your teeth to make them slick and smooth.


Fluoride is the 13th most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Elements that top this list include Oxygen, Sodium, Iron and Magnesium. Depending on your age and risk factor for decay you may receive a fluoride treatment following your dental cleaning. This is the final part of your dental cleaning!

The fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth since the acids from bacteria in dental tartar and plaque may have weakened the surfaces of your teeth. It is best not to eat, drink or rinse for 30 minutes after the fluoride has been applied.


Make An Appointment

Distinctive Dentistry: Robert Gemmell DMD

1775 River Road Eugene, OR 97404

Mon - Fri: 8:00 am5:00 pm
Sat - Sun: Closed