You have heard the old adage that prevention is better than cure. When it comes to dental care this saying is most applicable – what you do for your oral health today can go a long way in helping you avoid problems down the line. Dental care that anticipates problems rather than treats them is called preventative dentistry. The main aim of preventive dentistry is to monitor oral health and educate individuals so that they can take better care of their teeth and gums to avoid problems in future. In other words, if you are already seeing your dentist for treatments such as fillings, root canals, dental implants or extractions you are already beyond the stage where preventative dentistry can be effective. If, however, you have never had or needed to have any of these procedures done there is a good chance that your teeth are in good condition and if you take preventive care measures you can keep them that way for years to come. Here are some common areas of preventive dentistry.
Regular dental check-ups
You know how every time you visit your dentist they give you a date in the future when they would like to see you again? These appointments are part of preventative dentistry. During each check up the dentist looks at each of your teeth, your gums, your jaw line and all areas of your mouth to ascertain that they are in good order. If their examination reveals any potential problems they will start treatment right away – the sooner you deal with dental problems the easier they are to treat. You should make a point to go to every dental appointment that you are given – usually twice a year. If you miss an appointment for any reason you should call and reschedule for as soon as possible.
Oral hygiene practices
Most of us think that we have brushing and flossing fixed – do it just the way your mother taught you, right? While your mom may have taught you how to brush and floss the best way she knew how, it is much better to get proper advice from a dentist. They will tell you about the best techniques for ensuring that your teeth are properly brushed every time and they will recommend the best toothbrushes and toothpastes.
You take meticulous care of your teeth – you brush twice daily and you rinse with mouthwash and floss after every meal. Should you bother with teeth cleaning? Teeth cleaning is for everyone, whether they practice good oral hygiene or not. You should see your dentist for a thorough clean at least once a year. While you may be diligent and brushing and flossing there are small particles of food that lodge between the teeth and decay over time. They eventually lead to formations of plaque that cannot be removed by your toothbrush. A teeth cleaning will get rid of all the plaque. Dental plaque is not something that should be taken lightly. Not only is it unsightly, if it is not dealt with in a timely manner it can lead to gum disease, a much more serious condition that takes longer and costs more to treat.
Some people have really bad luck when it comes to cavities – they brush and floss and maintain proper oral health but they seem to develop cavities every few years. It may not have anything to do with oral care at all – it could have everything to do with the fact that you need extra fluoride. Your dentist will examine your teeth to determine whether you need a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. He will then recommend the best brand and tell you how to use it.
For some people, even fluoride doesn’t seem to provide much help in the fight against cavities, and in these cases the only thing that a dentist can do is cover the teeth with dental sealant. Dental sealant is especially recommended for people who have severe problems with cavities and also for small children who are at risk of developing cavities because of sweet foods and drinks. Sealants are easy to install – they are a transparent sort of gel that is applied on the tooth and dries quickly providing a seal that bacteria cannot penetrate. Dental sealants are cheap and they can cause you a lot of heartache down the road, but they can only be applied before you develop any cavities. Part of preventative care is establishing whether you are a good candidate for dental sealants.
A night guard
Did you know that many people grind their teeth at night as they sleep and are not aware of it? In fact, it can be years before they realize they have a problem. The only symptom may be a mild headache upon waking which may attributed to other factors such as stress when the real culprit is actually teeth grinding. A dentist, during preventative dentistry, can easily diagnose teeth grinding by looking at the wear pattern on your teeth. They will take photos and X-Rays over several visits and based on those they will tell you whether or not you are a good candidate for a night guard. You shouldn’t take teeth grinding lightly – it can lead to an extremely painful condition called TMJ that has no cure and which may require several surgeries before it can be brought under control.
Does your dental plan cover preventative dentistry?
Most dental plans do. In fact, insurance companies are happy when their clients are keen on preventative dentistry because it reduces the risk of expensive oral treatments down the road. If you are not sure whether you are covered you should take a close look at your policy and if it isn’t included you should strongly consider getting one that covers you. If you don’t have dental insurance yet you should take out a policy as soon as possible – dental treatments are quite expensive and you don’t want to delay because you cannot afford to pay out of pocket.
Who is a good candidate for preventative dentistry?
Literally anyone is – so long as you are keen on maintaining good oral health you should book an appointment with your dentist so that you can discuss how he can get you on a preventive dentistry plan. It is especially important for children. You should start taking your child to the dentist as soon as they pop their first teeth so that you can get advice on how best to maintain them – that is part of preventative dentistry. Teaching your child good oral health habits is also going to help them maintain strong teeth and fresh breath. Make sure that you take them to their dental appointments without fail, and if they are developing any issues such as cavities they should be dealt with without any delay.
As for adults, anyone who is interested in good oral health can also take up preventive dentistry. So long as you don’t have any serious dental problems that require regular treatments you are a good candidate for preventative dentistry.
You must always remember that good oral health is closely tied to diet – there are many books and websites that discuss this issue in depth so take some time and educate yourself.