You may have heard it being said that a milligram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure. In preventive dentistry, quantifying the true worth of prevention is implausible but it can safely be said that dental problems are better prevented than cured. Since a young age, we are pushed to brush our teeth and maintain good oral hygiene. However, only some carry this habit through their adulthood. Fortunately, preventive dentistry encourages us to invest time and energy in oral hygiene and health in order to ensure that today’s minor annoyances do not turn into tomorrow’s major headaches.
What is preventive dentistry?
Preventive dentistry is the practice of embracing and caring for one’s oral health. It consists of the preservation of healthy teeth, gums, and oral tissues, and the prevention of tooth decay and other dental diseases. Preventive dentistry is a steady foundation on which all oral health care and hygiene practices must be built on. This method of proper oral prophylaxis by means of in-office and at-home exercises helps avoid and arrest the onset of cavities, gum disease, enamel wear, and many more.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends all individuals to visit the dentist at regular intervals in order to maintain optimal oral health. Your dental team schedules a course of treatment for you that involves getting your oral cavity into good condition and then working out a ‘maintenance plan’ to keep them that way. It is imperative that through preventive dentistry, we are able to raise awareness and education, and enhance treatment and practice of maintaining our teeth and gums as healthily as possible.
What are the common preventive dentistry services?
Preventive dentistry procedures range from basic dental care to the use of digital innovations. Some of these dental procedures are:
- Oral exams: The ADA reiterates that you should visit your dentist for an oral exam every 6 months to follow-up on any dental issues you may incur and to help cease the onset of any potential dental threats early on.
- Teeth cleaning: Also known as ‘scaling and polishing’, this professional clean-up rids your teeth and gums of tartar and dental plaque that usually deposits in the nooks and crannies of the oral cavity. If plaque build-up is left uncleaned, it can give rise to deteriorative gum disease.
- Dental sealants: These invisible plastic coatings fill the tiny grooves in the rear teeth so that they are unable to harbour bacteria. They help prevent cavities and the need for tooth fillings in the future.
- Fluoride: This naturally-occurring mineral helps prevent tooth decay by replenishing the tooth surface with any of its lost crystals and minerals. Fluoride also makes teeth decay-resistant and is readily available in community water supplies and most commercially available toothpaste.
- Oral cancer screening: Early signs for oral cancer can be tricky to uncover but with the right dental equipment, your dentist is able to discover potentially detrimental symptoms earlier and provide treatment swifter. Oral cancer screening should be a persuasive push for you to visit the dentist.
- X-rays: Whether it is a normal 2D intraoral radiograph or a 3D CT scan, x-rays enable the dentist to inspect and reveal signs of disease that are not visible to the naked eye.
- Oral hygiene education: Your dentist shows you the best way to brush, the best products to use, and any other oral hygiene recommendations that may benefit your oral health such as cessation of some hazardous habits you may be participating in. (smoking, nail-biting, mouth breathing, etc.)
What type of dentist offers preventive dentistry?
Among a massive lot of dental specialties, preventive dentistry is offered by:
- General dentist: A general dentist may also be a family dentist who routinely provides oral check-ups, x-rays, clean-ups, and stringent oral hygiene instructions for you and your family.
- Pediatric dentist: Pediatric dentists specialize in dental care for children. They usually see kids beginning from infancy through adolescence and give basic dental care like tooth extractions, fillings, and oral surgery if needed.
What are some benefits of preventive dentistry?
Preventive dentistry offers a bunch of benefits that help promote the health of your oral cavity:
- It enables the early detection of dental problems, such as TMJ disorders and cancer, and helps minimize the cost and extent of treatment.
- It lowers your risk for developing tooth decay, gum disease, and other more serious dental problems that endanger your oral as well as general health.
- It helps promote good oral hygiene habits, especially in kids to ensure a lifetime of brilliant dental health.
- It reduces dental problems related to some chronic medical conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and respiratory disease, all of which have been linked to gum disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.
- It addresses all your oral concerns through a full mouth exam to visualize any related issues in the face, jaw, and lymph nodes.
- It benefits the elderly to preserve much of their teeth for a longer period of time.
- It encourages pregnant women to adopt good preventive oral care as poor oral health may be linked to low birth weight and premature birth.
- It also benefits people who don’t have any teeth, as oral cancer and denture stomatitis can be detected early on through regular oral exams.
What is your role in preventive dentistry?
After this introspective look into the practice of preventive dentistry, it is important to state that you are a vital component in preventing the onset of any dental ailments and in keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
- Brushing: According to data from the ADA, you should brush at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoridated toothpaste that carries the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
- Flossing: The ADA also recommends all individuals to floss at least once a day with either a nylon or PTFE thread flosser or a water flosser.
- Mouthwash: Use a chlorhexidine mouthwash to rinse out food particles that you may have missed while brushing and flossing.
- Smoking: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking makes a person more susceptible to gum disease as it weakens his/her immune system. Avoid smoking.
- Alcohol: Frequent alcohol consumption can cause dehydration, quicken the accumulation of plaque, and wreak havoc in your mouth.
- Mouth-friendly diet: Cut down on sugary, starchy, sticky, and acidic foods and drinks that can cause tooth erosion and tooth decay. Diary products, sugarless gum, and green tea help increase saliva production and reduce bad bacteria.
- Mouthguards: Emergency dental visits usually occur due to chipped or broken teeth. Always wear a mouthguard when engaging in contact sports.
- Harmful habits: If you are a teeth grinder, nail-biter, or mouth breather, you should seek dental assistance in finding solutions to lessen the occurrence of these habits.
- Regular dental visits: Visit your dentist at least twice a year for full-mouth check-ups.
What is preventive dentistry for children?
Schedule your baby’s first dental appointment with a specialized pediatric dentist before their first birthday or after his or her first baby tooth is visible, whichever comes first.
- Once the teeth erupt, brush them twice a day with fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear the size of a grain of rice. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Keep the child’s diet low in processed sugar and rich in fruits, vegetables, and water to lower the risk of cavities and other oral health complications.
- Schedule your child’s appointment with a pediatric dentist at least twice a year.
- Start flossing as soon as the upper and lower teeth begin to touch.
- In order to prevent dental decay, make sure the child drinks lots of fluoridated water.
The philosophy of preventive dentistry reflects the concept of proper oral care for the prevention of many dental problems. Inculcate values of dental care in your daily oral hygiene routine to reap the most benefits out of this practice. Happy teeth to you!