Health insurance companies estimate that the cost of reconstructing a damaged smile could easily reach tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Preventive dentistry involves preventing this exact type of scenario.
A full preventive dentistry regimen is a combination of at-home oral hygiene practices and treatment at the dentist’s office. At-home care involves practicing daily oral hygiene in order to prevent decay, gum diseases and bad breath.
According to the American Dental Association, it’s recommended to visit your dentist every 6 months to allow for early detection and treatment of gums, mouth and teeth conditions. When such problems are detected and treated early, this will protect your smile and limit the amount of money you’ll spend on dental procedures.
Strategies for preventive dentistry
The following are strategies that can be used in office and at home and should be observed by both adults and children to protect teeth from future problems:
Early prevention in children
Before first teeth erupt, you should clean your child’s gums with a soft, clean, lint-free cloth. Dip the cloth in warm water and gently rub against the gums. You can also add a drop of toothpaste (the size of a rice grain) to the cloth.
Keep up this cleaning routine when teeth erupt (you can substitute the cloth for a soft toothbrush as you go along).
Daily brushing and flossing
Brushing and flossing are the two most important and simplest preventive techniques. Plaque forms on your teeth after eating or drinking and if you don’t brush, it will build up into a harmful bacteria-producing substance called tartar that causes tooth decay and gum disease. Brushing and flossing prevent this eventuality.
Your dentist will provide fluoride treatment in his office to strengthen your teeth and prevent decay. For at home treatment, the toothpaste you use should be fluoride-based. As well, you should drink water that’s treated with recommended levels of fluoride. Note that high levels of fluoride cause a dangerous dental condition called fluorosis and therefore the use of fluoride should be supervised by a dentist.
- Sugars and carbohydrate-rich foods increase the occurrence of plaque. It’s therefore important to rinse your mouth with water after eating such foods.
- A diet that is lacking in calcium will lead to deterioration of the jaw bone, weak teeth and a higher likelihood of suffering from periodontal diseases.
- Additionally, deficiencies in vitamins like vitamin C will cause gum diseases such as scurvy. To prevent all the dental problems that are diet-related, you should eat a balanced diet.
During your bi-yearly visits to the dentist, he/she should:
- X-rays to check for problems that are not easily detected.
- Mouth-guard fitting if you have bruxism or you engage in sports
- Cleaning to check for decay and remove stains and plaque
- Orthodontic procedures to fix bite problems and fix crooked teeth.
- Sealing, in order to protect the chewing surfaces of molars from decay
Avoid smoking and drinking
Smoking, chewing tobacco and alcohol consumption can negatively affect your oral health. Apart from dry mouth, tooth discoloration and plaque buildup, smoking causes gum disease, tooth loss and even oral cancer.
Advanced diagnostic technology is used to detect problems, such as caries, that may not be picked up in x-rays. During caries assessment, your dentist will profile you and customize a preventive program for you based on how likely you are to get dental caries. He will, for instance, look for lesions, the number of dental procedures you’ve had, your diet and more.