Preventive dentistry emphasizes the importance of ongoing hygiene procedures and daily practices to prevent tooth decay and other dental diseases and conditions. Effective preventive dentistry combines at-home oral care by patients with chairside treatments and counseling by dental professionals.
For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a minimum of two dental checkups each year for professional cleaning and management of any developing conditions. Adhering to this recommendation can help your dentist stop dental disease in its earliest stages, protecting your smile and limiting your expense.
Preventive Dental Strategies
Preventive oral care strategies for children and adults include a number of in-office and home care activities, including:
At-home oral hygiene, The most important prevention technique is brushing and flossing at least twice a day (or after every meal) to remove dental plaque, a film-like coating that forms on your teeth. If not removed, plaque can build up and produce dental tartar, a hardened, sticky substance with acid-producing bacteria that cause tooth decay and lead to gum disease.
Fluoride use, Fluoride strengthens teeth and prevents tooth decay. Fluoride treatments are provided in dental offices, and dentists recommend using fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses at home. Public water fluoridation – ranked as one of the 20th century’s 10 great public health achievements – provides a major source of fluoride.
Diet, A balanced diet is a dental health essential. Foods with sugars and carbohydrates feed the bacteria that produce dental plaque, while calcium-poor diets increase your chances of developing gum (periodontal) disease and jaw deterioration.
Regular dental visits, Since most dental conditions are painless at first, if you don’t regularly visit your dentist, you may not be aware of dental problems until they cause significant damage. For best results, schedule regular dental check-ups every six months; more often if you’re at higher risk for oral diseases. Your dentist should also perform oral cancer screenings to check for signs of abnormal tissues. Especially for children, checking oral growth and development (including an assessment for caries development) should be part of dental evaluations.
Dental cleanings and screenings, A dental cleaning (prophylaxis) is recommended every six months to remove dental plaque and stains you’re unable to remove yourself, as well as to check for signs of tooth decay.
X-rays, X-rays enable dentists to look for signs of dental problems that are not visible to the naked eye, such as cavities between teeth and problems below the gum line.
Mouth guards, Mouthguards – particularly a custom-made mouth guard prescribed by your dentist to provide a better fit – can be worn during sports activities to protect against broken teeth. Mouth guards also are used to treat teeth grinding (bruxism), which can wear down teeth and contribute to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Orthodontics, A bad bite (malocclusion) can impair eating and speaking, and crooked teeth are hard to keep clean. Correcting an improper bite with orthodontics that may include the use of dental braces or clear teeth aligners (invisible braces), such as Invisalign, limits the possibility of future dental problems.
Sealants, Sealants are thin composite coatings placed on the chewing surfaces of back permanent teeth to protect you from tooth 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.
Oral health management, Consistent dental care for chronic dental diseases/conditions is essential for arresting or reversing their harmful effects.
Patient education, Patients who understand the outcome of poor dental health are likelier to see their dentist for preventive dentistry treatments. Instilling excellent oral hygiene habits significantly helps ensure a lifetime of dental health.
Technology for Dental Disease Prevention
Intraoral cameras, which can be used in conjunction with computers or monitors, take pictures of the outside of the tooth. Digital radiography is a form of X-ray imaging where digital X-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film X-ray images. Faster and easier than conventional X-rays, they offer the ability to digitally transfer and enhance images of problem areas on a computer screen next to the patient’s chair, allowing for better detection and patient education. Most importantly, they emit up to 90 percent less radiation than conventional radiography.
Diagnostic tools such as Diagnodent help detect dental caries at the earliest stage before they progress further. The Diagnodent is a fluorescent laser that finds cavities beneath the tooth’s surface that are typically not visible with X-rays.
Importance of Caries Risk Assessment
Your dentist can customize a prevention program based on your individual caries risk assessment profile. Caries risk assessment, which involves observing the patient’s clinical appearance, also takes into account the following:
- Number of existing carious lesions (someone with two or more may be considered at high risk of developing future caries)
- Fluoride exposure
- Salivary flow rate
- Medication use. Some medicines can contribute to cavities since many contain high amounts of sugar or may decrease saliva flow.
- Age. Each age group – children, teens, adults and seniors – has its own set of associated risks.
- Income, education and oral health attitude. Research shows that those who have low incomes or lower education and achievement are likelier to have severe and untreated dental decay.
- Clinical variables such as number of filled/restored or missing teeth
Benefits of Preventive Dentistry
Considering that oral health is linked to overall health, preventive dentistry is important to your overall well being. Oral diseases can interfere with eating, speaking, daily activities and self-esteem.
In children, severe decay can affect growth and development. Preventive dentistry can result in less extensive – and less expensive – treatment for any dental conditions that may develop, and help you keep your natural teeth for a lifetime.