After working in a dental office the last two years I’ve come to notice that there are quite a few patients that only visit their dentist when something is bothering them. Despite some opinions, as a dental staff member we are here to help keep you healthy, and the best way to do that is through preventive dentistry. Preventive dentistry is the act of caring for your teeth to keep them healthy and prevent cavities, gingivitis, gum disease and many other conditions. Secondary conditions can also occur from poor oral health such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and other diseases.
There are many forms of preventive dentistry, but some of the basics are regular dental cleanings and good home care. The ADA (American Dental Association) recommends visiting the dentist twice a year for a dental cleaning and exam by your doctor, beginning at the age of 3 years old. During these appointments your hygienist and doctor will assess your gum health, remove any plaque or tartar that has accumulated on your teeth, check for any cavities and examine your tissues for abnormalities. At your cleaning appointment, your hygienist will review with you proper methods to care for your teeth at home, such as brushing, flossing and any recommended mouth rinse. It is important to brush your teeth twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening just before bed. Brushing with the correct technique will help remove plaque and bacteria that builds on your teeth and gums throughout the day. These bacteria, if not removed, can lead to cavities, gum disease, and other secondary issues. Flossing is another important factor of good oral health that unfortunately not many people keep up with daily. Flossing every evening not only removes plaque and bacteria from between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach, it also stimulates blood flow to your gums and maintains good periodontal health.
Check-up x-rays are recommended once a year at your hygiene appointment. No one really likes getting x-rays taken, but x-rays are crucial in preventive dentistry. They are the only way we are able to visibly diagnose decay in between your teeth and other potential problems you underneath your gums. Although you may not necessarily feel any pain now, by the time you do, the problem may be much bigger than what it would have been if we had taken your regular x- rays.
Last but not least, another important tool for preventive dentistry is fluoride. Although there are mixed feelings about fluoride, the truth is we recommend it because it works. We offer at topical treatment of fluoride through a varnish or foam that that is applied to your teeth after your cleaning and exam. This is the best time to apply fluoride, because the plaque and bacteria has been removed from your tooth surface, enabling the fluoride to be absorbed so the tooth can receive its benefits. Think of fluoride like vitamins for your teeth: they help keep your teeth strong, resistant to cavities, and aids in plaque prevention. Most people only think children benefit from fluoride, but the truth is that all ages benefit from topical fluoride.
Keep all of these aspects in mind when caring for your teeth and you will have happier, healthier checkups; better overall health; and hopefully spend less time in the dentist’s chair. We hope to see you at your next cleaning!
Breanna Johnson is a registered dental hygienist at Perkins Dental Associates in Wexford, PA