The Importance of Preventative Dental Care
Gone are the days when dental care was purely about aesthetics, the stigma attached to gapped tooth smiles, the ugliness of large silver fillings and the pain of getting those fillings done. Despite the continuing importance of these factors when it comes to self-image, dentistry is now stressing the importance of general health.
This shift has come about with the realization that bad teeth can lead to disease in both the mouth and the body, causing (or worsening) serious illnesses like oral cancer, strokes, heart disease and diabetes, and many more. The difficulty of dealing with these infections and diseases, and their horrific impact on people’s lives, has led to dentistry adopting a proactive rather than reactive stance and focusing on prevention as intensely as it always has done on repairing damage.
Taking a Preventative Approach
An effective preventative dentistry program involves teamwork between you and your dentist in order to be successful. No dentist, however qualified and experienced, can take over total guardianship of (or responsibility for) your oral health, even if you maintain the recommended regular schedule of check-ups and cleaning once every six months – or more often when necessary.
The buck stops with you when it comes to keeping your teeth and mouth as healthy as you can between visits. But you will need your dentist’s experience, training and equipment to ensure your groundwork pays dividends in the long term. Those regular visits are therefore important as they give the dentist the opportunity to:
- Spot any potential problems early on, and deal with them timeously for the best chance of a successful outcome.
- Do any necessary repairs like fillings, or schedule a repair program.
- Apply sealants in the form of a plastic coating on the chewing surfaces to protect the teeth, or provide a mouth guard to shield your teeth from damage if you grind them while sleeping.
At the same time, the hygienist can deal with any stubborn build-up of plaque or tartar that has survived your own best attempts to get rid of it at home.
What YOU Need to Do
Developing an oral hygiene program calls for adopting the right habits and methods. It goes beyond purely brushing and cleaning your teeth properly and into the realm of lifestyle and diet modification where necessary. This is to combat damage to your teeth, and to lessen the build-up of those bacteria in your mouth which can destroy your teeth, your oral health, and your life itself.
The cleaning process: Using an electric toothbrush or a soft small-headed brush that’s no older than three months, brush your teeth gently in an up and down motion for about 2 minutes in the morning, and again just before you go to bed. Remember to brush your tongue, too, at night.
Flossing is a vital step in a good dental care program to get rid of the plaque that hides away from the brush between the teeth, and just under the gum line. Once a day, preferably at night, use traditional floss, other specially-designed interdental devices, or a water jet.
Teeth are for chewing: Watch what you put in your mouth. Teeth are not makeshift tools for opening bottles, cutting wire or thread, or for nail-biting. These activities could destroy the enamel or chip a tooth.
Avoid the wrong food and drink: Acid and sugary food and beverages may taste nice, but unfortunately you’re not the only one who thinks so. The bad bacteria in your mouth love them too, creating their own tooth-destroying acid from the sugary debris in your mouth. This can lead to decay, as well as the build-up of plaque and tartar which house these voracious invaders. If you can’t brush after consuming sugary items, make a habit of rinsing your mouth with water about an hour later.
Drop the habit when it comes to smoking or using tobacco products – these are simply a no-no if you want to keep your mouth and teeth healthy for a long-time. Various mouth cancers could arise from using them, and they also increase tartar build-up and tooth staining.
Teaming with your dentist to create a multi-faceted oral hygiene program can make all the difference when it comes to how long your teeth will stay healthy and functional. It will also lessen your chances of contracting those serious diseases which result from poor oral health. And it will protect the beauty of your smile as a bonus!