A Guide to Preventative Dentistry

Many people view going to the dentist as something that should be done only when a visit is warranted; i.e., they are experiencing pain or discomfort in their mouth, teeth, or gums. However, most family dentistry practices recommend making regular preventative care appointments at least twice a year to make sure any underlying or emerging dental issues are caught before they become more serious and expensive.

Preventative care outside of the dentist’s office

The best form of preventative dental care isn’t something your dentist can do for you. Brushing and flossing regularly and with proper technique can keep your mouth as healthy as possible. This practice can help prevent tooth decay and oral diseases. Try to brush your teeth soon after eating, because the more time you give plaque to form, the harder it can be to remove afterwards.

If you aren’t brushing and flossing regularly (brushing at least two times a day and flossing at least once a day), the sensitivity of your gums can increase, and you can become more prone to conditions such as gum disease. Gingivitis, which is a mild form of gum disease comes with swollen, bleeding, tender gums, and can be prevented with regular brushing and flossing habits combined with professional biannual teeth cleanings with your hygienist.

Your diet can also affect your oral health. Eating a diet full of nutrients and vitamins can help strengthen your teeth, remove surface stains, and maintain a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums.

Regular dental checkups

Many healthcare plans come with routine dental checkups as a part of their base plan, so you should not be spending a large amount of money on semiannual dental checkups. These checkups are normally covered because insurance companies understand the value of preventative care: If a patient sees a dentist regularly, the chances of them having to undergo massive and expensive dental surgery on their insurance company’s dollar is much smaller.

The American Dental Association, or ADA, recommends semi-annual checkups (twice a year) for most people, although if you are at a higher risk for dental disease, you may want to schedule more frequent visits.

Sugar-free gum

Chewing sugar-free gum can be a good oral hygiene aid in addition to regular brushing and routine dental checkups. Studies have shown that 20 minutes of chewing sugar-free gum after meals can help stimulate saliva due to the ingredient xylitol and prevent the spread of any tooth decay.

Some gum claims to whiten teeth, and there is much less conclusive proof that these types of gum work. However, chewing sugar-free gum will increase saliva production and can help minimize the amount of plaque that forms on your teeth if the gum is chewed after each meal.

Mouth guards

If you are active or play a contact sport, make sure you invest in a mouth guard to keep your teeth safe should you experience a fall or other injury. These mouth guards can be an excellent form of protection and should be used whenever contact sports are being played.

Mouth guards can also be worn at night if you grind your teeth while sleeping. Prolonged grinding of the teeth at night can wear away tooth enamel and cause other problems for oral hygiene if a mouth guard or other protective gear is not used to combat it.

Sealants

Dental sealants can help children avoid cavities. This thin coating is painted on newly erupted adult premolars and molars to cover all the nooks and crannies to prevent bacteria from compromising the tooth structure. The flatter tooth surface makes brushing and flossing much easier too!

Fluoride treatments

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral and can help prevent tooth decay. Dentists recommend children receive fluoride treatments at each check-up while their teeth are still developing but including a fluoride treatment in your preventative care regimen at any age is a good idea.

Smoking

Smoking cigarettes is incredibly unhealthy for your mouth, teeth, and gums. If you smoke, you can experience tooth discoloration, plaque buildup, dry mouth syndrome, gum disease, tooth loss, and potentially oral cancer. If you are a smoker and want a healthy mouth, consider quitting smoking.

Final thoughts

If you want more information on how to practice preventative dental care at home, contact a dental professional at Owens Cosmetic and Family Dentistry to learn more.

Emily Harrison’s passion for the medical field began when she started visiting the chiropractor regularly as a child and wanted to know more about how it helped her back. Since then, she has researched and written extensively about different areas of medicine such as chiropractic care, obstetrics, anesthesiology, and dentistry. When she is not writing or researching, she enjoys baking and crossword puzzles.