What exactly is preventive dentistry and why is it important in maintenance of our overall health?

Preventive Dentistry – The aspects of dentistry concerned with the teeth, oral cavity, and associated structures, including early detection,  prevention of disease, diagnosis, treatment of oral tissues, and restoration of defective or missing tissue.

“The body is like a piano, and hap­pi­ness is like music. It is need­ful to have the instru­ment in good order”

- Henry Beecher Ward

Dentistry as a whole focuses on prevention and treatment of dental disease. Preventive dentistry includes both at home and in office dental care. At home dental care includes maintaining a healthy dental hygiene regimen in between dental visits, trying to eat healthier meals and snacks, cessation of harmful habits such as smoking, and managing health issues. In office dental care includes regular dental examinations along with professional cleanings, oral cancer screenings, updated health history, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, and other required dental restorations. Home care and in office care work hand in hand to keep our teeth healthy, strong, and free from dental disease.

Unfortunately, many of us tend to neglect our dental care in one way or another. This could mean not following up with care recommended by your dentist or just not brushing and flossing properly (or even regularly). Tooth decay left untreated or undetected, can lead to more serious dental treatment being needed or even to loss of teeth. Periodontal disease can and will progress if not treated in its earliest stages. Periodontal disease can also lead to serious health issues such as heart disease or stroke, and recent studies link poor oral hygiene to pancreatic cancer. Preventive dentistry is an integral part to protecting not just our teeth but also our general health. Preventive dentistry acts as health guard.

What is Included In Preventive Dentistry?

-Dental Hygiene. This might very well be one of the most important things you can do to maintain both your dental health as well as general health. Numerous studies have shown that the build up of plaque, tartar, and bacteria in periodontal disease has been linked to heart disease, strokes, cancer, and even alzheimer’s disease. Flossing and brushing is an integral part of guarding against tooth decay and periodontal disease but it also acts as a protector for your heart and vascular systems. Without a proper dental hygiene regimen plaque and tartar will quickly form leading to tooth decay and periodontal disease.

-Dental X-Rays. Routine x-rays are an important part of preventive dentistry. X-rays can detect tooth decay, bone loss, some tumors (oral cancer), cysts, poor bone quality, and bone infections which in their earliest forms would not be detectable using a visual examination alone.

-Fluoride Treatment. Fluoride is a mineral that plays an important part in preventative dentistry by strengthening teeth and preventing tooth decay. For those with a history of tooth decay your dentist may recommend the use of a fluoride mouth rinse, or prescription fluoride products between dental visits.

-Nutritional Counseling. Most people do not realize how important a balanced diet is to their dental health. Foods and drinks containing sugar quickly begin to attack the teeth after entering the mouth. Most dentists recommend avoiding soft drinks or sugary foods as often as possible. If you choose to eat or drink these sweets, brush and rinse your teeth as soon as possible following ingestion of these items. Keep snacking to a minimum, try to eat well balanced meals, and you will find that your healthier choices will affect your dental health in a positive way.

-Cessation of Habits. Many harmful habits can be eliminated with help from your dentist. Nail biting, tooth grinding and clenching can be kept under control with dental appliances. Smoking can be stopped with prescription drugs such as chantix, nicotine patches, and counseling, Drug use may be addressed and a rehab program suggested.

-Dental Sealants. A dental sealant is a thin plastic-like coating that is applied over back teeth. Sealants are placed in areas of grooves and ridges where plaque can hide and the toothbrush can’t reach as easily. Covering up the grooves helps to prevent tooth decay. Dental sealants are most often applied as preventive dentistry for children but can also be used for adults.

-Oral Cancer Screening. Early diagnosis of oral cancers give patients the best chance for survival in the long term. Find a dentist who uses the Velscope early detection oral cancer screening system to ensure you are being checked regularly. The best defense against oral cancer is an early diagnosis. The mortality rate of oral cancer increases dramatically if not detected in its earliest stages.

Preventive Dentistry Conclusion

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 even self esteem. Preventive dentistry can lead to less extensive (and less expensive!) treatment for any dental conditions that may develop, and help you keep your natural teeth for a lifetime.