Preventive dentistry is the area of dentistry that focuses on treatments and practices that help people prevent oral disease and its progression. These types of preventive methods include at-home treatments performed by patients, as well as in-office dental care performed by dental hygienists and dentists.
The goal of preventive dentistry includes two central aspects both aimed at helping patients avoid dental disease or to catch it in its early, more easily treatable stages. Proper oral hygiene can be performed at home with practices such as regular flossing and brushing to avoid and prevent the accumulation of plaque and food debris. Additional preventative dentistry is necessary by employing professionally trained dental specialists who help patients maintain healthy teeth and gums. Either way, the objective is to prevent the development of oral disease and to do so early enough as to prevent more serious oral health issues. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends patients seek professional dental care at least twice a year so that dentists may detect and prevent the early signs of periodontal disease, dental decay, and other changes in the soft tissue of the mouth that could lead to oral cancer
.Preventive Dentistry at the Dentist
When visiting your dentist he/she may be performing inspections of your teeth, mouth and gums. This includes prophylaxis, or cleaning of the teeth. Prophylaxis removes accumulations of calculus, also known as plaque that begins as tartar. Your visit will also include an examination of the teeth and soft tissue, using visual and tactile exams, radiographic examination such as x-rays, and oral cancer screening. There are also more modern techniques to diagnose periodontal disease that include computerized measurement devices that measure bacteria content in your mouth.
Preventative Dentistry at Home
Your dental team will discuss with you unique concerns such as areas in your mouth that may develop more plaque than others and suggest proper at-home preventive dentistry techniques. A large part of the two-part preventive dentistry process between the dentist and patient is educating patients about at-home care, proper nutrition and proper oral health application. At the center of these processes includes brushing and flossing regularly. The ADA recommends brushing at least twice a day and if possible immediately following meals. They also recommend flossing at least once a day to remove debris from food that brushing alone will not clean and to remove the build-up of plaque between the teeth as well as to promote healthy gums.
Proper brushing technique involves the use of a soft nylon toothbrush with round-ended bristles. To cover the tooth surface and gum line, patients should place the bristles along the gum line at a 45-degree angle. The brushing technique should be gentle and in a rolling back-and-forth motion, with two to three teeth being brushed at a time. Patients should brush the inner surfaces of their teeth and tilt the brush vertically to brush the front teeth. Ideally, patients should use a back-and-forth motion to brush the biting surface of the teeth and the tongue.
To properly remove plaque from between teeth and at the gum line patients should employ the following flossing techniques. Flossing should be done with an appropriate strip of floss wrapped around the middle fingers of each hand, with the thumbs directing the remaining one-to-two inches of floss that is inserted between the teeth. By keeping the floss taut, patients can use their index fingers to guide the floss between the lower teeth with a gentle zigzag motion, while contouring the floss around the sides of the teeth. They should floss each tooth with a clean section of the floss and ensure that the floss goes under the gum line.
Pediatric Preventative Dentistry
Preventive dental care for children should begin at infancy, within the first year of life before teeth erupt and continue until the children have developed the motor skills to take care of their own teeth. In the first few months, parents should clean their children’s gums after feeding with a soft washcloth or gauze after every bottle or meal. When one or more tooth erupts, you can soak an age appropriate toothbrush in warm water and use it on your baby’s teeth as instructed by your dentist.
The first dental visit for a child can be done by age one to start the beginning of a long-term dental hygiene and professional dental cleaning plan. The dentist often performs preventive procedures such as the use of fluoride supplements and applications for children. They may also apply sealants to the child’s teeth, forming a barrier between tooth crevasses and bacteria to help ward off dental decay. In addition to these preventative measures, your child’s dentist will also look for malocclusions (bad bite) and may refer your child to a dental specialist such as an orthodontist. It is recommended that children have a proper evaluation by an orthodontist by age seven to check for any issues affecting their bite.
Benefits of Preventive Dentistry
The benefits of good preventive care between the patient and the dental team will result in healthy teeth and gums throughout one’s life and prevent the occurrence of oral disease. Regular checkups to your dentist will catch preventable disease and oral health problems before they begin and treat any possibility of further complications early. At-home dental care combined with professional in-office checkups and cleanings will prevent the occurrence of tooth decay because of periodontal disease, and maintain your teeth and gums for a healthy smile.
It is estimated that approximately 75% of adults have periodontal diseases that could have been avoided or prevented with appropriate dental care. Preventive dental care helps maintain a lifetime of healthy oral care and negates the need for restorative dental work in the future. Restorative dental treatments can quickly exceed thousands of dollars but can be prevented if you work with your dentist to maintain healthy habits and regular cleanings and checkups. Adhering to a strict dental care regime and stopping oral health problems in their earliest stages is an investment in your oral health and protects your smile and prevents future expense.