The Importance of Preventive Care
Enjoying the benefits of a vibrant smile in tip-top condition is not something to be taken for granted. To maintain optimal oral health requires establishing an effective oral hygiene regimen at home along with making periodic visits to your dentist for a program of preventive care.
The following are helpful recommendations:
- Making a Commitment to Routine Checkups and Teeth Cleanings at the Dentist
- Maintaining an Effective Oral Hygiene Routine of Tooth Brushing and Flossing at Home
- Avoiding Harmful Oral Habits
- Eating a Balanced Diet
- Limiting Sticky, Sugary Sweets
- Fluoride Treatments
- Dental Sealants
By scheduling a periodic appointment for a checkup and professional dental cleaning, your dentist can help to keep your smile looking good and functioning at its best. At every checkup visit, your medical and dental histories are carefully reviewed and a comprehensive examination of your mouth, jaws, and surrounding areas of the head and neck is performed. While checking for the development of common dental conditions such as tooth decay and gum disease and doing a screening for oral cancer, your dentist will also make note of any signs of problematic health issues that may have originated elsewhere in the body. Experiencing dry mouth, bad breath, gum problems, ulcerations or other oral lesions may be indicative of a serious underlying systemic condition. As part of a comprehensive clinical exam, the dentist will assess the function of your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and your bite (occlusion) for any impairment or misalignment. The consequences of various dietary choices, eating disorders, harmful habits, certain medications and inadequate oral hygiene practices may also be detected at this time.
Dental Cleanings and Oral Hygiene
Although these two conditions are largely preventable, dental decay (caries) and periodontal disease, which is more commonly known as gum disease, represent the two biggest threats to your oral health. As part of an effective program of preventive care, thorough periodic cleanings at the dental office along with guidance in the best methods of brushing and flossing at home, play an essential role in warding off the development of cavities as well as the onset and progress of periodontal disease.
A routine dental cleaning as performed by the dentist or dental hygienist involves the thorough removal of any accumulated plaque and tartar from areas that your toothbrush and floss have not reached. Since dental plaque harbors the bacteria that are responsible for cavities and gum disease, its removal prevents these disease processes from occurring. Following a dental cleaning and polishing, which is performed to remove any superficial stains from your teeth, your mouth will feel fresh and clean.
Checkup and cleaning visits also represent an important opportunity to educate patients in the best oral hygiene homecare methods and routines to maintain a healthy smile. Your dental team will carefully explain and demonstrate proper techniques for brushing, flossing and other oral care practices at your initial dental appointment and subsequent recall visits.
Brushing Your Teeth
Maintaining a healthy smile depends upon keeping your teeth and gums clean with a daily routine of brushing and flossing. According to the recommendations of the American Dental Association, it is important to brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time with a soft bristled toothbrush. Remember to use a soft bristled toothbrush and apply gentle pressure so as not to cause damage to your teeth or gums. Brushing your teeth with a fluoride containing toothpaste that has been awarded American Dental Association seal of acceptance helps to keep your smile healthy and vibrant. Remember to change your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles are frayed.
To brush your teeth:
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. While maintaining this angle, move your toothbrush back and forth in short strokes. Make sure to brush along the outsides and insides of the teeth as well as the biting surfaces of the back teeth.
- To brush behind the upper and lower front teeth, tilt your toothbrush vertically and brush in up and down strokes.
- It is a good idea to brush your tongue at the completion of your routine to help keep your mouth fresh and clean.
How to Floss Your Teeth
To help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, it is also important to remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gumline on a daily basis. By taking a few minutes to gently floss the teeth once a day, children and adults can reduce their risk of dental disease.
At a routine checkup visit, the dentist or dental hygienist will demonstrate the proper technique for flossing between the teeth. There are a number of varieties of dental floss and all can effectively remove plaque and food from between the teeth. According to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, the type of dental floss selected is often a matter of personal choice. However, in certain circumstances one kind of dental floss may be preferable over another. In cases where the teeth are crowded, a waxed dental floss may work best. However, if there are spaces between the teeth, dental tape or super floss may be more comfortable and effective. Some people prefer disposable flossers with a plastic handle and a section of attached dental floss, while others use floss threaders or electric flossers to clean between the teeth.
The Proper Technique For Flossing Your Teeth
Whatever type dental floss is selected, proper technique is important to effectively remove plaque and food particles without injuring the delicate tissues around the teeth.
For floss that is taken off a roll or from a dispenser, a good length to use is about 18 inches.
- Wind the floss around the index fingers of each hand until a few inches of floss remains between them.
- Holding the floss between the index finger and thumb, glide it gently between the teeth and down to the gumline. Hugging the side of one tooth in a “C” shape, slowly move the floss up and down along the base of the tooth to remove any trapped plaque and food particles.
- Do the same to the adjacent side of the next tooth and continue around the mouth until all of the teeth as well as the space behind the last tooth are all flossed.
- Release clean floss from one hand, while winding the used floss around the index finger of the other hand.
The Application of Dental Sealants
As part of a pediatric dental program of preventive care, the dentist may recommend the application of dental sealants. These thin, plastic-like coatings painted onto the biting surfaces of the newly erupted permanent back teeth provide your child with an added level of protection through the cavity-prone years. Covering the pits, fissures and grooves in the hard to reach back teeth, dental sealants prevent decay-causing bacteria and food particles from accumulating in these vulnerable areas. Sealants may also be useful in areas of incipient dental decay to stop further damage from occurring.
The value of dental sealants is well documented. According to the American Dental Association, they reduce the risk of cavities in school-age children by approximately 80%. Furthermore, children who do not receive dental sealants develop almost three times more cavities than children who do have them.
Having a healthy smile is essential for your child’s comfort, function, self- image and overall well being. Good dental routines established in youngsters provide a strong foundation for maintaining a lifetime of optimal oral health.
Periodic Fluoride Treatments
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. Over 50 percent of 5 to 9 year old children have at least one cavity or filling, with that proportion increasing to 78 percent among 17-year-olds. Additionally, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness.
As an added level of protection against dental decay, it is recommended that children receive periodic fluoride treatments as part of a program of preventive dental care. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps to prevent cavities by making the hard outer enamel of the teeth more resistant to the acids produced by the harmful sugar processing bacteria in dental plaque. It can also help to remineralize the teeth to reverse incipient decay.
During a periodic checkup visit, the dentist may recommend the application of a topical fluoride to help strengthen and protect both a child’s baby teeth and the permanent ones. Topical fluorides can be applied as a foam, gel or varnish. Whatever type is selected, the procedure is quick and painless. Once the teeth are cleaned the fluoride is simply painted on the surfaces of the teeth or placed in a small tray to sit over the teeth for a brief period of time. Some types of fluoride treatment require no eating or drinking for half an hour as the fluoride is absorbed into the surface of the teeth. The dentist and dental hygienist will provide specific and detailed instructions as needed.
Fluoride treatment may also be indicated in adults who are at a higher risk for developing tooth decay.