Why Preventative Dentistry is So Important
You may see the term “preventive dentistry” on dental practice website or advertisements on postcards in the mailbox. Because it is a relatively vague term, it can be difficult to discern exactly what this means for the patient. In this week’s blog, we will explain the purpose of preventive dentistry, what procedures it includes, and why it is so important.
What is Preventive Dentistry?
Preventive dentistry is actually not one specific type of dentistry. It is a category of dental procedures aimed at preventing dental diseases. Preventive dentistry does not treat dental problems. It keeps healthy teeth healthy. It maintains the health of the gums and jawbone surrounding the teeth. It protects against disease-causing bacteria, trauma, and damaging forces from subconscious habits.
Because preventive dentistry is an umbrella over a large category of dental procedures, those procedures can seem quite different from one another. The common denominator is the goal in stopping dental problems before they start. Preventing a problem is always simpler and less expensive than treating a problem after it develops.
How Does Preventive Dentistry Stop Dental Diseases?
Each dental procedure that falls into the preventive dentistry category serves a different purpose. It is easiest to understand if we break the broad category down into the dental problems that each procedure aims to prevent.
The cause of gum disease is the toxins produced by disease-causing bacteria in dental plaque and tartar buildup. Prevention of gum disease, therefore, must include the removal of all plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums. The main way this occurs in a dental office is through a professional teeth cleaning.
During a professional teeth cleaning, your dentist or dental hygienist uses specialized instruments to remove every speck of bacterial buildup from your teeth. Because plaque buildup is a continuous process, occurring every day, you must have professional teeth cleanings on a consistent schedule in order to prevent gum disease.
Because the bacteria in dental plaque also cause cavities, a professional teeth cleaning functions to prevent cavities in addition to gum disease. We have additional procedures aimed at preventing cavities, including dental sealants and professional fluoride treatments.
Sealants cover the biting surface of the back tooth, preventing bacteria from penetrating the deep grooves and pits and causing decay. The application of dental sealants is a quick and painless procedure that protects the teeth against decay in a high-risk area. These sealants are especially beneficial for young children who may not yet have the hand skills needed to properly clean the teeth.
Professional fluoride treatments add a powerful enamel-strengthening mineral into the teeth. The teeth that absorb fluoride are better able to resist the attacks of acid erosion and cavity-causing bacteria. It also fights tooth sensitivity!
Cracked teeth occur when chewing or bad habits apply the wrong forces to teeth. “Wrong” can mean either too much force or forces at improper angles. The most common cause of these wrong forces is heavy nighttime clenching and or grinding of the teeth.
Because nighttime clenching/grinding leaves evidence on the inside of your mouth, your dentist can catch it before it leads to cracked teeth. You can then prevent cracked teeth by wearing a protective, professional nightguard over your teeth at night. This appliance separates the teeth, reduces forces in the facial muscles and decompresses the jaw joints.
Facial trauma during contact sports causes many injuries to the teeth. You can prevent these injuries or lessen the damage they cause by wearing a protective athletic mouthguard. If you or a loved one participates in any contact sports, consider investing in a professional athletic mouthguard. They are relatively inexpensive and can save you the physical, emotional, and financial cost of a traumatic injury to the mouth.
Why is Preventive Dentistry So Important?
There are several important reasons to invest in preventive dentistry. It is hard to place a value on what might happen. We never know what would occur if we did not’ take preventive measures in any area of life. It may be easier to consider that we are all at risk for dental problems, and by taking preventive dentistry measures, we can lower that risk.
As we already stated, preventive dentistry is always less expensive than restorative dentistry. (Restorative means returning a tooth back to natural form and function after it suffers damage from decay, fracture, or injury.) There is significant financial advantage in investing in preventive dentistry over your lifetime. The cost of a single dental crown is more than 10-15 times the cost of a professional teeth cleaning and more than twice the cost of a professional nightguard.
Of significant value is the fact that preventive dentistry preserves natural tooth structure. The hard structures of the teeth cannot repair themselves. Once you lose enamel or dentin, we must replace it with an artificial substance, which is never as good as natural enamel or dentin. No dental replacement material will ever function as well as a natural tooth. Prevention is the only way to maintain your body’s natural anatomy.
There is a significant link between oral health and the health of the whole body. By preventing dental diseases, you are actually contributing to your overall health. For example, diabetics with a healthy mouth are able to more easily control blood sugar levels, whereas those with chronic gum disease have difficulty controlling their blood sugar. By preventing dental problems, you are keeping your whole body in a healthier state.
More Questions about Preventive Dentistry?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our wonderful doctors. We can assess your unique risk factors and advise you of which preventive dental procedures are able to lower those risks.