If you don’t take care of your teeth and properly manage your oral health, you may find yourself forking over thousands of dollars in restorative dental care.
Preventive dentistry emphasizes the importance of ongoing hygiene procedures and daily practices to prevent tooth decay and other dental diseases and conditions. Effective preventive dentistry combines at-home oral care by patients with chairside treatments and counseling by dental professionals.
For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a minimum of two dental checkups each year for professional cleaning and management of any developing conditions.
At-home oral hygiene. The most important prevention technique is brushing and flossing at least twice a day (or after every meal) to remove dental plaque, a film-like coating that forms on your teeth. If not removed, plaque can build up and produce dental tartar, a hardened, sticky substance with acid-producing bacteria that cause tooth decay and lead to gum disease.
Fluoride use. Fluoride strengthens teeth and prevents tooth decay. Fluoride treatments are provided in dental offices, and dentists recommend using fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses at home. Public water fluoridation – ranked as one of the 20th century’s 10 great public health achievements – provides a major source of fluoride.
Diet. A balanced diet is a dental health essential. Foods with sugars and carbohydrates feed the bacteria that produce dental plaque, while calcium-poor diets increase your chances of developing gum (periodontal) disease and jaw deterioration.
Regular dental visits. Since most dental conditions are painless at first, if you don’t regularly visit your dentist, you may not be aware of dental problems until they cause significant damage. For best results, schedule regular dental check-ups every six months; more often if you’re at higher risk for oral diseases. Your dentist should also perform oral cancer screenings to check for signs of abnormal tissues. Especially for children, checking oral growth and development (including an assessment for caries development) should be part of dental evaluations.
Fluoride is absorbed easily into tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth. Once teeth are developed, fluoride strengthens tooth structure, making teeth more resistant to decay. Fluoride also repairs or remineralizes areas in which decay has already begun, thus reversing the process and creating a decay-resistant tooth surface.
Used as a dental treatment, amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP) might help in restoring the necessary mineral balance of calcium and phosphate – natural building blocks of teeth – in the mouth. When applied to tooth surfaces, ACP strengthens tooth enamel before and after bleaching, and can protect dentin after professional dental cleaning and during orthodontic treatment, helping to prevent dentin hypersensitivity. ACP is currently found in toothpaste (Arm & Hammer’s Enamel Care Toothpaste) and bleaching gels, as well as professional sealants (Aegis Pit and Fissure Sealant) available in dental offices.
Many dentists also recommend xylitol, a natural sweetener made from birch trees, which has been clinically shown to reduce cavities and help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Xylitol can be used as a sugar substitute in cooking and baking, or beverages. It also is included in toothpastes, mouth rinses, chewing gums and candies.