Preventative Dentistry - What can I do?
Preventive dentistry’s aim is to avoid opportunities for disease that cause tooth decay and other oral health problems. Disease opportunities happen when the immune system and/or the balance of bacteria in our bodies change allowing for disease to start. The two main types of dental disease are decay (cavities) and periodontal disease (gum disease). The way to avoid dental disease is through patient education, proper nutrition, excellent homecare and regular dental visits.
The most important way to avoid disease opportunities is through proper nutrition. Anthropologists have studied teeth from people who lived before the industrial revolution and found that there are few incidences of cavities and gum disease. Our ancestors had no preventive aids such as dentists, hygienists, fluoride, floss, sealants, toothbrushes or toothpaste. Why is it that these preventive measures were not needed before the industrial revolution? In our desire to meet the needs of a changing society and workforce our food changed. Processed foods, sweeteners, preservatives, genetically modified (GMO) fruits and vegetables, and now genetically modified animals have changed the quality and quantity of nutrients we take in which are needed for health and balance. We try to make up the difference with supplements (vitamins and minerals) but fall short. Consider diet as a major factor in prevention, what you eat is important to a healthy immune system and balance in our bodies. I am not saying that an occasional treat is bad, but consider how often we treat ourselves. You can make a difference by changing how you shop for food and where you go out for a meal, cut back on refined carbohydrates, cut out GMO foods and include high quality, organic fresh foods as your staple foods (suggested reading: Dr. Steven Lin, The Dental Diet).
The second most important thing you can do to avoid disease opportunity is to have excellent homecare. Removing bacterial plaque from your teeth will lower the opportunity for disease (decay and gum disease). Brush twice a day, in the morning after eating breakfast and in the evening just before going to bed. Use a low abrasive toothpaste with fluoride (e.g. plain paste Crest or Colgate). Fluoride hardens the enamel making it more resistant to decay. Use an electric toothbrush (e.g. Sonicare or Braun). There are several studies which show that brushing with a high quality electric toothbrush removes more bacteria (plaque) from the teeth than a manual toothbrush leading to healthier mouths. Floss once a day before going to bed to remove plaque from between teeth and gently stimulate the gingival tissues making them more resistant to bacteria.
Your dentist will suggest an interval for regular dental visits to avoid disease opportunities based on your individual needs . If you are very healthy and have had few or no dental restorations you should need fewer dental visits. If you have had much dentistry and/or are challenged with removal of plaque (e.g. arthritis) and/or have some medical diseases (medications can dry the mouth), you should come in more frequently. Fluoride varnish treatments administered by your dental practice are also beneficial for those on well water and those with greater dental challenges. Dental sealants are also beneficial to prevent decay on the biting surfaces of molars and bicuspids. Visits to the dental office do not take the place of good nutrition and homecare but will help those who are having more problems or are at higher risk. Consider your frequency as an investment in you health. Spending some on prevention can save much on treatment.
You can enjoy a healthy mouth, which contributes to a healthy body, by eating a healthy diet, taking care of your teeth at home and visiting your dentist regularly.