What is Preventive Dentistry?
Preventive Dentistry is the branch of dentistry that deals with the preservation of healthy teeth and gums and the prevention of dental caries, cavities, gingivitis, enamel wear, and periodontitis (gum disease). Put simply, it is the practice of caring for one’s teeth to keep them healthy. Effective preventive dentistry emphasizes the importance of daily practices and ongoing hygiene so as to prevent tooth decay amongst other dental diseases and conditions by combining counseling by dental professionals and at-home oral care by patients with chair-side treatments.
There are three clinical phases of preventive dentistry; prevention of one from getting dental disease, treating it as non-invasively as possible, and use of preventive principles to help avid the return of the disease. Prevention ought to begin right from the time we start developing teeth – about age one. Regular home care, brushing, use of fluoridated tooth paste, visiting the dental professional and dental sealants can help assure complete prevention of dental diseases.
There’s no question that preventive dentistry has dramatically improved people’s lives. For example, a clinical research carried out in the 1950s showed that most Americans aged 65 and older had reportedly lost all their teeth. Today, over 50% of people in this age group report that they have only lost five teeth or fewer. This has also been so mainly because of the five major preventive factors which have been adopted in modern dentistry. These factors have combined to provide better outcomes. They include:
- The use of sealants
- Tooth brushing and flossing
- Decreasing tobacco use
- The prevalence of fluoridated water
- Professional prophylaxis (routine cleaning).
There are also a good number of medical advances in dental care that have greatly improved overall dental health. They include:
- The use of resins and porcelain to restore teeth while achieving life-like results
- Improvement in home dental care, including water picks and dental floss
- Improvements in endodontic (treatment of pulp diseases and tooth root) and periodontic (treatment of gum disease) therapy
- Implant prosthetics that allow for preservation of natural teeth
- Increased dental insurance benefits that encourage earlier, more frequent and wider use of preventive dentistry.
Generally, preventive dentistry or oral care strategies for both children and adults requires both home and in-office care activities, which include:
- At-home oral hygiene – brushing and flossing at least twice a day (or after every meal) to remove dental plaque, a film-like coating that forms on the teeth. Dental plague has the potential to build up to produce a hardened, sticky substance with acid-producing bacteria known as dental tartar, which causes tooth decay and lead to gum disease.
- A balanced diet. Avoid foods with carbohydrates and sugars. Calcium-poor diets may also increase your chances of developing jaw deterioration and periodontal (gum) disease.
- Increased fluoride use. Fluoride treatments are provided in dental offices. Dentists recommend using fluoride mouth rinses and toothpastes at home. Fluoride prevents tooth decay and strengthens teeth.
- Avoid smoking and drinking as they have the potential to cause dry mouth, plaque buildup, gum disease, tooth discoloration, tooth loss and even oral cancer.
- Use of sealants to protect the chewing surfaces of back permanent teeth from tooth decay.
- Regular dental visits for regular dental check-ups, and oral cancer screenings to check for signs of abnormal tissues, especially in children.