I am often asked, “what are the most important things I can do to prevent dental disease?” Dental product manufacturers and elementary schools have done a pretty good job of teaching the basics like brushing and flossing but let’s clarify a few things and talk about other things that will help anyone who is motivated to avoid dental disease.
First of all, THE MOST COMMON cause for tooth loss in the United States is NOT dental decay but is periodontal disease (disease of the gum and bone) and this disease, in its most common form, is 100% preventable. How is this disease avoided? The most important thing a person can do is floss once a day and brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. Proper flossing technique is critical and utilizing modern brushing technology is extremely helpful. A recent article I read on dental flossing claims that there is no scientific proof that daily flossing offers any significant benefit to dental health. As a practicing dentist for over twenty five years I can say without equivocation that my patients who floss have less gum inflammation, fewer cavities (NO cavities where the teeth touch), no bacterial induced periodontal disease and fresher breath. I don’t know how scientific my observations are but I do know that in the real world flossing pays tremendous dividends. Unfortunately, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the real-world benefits of daily flossing, the majority of people still don’t bother to spend the minute a day it takes to floss.
I am often asked what my preferred electronic toothbrush is. I have personally tried them all and can testify to their overwhelmingly superior effectiveness in eliminating bacterial plaque from the teeth than a manual toothbrush. Therefore, my favorite brush is whatever one is comfortable in your hand that you will consistently use. The single most significant thing that helped me make the transition from manual brush to electronic brush was to eliminate all of the manual brushes from my house. I have now been using an electronic brush for many years and very rarely ever use a manual brush. I even take my electronic brush camping with me. It will hold a charge for two weeks and charging can be done with a USB adapter. Probably the best feature that electronic brushes have that no manual brush has, is a timer. If you use the electronic brush until it shuts itself off then you know you are spending adequate time cleaning your teeth. To adequately clean your teeth with a manual brush takes at least twice the time of an electronic brush and ten times the dexterity. Electronic toothbrushes are an absolute must for anyone with limited dexterity. Oh, and the electronic brush that I am currently using is a Sonicare.
The next most important preventive measure a person can take to prevent dental disease is to see a dentist and dental hygienist on a regular basis. For most people every six months is sufficient, for people with a history of dental disease every three to four months is necessary. These regular trips to the hygienist and dentist for teeth cleanings, exams and diagnostic x-rays will go a long way in helping to prevent dental disease and diagnose disease in its earliest stages when solutions are simple and relatively inexpensive.
When you see one of our world-class dental hygienists you will have a truly memorable dental experience. Your appointment will begin with a review of your overall health followed by the gathering of key indicators that help us determine your overall dental health. You will then experience a true dental prophylaxis experience that is unsurpassed. Our three dental hygienists are all extremely gentle, yet thorough, and ensure that when you leave their chair you will know that your mouth is clean and fresh. They will also make recommendations for improving your oral care and help motivate you towards optimum oral home care. Each of our dental hygienists reflect the compassion and thorough care that help define our philosophy of patient care.
Fluoride is a tremendously effective compound that helps prevent dental decay. Most cities in California are optimally fluoridated and therefore optimally protect teeth from dental decay. However, some cities are not optimally fluoridated and therefore require that fluoride supplements be taken in order to reach optimal levels. Also, if tap water is not ingested then benefits of fluoridated water are not realized; again requiring fluoride supplements be administered. We will often administer fluoride in the dental office to both children and adults in order to help prevent dental decay or treat tooth sensitivity.
Another great defense against dental decay are dental sealants. Sealants are basically a thin protective coating on the biting surface of teeth that helps seal out the bugs that cause dental decay. Typically, dental sealants are placed on the biting surface of the teeth that are most susceptible to dental decay and should be placed as soon after the eruption of these teeth as possible (another reason why regular visits to the dentist are so critical for young people).
Any discussion of preventive dentistry would not be complete without mention of nightguards. While nightguards are not necessary for every patient they are a tremendous benefit to many. A nightguard is an acrylic mouthpiece that is worn on the surface of a person’s upper teeth as a protection against clinching and grinding of teeth while sleeping or during other stressful activities (exercising, etc.). Clinching and grinding is a common form of stress release that occurs during sleep and can have an extremely damaging effect on teeth, gums, jaw bones and TMJ. The long-term effects of teeth clinching and grinding can be devastating. These damaging effects can be minimized with the nighttime use of a dental nightguard. A well-made nightguard is custom fit to both the teeth and to the functional bite of the individual patient.
One of our greatest challenges as dental health care professionals is helping to motivate our patients to develop lifetime habits that will help them avoid dental disease. All of us here at CreateSmiles are dedicated to helping our “family of patients” realize the benefits of sound preventive dentistry and adopting the habits that will help insure each and every one of our patients avoids dental disease as much as possible. To have a world-class dental hygiene experience, give us a call (714-838-0760) to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced, helpful, caring and dedicated dental hygienists; your mouth will thank you.