Springfield, Missouri – October was National Dental Hygiene Month, making this a great time to discuss the importance of preventive dental care. It is essential that patients visit their dentists every six months to prevent problems from developing and to detect and treat issues before they become more severe.
“It’s important for patients to remember that they can have dental problems without experiencing pain,” says Springfield, Missouri dental care provider Dr. Marc Barnett. “In fact, pain is often the final symptom. Many dental issues are not symptomatic, so it may take a visit to the dentist’s office to uncover it.”
More and more dentists are stressing the importance of preventive dentistry education, and for good reason. Teaching patients of all ages the importance of proper dental care and tooth maintenance can prevent disease and help patients maintain good oral health.
“We encourage our patients to establish a dental home,” says Dr. Kelly Barnett, who is part of Barnett-Davis Dental Group, a practice of Springfield, MO dentists. “This means children should be visiting a dentist by the age of 1, and the entire family should be visiting a dentist’s office every six months for check-ups. Additionally, they should be maintaining a proper brushing and flossing routine and maintain a healthy diet.”
“We want our patients to have beautiful smiles that last a lifetime,” says Dr. Tracy Davis. “That means educating them on how to properly care for and maintain that smile. Because we serve entire families, we work with both children and their parents to stress the importance of proper oral care.”
Preventive dentistry is important because poor oral health can affect a patient’s overall health. Not only can oral problems interfere with eating and speaking and cause self-esteem issues, more serious issues such as periodontal disease can lead to increased risk for heart attack and stroke. That means a healthy smile isn’t just more attractive, it’s also healthier.
Charles Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic, said, “Preventive dentistry can extend human life by 10 years.” This is because your oral health care is intimately connected to your overall health. Without proper dental hygiene, the bacteria that are commonly found in the mouth can reach dangerous levels that can lead to infections, gum disease and tooth decay. Oral bacteria and the inflammation that is association with periodontitis can play a role in some diseases. Poor oral health can play a part in endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and can lead to premature birth and low birth weight in pregnant women.
So when should patients begin a preventive dentistry regimen?
“As soon as the first tooth erupts, parents should be properly caring for their children’s teeth,” says Dr. Nick Matthews. “Children should visit the dentist by the age of 1. By regularly visiting the dentist from a young age, parents help to normalize the process and children understand the importance of caring for their teeth.”
These dental exams, which should happen every six months, are the keystone to preventive dentistry. Cleanings reduce the harmful bacteria that can reside in the mouth. These bacteria can wreak havoc on dental tissue, leading to decay and periodontal disease. At these appointments dentists can spot small issues and intercede before the problem becomes more dangerous or harmful to the patient.
The Nixa dentists at Barnett-Davis Dental Group not only teach patients about preventive dentistry at their appointments, they also have information available for patients to take home. Together, parents and children can read and understand the steps to take to properly care for their teeth and mouths.
In addition to encouraging patients to eat properly and brush and floss regularly, the Springfield dentists also recommend patients use a prescription fluoride varnish. Applied to children’s teeth, and even some adults’, after their preventive cleaning, the fluoride works to prevent tooth decay. It is more beneficial than other fluoride products because it has a higher concentration of fluoride and because of how it is applied, patients swallow less of the product than with gels and pastes.
“We love the varnish because it adheres to teeth very quickly,” says Dr. Barnett. “Over time, the fluoride is released to promote re-mineralization of the teeth. It is incredibly effective at preventing the need for fillings, crowns and cavities in our decay prone patients.”
In addition to brushing with a fluoride tooth paste and flossing regularly, patients should be sure they are maintaining visits every six month with a dentist who understands the importance of preventive dentistry. A proper diet is also essential to healthy teeth. Patients should avoid food and drinks high in sugar, as sugar can lead to tooth decay. It is important to eat foods from the major food groups, and to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water can help wash away harmful bacteria in between brushings.