Preventive dentistry helps you to keep a healthy mouth, and means you need to have less dental treatment. The two main causes of tooth loss are decay and gum disease. The better you prevent these two issues, the better chance you will have of keeping your teeth for life. When the Hygienist and patient work together, a healthy mouth can be achieved, preventing the need for filings, crowns or extractions later. Your Hygienist will work with you to get your mouth into good condition, and then continue with a maintenance plan for optimal oral health.
Preventive dentistry will benefit anyone who wishes to care for their existing teeth, preventing future damage. Even those without teeth can benefit from preventative dentistry. Conditions such as mouth cancer and denture stomatitis can be spotted during regular exams.
The hygienist will first check your teeth and gums, and talk to you about any treatment you may need. The main goal is to help you get your mouth healthy. In a healthy mouth, it is unlikely that tooth decay or gum disease will continue to be a problem.
A 'preventive dentist' will often recommend treatment to strengthen a tooth to make sure it does not break. For example, if the dentist sees that a tooth is cracked, or is weak and in danger of breaking, they may advise a new filling or perhaps a crown or onlay to protect it. This is always better than waiting until the tooth breaks, and then dealing with it as an emergency, and a more difficult problem.
Fluoride helps teeth resist decay. Your Hygienist will recommend the right level of fluoride for you to use in your toothpaste. Fluoride varnishes may be recommended for children to help prevent decay. If you are particularly at risk of decay your Hygienist may recommend or prescribe a high-strength fluoride toothpaste.
The biting surfaces of teeth can be protected by applying “pit and fissure sealants”. These make the tooth surface smoother and easier to clean, and prevent decay starting in the difficult-to clean areas. Your Hygienist can tell you whether or not this would be right for you.
Food and drinks containing sugar cause decay. Reducing sugary snacks and drinks, combined with routine dental cleaning and care, can slow tooth decay. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and minerals can help prevent gum disease and protect against mouth cancer.
Dental erosion is the loss of enamel caused by acid attack. When the enamel is worn away it can lead to pain and sensitivity. Foods and drinks that contain acid, such as citrus fruits, carbonated drinks, smoothies, fruit juice and fruit teas, can all cause dental erosion if you have them often.
Acidic foods and drinks can be harmful if you have them often in large amounts. Try to have acidic food and drinks only at meal times, and drink acidic drinks through a straw. We recommend that you do not brush your teeth for at least one hour after eating or drinking anything. Every time you eat or drink, the enamel on your teeth becomes softer for a short while, and loses some of its mineral content. Waiting for an hour or so will allow your saliva to
slowly restore it to its natural balance.
Smoking can cause tooth staining, tooth loss and mouth cancer, and make gum disease worse. If you smoke, you may need to visit the dental office more often, but the best advice is to try to stop smoking. Alcoholic drinks can also cause mouth cancer and if you smoke AND drink, you have a higher risk of developing cancer of the mouth.
It is very important that you keep up a good routine at home to keep your teeth and gums healthy. We recommend that you:
You can take other steps to help prevent tooth loss, decay and the need for treatment.
There are now many specialized toothpastes, including total care toothpastes and toothpastes made specially to help with plaque and gum disease, and sensitive teeth. There are also 'whitening' toothpastes. Mouthwashes can help, and there are different types including ones with anti-bacterial ingredients. Adults should use a toothbrush with a small- to medium-sized head and soft to medium filaments (bristles).
Tests have shown that electric or 'power' toothbrushes with an oscillating, rotating action are better than manual toothbrushes at removing plaque. They can remove up to twice as much plaque as a manual toothbrush. If you are unsure, ask your dental team for advice on the one that best suits your needs.