Prevention is the best medicine. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You’ve heard the cliches before, and they’re repeated often for a reason. Preventative care is crucial for everyone to follow — especially when it involves dental health.
It’s simple to practice and has numerous long-term benefits for your health that can save time and money.
What is preventative dental care?
Preventative dental care is the practice of following good oral health habits to avoid serious issues, such as cavities and gum disease, and major restorative procedures in the future. As a result, you can enjoy stronger teeth, a brighter smile, and lower dental care expenses. It’s particularly important for children to develop these habits early, as they can lead to a lifetime of good dental health.
How can you practice preventative dental care?
The best part of preventative care: it’s easy and inexpensive. Simply brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day and flossing once a day can stave off many dental issues. Brushing removes plaque, a sticky substance left behind by food that can cause cavities and gum disease if not removed, from the surfaces of your teeth. Fluoride toothpaste provides the additional benefit of slowing enamel wear. Flossing gets what’s left behind in the areas a brush can’t reach between the teeth.
For the most effective at-home teeth cleaning, consider flossing before brushing; a 2018 study revealed it’s the most effective method of eliminating plaque1. Following the proper techniques for brushing and flossing can further maximize their effectiveness.
Your dentist can remove the vast majority of the remaining plaque or tartar on your teeth during your twice-a-year dental cleanings. They’ll also take X-rays to evaluate your teeth and check for issues such as cavities or impacted teeth. A dental checkup provides additional benefits for kids. For children between 6 and 12 years old — or whenever their adult molars start to emerge — a dentist can apply sealants to provide an extra barrier of protection. Sealants reduce tooth decay by 80%2, according to the American Dental Association.
Brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist for cleanings will get you off to a strong start, but there’s even more you can do! The dentist will screen for issues such as cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer; however, you can self-screen at home, too. Contact your dentist when you notice any signs of a cavity. Pay attention to any gum swelling and bleeding as well as tooth pain and sensitivity. If the symptoms are persistent or severe, you may need to schedule an appointment outside your routine checkups. By catching these problems early, you can get treatment before they worsen.
Eating a healthy diet can also help you maintain exceptional dental health. Fruits and vegetables, in addition to providing numerous vitamins and minerals vital for your overall health, can rinse plaque off your teeth. On the flip side, sugar is — you guessed it — bad for your teeth. Mouth bacteria like to feed on sugar, which can wear away enamel and eventually cause tooth decay and gum disease. When you do eat sugar, drink water to help wash it off your teeth.
The importance of preventative care
Despite the efficacy of preventative care, many people don’t follow a strong dental hygiene regimen. According to 2018 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 66.5% of adults reported visiting the dentist within the past year3. It’s also estimated that 100 million Americans don’t see a dental provider annually4. The ADA estimates that the average person only brushes for 45 seconds5, well short of the two-minute recommendation. One analysis found that 32% of Americans never floss6, either. As a result, it’s estimated that one-quarter of Americans are currently living with untreated cavities7 and nearly half of adults have gum disease8.
Preventative dental care has a larger societal effect, too, impacting businesses and schools. People with poor dental health are more likely to miss work or school due to dental emergencies or major procedures7. Those who attend work or school with tooth or gum pain often have reduced focus and productivity, an issue called presenteeism9.
Dental care education, whether from parents, dentists, teachers, or employers, is a vital tool for reversing these trends. By starting with the tips above, you and your loved ones, employees, or students can start on the road to a lifetime of improved dental health.