Prevention of dental disease is less expensive and a lot more fun than treating it. Preventive maintenance is a combination of home care (what you do for yourself), and professional care (what we can do for you). Occasionally, we will see a patient who claims "I take good care of my teeth", but they haven't seen a dentist or hygienist in more than five years, and they're surprised that they have one or more major problems. That is like "taking good care" of your car by merely keeping gas in the tank and being surprised when a belt breaks and you're stranded. Let's take a look at both sides of the equation.
Since most dental disease causes few symptoms until the problem is big, an important part of your preventive maintenance is a regular examination. This consists of checking for early stages of oral cancer, taking x-rays on a regular basis to make sure we find decay in its earliest (and least expensive to treat) stage, and to gently check the depth of the space between your gumline and each tooth for gum disease. (We don't just check a few teeth with a "screening exam" which is the minimum standard.) Of course, a part of your preventive visit is devoted to prophylaxis (cleaning). Removing hard deposits and stains from your teeth helps prevent gum disease, and enhances the appearance of your teeth and gums. We use a combination of gentle ultrasonic cleaning and hand instruments along the gumline, and air polishing or the traditional rubber cup and paste to thoroughly clean all tooth surfaces. In our office, all adults will receive this care from a registered dental hygienist or, less frequently, the doctor himself. Children may be seen by a trained dental assistant. Professional-strength fluoride treatments are provided routinely for children, and adults at risk for decay. The interval between professional visits varies according to each individuals needs. Patients who have experienced gum disease problems need to be seen more often (every 3-4 months) than others. Plus, we'll give you advice and tips for your home care based on your unique situation.
Next to regular professional maintenance, your home care is obviously of importance as well. Let's talk about it.
Brushing is something just about everyone does on a daily basis. Always use a brush with soft nylon bristles. If the bristles of your brush aren't still straight after three months, you're brushing too hard. Brushing effectively with a regular hand brush takes about three minutes. You can cut this time in about half using a sonic brush, such as the Sonicare, various Oral-B products, or the Teledyne Sensonic. We recommend and dispense the Sensonic, because the brush head replacements are much less expensive than the others, and we keep these replacements in stock at all times. A sonic brush is not appropriate for a small percentage of patients who have gum recession along with thin, fragile gum tissues. It's a good idea to seek professional advice before choosing a sonic brush, and the most effective technique regardless of the type of brush you may use.
Flossing each side of each tooth every day is probably more important in preventing disease than is brushing. The trick is to keep your guiding fingers close together and to curve the floss around each surface. Waxed or unwaxed? Choose the one that works best for you, but if you have shredding between teeth, it's a good idea to find out why with a dental exam. You could have a failing filling, crown, or new decay.
Tongue scraping is an essential to have the freshest breath possible. All of us develop a film of caked-on bacterial plaque on our tongues. The majority of bad breath comes from that coating on the back half of the tongue. We'll show you a simple, effective, and extremely inexpensive version that gets your tongue pink, all the way from front to back.
Fluoride is important for those who are prone to decay or have areas of tooth root exposure. Prescription-strength fluoride used nightly is the best way to keep these areas from being sensitive to cold and to prevent them from becoming decayed in the future. We'll recommend this for you if you would benefit from it.
Toothpaste is, for most adults, a matter of personal choice. All children under 16 should use a fluoride-containing paste, but the fluoride in toothpaste is of little benefit for adults. Those using a sonic toothbrush might prefer a non-foaming toothpaste (see the special section "Canker Sores"). Also, don't make your choice based on "whitening". Let's face it, something safe for a child to swallow and you only apply for a couple of minutes isn't going to make your teeth whiter.
Mouthrinse may make your mouth feel fresher, but it's very temporary. If you use a mouthrinse for your breath, make sure it doesn't contain alcohol (most do)! Alcohol dries the tissues inside your mouth and may actually accentuate any bad breath you may have.
Dental Sealants when properly applied, can prevent decay on the chewing surfaces of back teeth. This represents over two-thirds of cavities in children. Between fluoride in public water supplies and the proper timing and use of sealants, we rarely see the need to restore cavities in any children below the age of 18. For more information, please visit http://etl2.library.musc.edu/sealants/