Dental disease is almost entirely preventable and oral health is just as important as the health of the rest of your body. Untreated dental disease can lead to serious health problems such as infection, damage to bone or nerve, and tooth loss. Infection from tooth disease can even spread to other parts of the body and in rare cases, can lead to death.
Drs. Kasperowski and their team pride themselves on their experience in all aspects of dental treatments and their ability to consistently deliver expert care in a comfortable and friendly environment. However, we know what truly sets us apart as Champions for Oral Health is our belief that the BEST treatment for any dental problem is to prevent it in the first place.
Preventive Dentistry Strategies
Preventive oral care strategies for children and adults include a number of in-office and home care activities, including:
At-home oral hygiene.
The most important prevention technique is brushing and flossing at least twice a day (or after every meal) to remove dental plaque, a film-like coating that forms on your teeth. If not removed, plaque can build up and produce dental tartar, a hardened, sticky substance with acid-producing bacteria that cause tooth decay and lead to gum disease.
Fluoride strengthens teeth and prevents tooth decay. Fluoride treatments are provided in our dental office, and we recommend using fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses at home. Public water fluoridation – ranked as one of the 20th century’s 10 great public health achievements – provides a major source of fluoride.
A balanced diet is a dental health essential. Foods with sugars and carbohydrates feed the bacteria that produce dental plaque, while calcium-poor diets increase your chances of developing gum (periodontal) disease and jaw deterioration.
Regular dental visits.
Since most dental conditions are painless at first, if you don’t regularly visit the dentist, you may not be aware of dental problems until they cause significant damage. For best results, schedule regular dental check-ups every six months; more often if we determine that you are at higher risk for oral diseases. We also perform oral cancer screenings to check for signs of abnormal tissues. For children, we check oral growth and development (including an assessment for caries development) to determine if early orthodontic of cavity intervention is necessary.
Dental cleanings and screenings.
A dental cleaning (prophylaxis) is recommended every six months to remove dental plaque and stains you’re unable to remove yourself, as well as to check for signs of tooth decay. More frequent visits may be recommended if we determine that it will benefit your oral health.
X-rays enable dentists to look for signs of dental problems that are not visible to the naked eye, such as cavities between teeth and problems below the gum line.
A quick and easy saliva specimen can be obtained and sent to a lab for testing of bacteria levels that may place you at risk of developing periodontal disease. Additionally, the same specimen can be used to determine any genetic predispositions to periodontal disease.
Is your dry mouth temporary or a chronic problem? Saliva has an enormously protective effect on your teeth because it helps to wash away food debris, neutralize acids, and limit the levels of bacteria in your mouth. Systemic illness and medications can lead to dry mouth that creates an environment for rampant decay and poor nutrition. Management includes the treatment of underlying causes, customized oral hygiene practices, fluoride and re-mineralizing treatments, and the stimulation of salivary flow through physical and medicinal means.
Mouth guards – particularly a custom-made mouth guard prescribed by your dentist to provide a better fit – can be worn during sports activities to protect against broken teeth. Mouth guards also are used to treat teeth grinding (bruxism), which can wear down teeth and contribute to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
A bad bite (malocclusion) can impair eating and speaking, and crooked teeth are hard to keep clean. Correcting an improper bite with orthodontics that may include the use of dental braces or clear teeth aligners (invisible braces), such as Invisalign, limits the possibility of future dental problems.
Sealants are thin composite coatings placed in the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of back permanent teeth to protect your child from tooth decay.
Avoid smoking and drinking.
Smoking, chewing tobacco and alcohol consumption can negatively affect your oral health. Apart from dry mouth, tooth discoloration and plaque buildup, smoking causes gum disease, tooth loss and even oral cancer.
Oral health management.
Consistent dental care for chronic dental diseases/conditions is essential for arresting or reversing their harmful effects.
Patients who understand the outcome of poor dental health are more likely to see their dentist for preventive dentistry treatments. Instilling excellent oral hygiene habits in our patients significantly helps ensure a lifetime of dental health.
Importance of Fluoride
Fluoride is absorbed easily into tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth. Once teeth are developed, fluoride strengthens tooth structure, making teeth more resistant to decay. Fluoride also repairs or remineralizes areas in which decay has already begun, thus reversing the process and creating a decay-resistant tooth surface.
Types of Fluoride
Fluoride is available in two forms: topical and systemic.
Topical fluorides strengthen existing teeth, making them more decay-resistant. Topical fluorides include toothpastes, mouth rinses and professionally applied fluoride therapies (gels, foams, rinses or varnishes). Many dentists give topical fluoride treatment to children up to age 18. For people with rampant cavities or predispositions to decay – such as people wearing orthodontic appliances and those with dry mouth – we may prescribe a special gel to be worn in customized trays for daily home use.
Systemic fluorides are ingested into the body and incorporate into forming tooth structures. Systemic fluorides also can give topical protection because fluoride is present in saliva, which constantly moistens teeth. Systemic fluorides include public water fluoridation or dietary fluoride supplements in the form of tablets, drops or lozenges. However, keep in mind that the type of naturally occurring and added fluoride in the water supply can vary from area to area.
The ADA recommends that adults and children two years and older use a fluoride toothpaste bearing the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Consult with us if considering the use of toothpaste before age two. The ADA also recommends the use of fluoride mouth rinses, but not for children under six years old, since they may swallow the rinse.
Other Preventive Dental Substances
Used as a dental treatment, amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP) might help in restoring the necessary mineral balance of calcium and phosphate – natural building blocks of teeth – in the mouth. When applied to tooth surfaces, ACP strengthens tooth enamel before and after bleaching, and can protect dentin after professional dental cleaning and during orthodontic treatment, helping to prevent dentin hypersensitivity. ACP is currently found in toothpaste (Arm & Hammer’s Enamel Care Toothpaste) and bleaching gels, as well as professional sealants (Aegis Pit and Fissure Sealant) available in dental offices.
Many dentists also recommend xylitol, a natural sweetener made from birch trees, which has been clinically shown to reduce cavities and help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Xylitol can be used as a sugar substitute in cooking and baking, or beverages. It also is included in toothpastes, mouth rinses, chewing gums and candies.
Importance of Caries Risk Assessment
Your dentist can customize a prevention program based on your individual caries risk assessment profile. Caries risk assessment, which involves observing the patient’s clinical appearance, also takes into account the following:
- Number of existing carious lesions (someone with two or more may be considered at high risk of developing future caries)
- Fluoride exposure
- Salivary flow rate
- Medication use. Some medicines can contribute to cavities since many contain high amounts of sugar or may decrease saliva flow.
- Age. Each age group – children, teens, adults and seniors – has its own set of associated risks.
- Clinical variables such as number of filled/restored or missing teeth
- Laboratory factors such as salivary calcium levels
Benefits of Preventive Dentistry
Considering that oral health is linked to overall health, preventive dentistry is important to your overall well being. Oral diseases can interfere with eating, speaking, daily activities and self-esteem.
In children, severe decay can affect growth and development. Preventive dentistry can result in less extensive – and less expensive – treatment for any dental conditions that may develop, and help you keep your natural teeth for a lifetime.