Preventative Dentistry: Save Money With These 5 Tips
Preventative dentistry not only leads to a brighter smile, it can save you and your family serious cash, long-term. Here’s what you need to know.
Let’s be honest – lots of people hate going to the dentist for regular checkups. But regular dental visits are part of what we know as preventative dentistry and are more important that you probably think.
Poor oral health care can lead to a myriad of problems, some of which are very serious. The saying “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” was never more true than when referring to the care of your teeth.
How serious? How about a trip to the emergency room serious? American Dental Association records show that from the years 2000 to 2012, ER visits because of dental issues doubled, going from 1.1 million a year to 2.2 million.
Many of these visits could have been avoided by practicing preventative dentistry.
What is Preventative Dentistry?
Preventative dentistry is pretty simple. It’s the practice of taking care of your teeth before something goes wrong. This includes things that you can do for your own teeth on a regular basis, like brushing. And it includes things that your oral health care team does, regularly, to protect not just your teeth, but your entire mouth’s health.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, preventative dentistry can help you. From children just learning to brush to older adults looking to protect their health, practicing preventative measures for the care of your teeth and mouth’s health has many benefits.
What’s Involved in Preventative Dentistry?
Your oral health care begins and ends with you. It requires daily practice on your part to care for your teeth and gums, and a commitment from you to see your dentist on a regular basis. But what makes up what we can preventative dentistry? It’s a number of activities, some of which you’re already probably doing.
Regular care at home
Probably the most important – but far from the only – part of preventative dentistry is the care you take on a daily basis at home. Brushing and flossing are the first steps on a preventative plan. Generally, it’s recommended that you brush immediately before bed and at least one other time during the day.
However, your health care professional will let you know what your individual brushing and flossing routine should be.
Having your teeth cleaned regularly at your dentist’s office is another important part of your preventative oral health plan. This removes plaque buildup that brushing and flossing alone isn’t able to get rid of. If not removed, this plaque buildup can lead to cavities and gum disease.
As part of your regular checkup, your dental care team will spend some time educating you on the proper way to care for your teeth. This includes things like the right way to brush, what oral care products you should be using, and might even include a discussion about your diet and eating habits.
During some of your regular visits, your dentist will do a complete exam, including x-rays and screenings. What she or he is looking for is the signs of immediate issues, as well as indications of future problems. This way your dentist can make the best recommendations on any treatments you might need to prevent much more serious problems in the future.
Once your oral health team has a clear picture of the current state of your dental health, they will put together a plan of treatments, if needed, and maintenance. It will likely include things like regular cleanings and future checkups, but may also include sealants, fillings and so forth, that are intended to prevent much larger and more expensive issues down the road.
What are the Risks of Not Having a Preventative Plan?
The benefits of a preventative oral health plan and regular practice may seem pretty obvious – like a clean, white, attractive smile. But there are some pretty big risks to not following a preventative plan as well.
First, there is cost. While a filling or sealant may seem costly and bothersome, the issues that it prevents could cost you a lot more in both time and money. While sealant can cost about $30-$40 per tooth, the cost of a filling is 5 to 6 times that. And the cost is significantly more for more serious dental procedures.
What’s important to note, though, is that your dental health care also affects the health of your entire body. There are a number of serious health conditions that poor dental health contributes to.
As with a lot of the medical complications associated with poor oral health, diabetes both affects and is affected by how well you take care of your mouth. Gum disease and inflammation of the tissues in the mouth can worsen your symptoms and even make it difficult for you to control your blood sugar. And thanks to the complications that come with diabetes, sufferers can see an increase in periodontal issues.
Did you know that inflammation of your gums can lead to hardening of your arteries, otherwise known as atherosclerosis? The bacteria that is present when your gums are infected or with other periodontal disease can enter your blood stream and lead to a build of plaque in your arteries. Additionally, it can cause the lining of the heart to become inflamed, a condition known as endocarditis.
Mouth and throat cancers can be caused by a virus known as the human papillomavirus (HPV), and this virus is more likely to be found in the mouths of people with poor oral health. While it’s unknown if poor oral healthcare leads to the presence of HPV, or simply contributes to its existence, there is a correlation between this cancer causing agent and people who rate their oral health as poor.
Pregnant women go to great lengths to keep the life growing inside of them healthy. But one thing that is frequently overlooked is the mother’s oral health.
Because the hormones estrogen and progesterone are elevated during pregnancy, a woman’s gums are more likely to overreact to plaque. This isn’t just a problem for the mom-to-be, however. Complications from gum disease can lead to heart problems and blood infections that can be passed to the baby and has even been linked to low birth weights and pre-term births.
You might never have thought about the connection between your oral health and your overall health before. But keeping your mouth, teeth, and gums in great shape with preventative dentistry can keep you not only looking great but also take the pressure off your wallet and keep the rest of your body healthy as well.