Regular preventive dental care is crucial for maintaining good oral health and avoiding more serious and costly dental problems down the road. Here are 5 of the most important types of preventive dental care that every patient should be receiving from their dentist.
1. Regular Professional Cleanings
Professional dental cleanings, also known as prophylaxis cleanings or “prophies”, are one of the most basic yet essential preventive dental services. The American Dental Association recommends patients have a professional cleaning at least twice per year.
These regular cleanings allow the dentist or hygienist to remove built-up plaque and tartar above and below the gum line that you are unable to remove with your own daily oral hygiene routine. Plaque and tartar can lead to cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and other oral health issues if allowed to accumulate over time. A regular professional dental cleaning removes those deposits and allows the dentist to check for early signs of decay or other concerning areas.
During the preventive cleaning appointment, the dental hygienist will also polish your teeth to smooth out rough spots and remove stains. Teeth whitening services may also be provided at regular cleanings to help remove surface stains and brighten your smile. Along with plaque and tartar removal, these services all aim to prevent future dental problems.
2. Dental Exams
A professional dental exam by your dentist is another fundamental preventive dental service. The American Dental Association and most dental insurance plans recommend having an exam by your dentist at least once per year.
At this exam appointment, your dentist will thoroughly inspect the inside and outside of your mouth, checking all your teeth and soft tissues. They are looking for early signs of oral health issues such as cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, bite issues, cracked or worn teeth, and more. By detecting concerning areas at an early stage, preventive or minimally invasive treatments can be provided to prevent the issue from progressing.
Your dentist will also check old fillings and crowns to ensure they still fit well and are in good condition. Failing restorations can lead to further decay, damage, or tooth loss if not addressed promptly.
3. Dental X-rays
Preventive dental x-rays allow your dentist to see below the surface for signs of decay between teeth or around old fillings, detect cysts or abscesses, look for damage to jawbone or tooth roots, and more. Full mouth x-rays are recommended at least every five years, with bitewing x-rays at least once a year.
By using x-rays as a diagnostic tool on a regular basis, dentists can find issues lurking beneath the gums and intervene early. This prevents the need for more complex treatments later on.
4. Fluoride Treatments
Fluoride is a mineral that can strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to decay. Both children and adults can benefit from professional fluoride treatments periodically.
For children, fluoride varnish may be applied to the teeth 2-4 times per year. This concentrated topical fluoride protects vulnerable teeth that are still developing below the gum line.
Adults can also have fluoride applied through varnish, foams, rinses, or gels during dental visits to prevent cavities from developing and halt early decay. For those at high risk for cavities, more frequent fluoride treatments may be recommended.
5. Dental Sealants
Dental sealants provide an extra layer of preventive protection by sealing off the pores and grooves on the biting surfaces of back teeth. These deep crevices are prone to collecting food particles and bacteria that can lead to decay. The thin plastic coating bonds to the teeth to keep out debris and food.
Sealants are most often placed on children’s permanent molars as soon as they erupt, before decay has a chance to set in. But adults can also benefit from sealants to prevent cavities from forming in vulnerable areas of teeth that may be impossible to keep totally clean.
Choose a Dentist That Prioritizes Prevention
Visiting your dentist regularly for exams, cleanings, x-rays, and preventive treatments can help keep your teeth healthy and avoid issues like cavities and gum disease. Be sure to choose a dentist that makes these preventive services a priority rather than just reactively treating problems as they arise.
With a focus on prevention and early intervention, you can maintain your oral health for life. Protect your teeth by scheduling your next preventive dental care appointment today!