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Guide to Preventative Care: The Best Way To Stop Dental Problems

Preventing dental problems or disease from happening is the primary focus of the dental profession. Using proper brushing, flossing, and interdental techniques along with regular cleanings at the dentist office can prevent almost all dental problems depending on a your lifestyle choices. Diet, environment, genetics and personal habits all play an important role in dental health but with proper preventative care you can greatly reduce the chances you will face many of the common dental problems.

What are the Common Problems

Cavities and gum disease represent the most common dental problems people face. Proper and consistent homecare with a toothbrush and floss along with fluoridated water will minimize if not eliminate cavities and most cases of gum disease. Technique, frequency and time are essential to proper technique. If you have questions on proper techniques be sure to ask your hygienist at your next cleaning appointment. In general, brushing very well one to two times per day for 2 to 3 minutes and flossing should be sufficient to clean all surfaces of the teeth.

Better Diet and Habits

Prevention wouldn’t be complete without discussing diet and personal habits. Cavities are caused by bacteria in your mouth which feed on sugar from the foods you intake. Sweets and sugary drinks, as well as excess carbohytrates, can significantly increase the amount of decay affecting your teeth. Most people do not realize that it is frequency to esposure to these items, not amount that causes extreme damage. For example, drininking 2 cans of soda over 12 hours is more damaging than drinking a 2 liter in 1 hour.  Personal habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco not only change the environment in your mouth but also affect blood supply, immune system, and tissue elasticity all of which contribute to gum disease. If you are interested in making better choices about diet or tobacco use ask your physician or dentist about resources that can help.

Regular Cleanings

Visiting your hygienist at least every six months is an excellent way to prevent dental problems. If tartar builds on your teeth brushing and flossing will not remove all of the tartar. Your hygienist removes the tartar and identifies any changes in your mouth at your cleaning appointment. The hygienist is also able to recommend preventative treatments such as fluoride, sealants, or mouth rinses which may help you maintain your healthy mouth in addition to the regular home care of brushing and flossing. The American Dental Association recommends cleanings every 6 months or more often if there is gum disease or gingivitis.


Guide to Gum Disease

Gum disease or periodontitis is caused by the build-up of bacteria under the gumline and along the root surface of the teeth. If the bacteria is not properly and frequently removed, the plaque along these areas will calcify into calculus or tarter and stick to the side of the tooth similar to barnicles on the side of a ship. This tarter is teeming with bacteria that causes an immune response in which you begin to break down the bone holding the teeth in place. This is a chronic and progressive disease that if not arrested, oftoen leads to tooth loss.


Causes and Prevention of Oral Cancer

The most common cause of oral cancer is tobacco use, chewing tobacco being a more common cause than smoking, but both can lead to it. Interestingly, smoking pipes and cigars leads to more oral cancer than cigarettes, statistically speaking, presumably due to how deeply the smoke is inhaled. There is new evidence that vaping also increases oral cancer risk due to the release of chemicals like formaldehyde, but since this is a new practice the research is still emerging. Excessive alcohol consumption also leads to a higher risk of oral cancer and is considered the second highest risk factor. The best prevention for oral cancer is to not use tobacco and to only use alcohol in moderation. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can also increase oral cancer risk significantly. Knowing this, it is suggested that eveyone, male and feamale, under the age of 18 riecieve the HPV vaccine as a prevnetive measure. 

Signs and Common Areas to find Oral Cancer

The most common site for oral cancer is on the back of the tongue to one side or the other. Chewing tobacco users will commonly develop lesions in their cheeks where they hold their tobacco, but it is possible to develop lesions anywhere in the mouth. A malignant lesion normally looks white or red and often appears ulcerated, but generally has little or no pain. Skeletal cancer will exhibit atypical bony changes on a radiograph.

Oral Cancer Screening

Screening is done by the doctor at each of the patients normal cleaning recall appointment. At each recall and during a patient’s initial comprehensive examination, the examining dentist will check the soft tissue of the mouth and tongue for any atypical lesions. Also, radiographic x-rays are taken periodically to also check for any skeletal abnormalities.

Treating Oral Cancer

Oral cancer most commonly needs surgical intervention for treatment and depending on the extent and type of cancer, this surgery may involve the removal of only soft tissue like the tongue or cheek, or removal of hard tissue as well such as the jaw bone. Other treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy depends on the type and progression of the disease.

Guide to Orthodontics

Orthodontics is the area of dentistry that deals with changing the position of teeth. Although mostly associated with the cosmetic goals of creating “straight” teeth for a more symmetric smile, orthodontics can be used to create space for tooth or implant restorations where teeth have drifted over time into spaces of missing teeth. Orthodontics have been used to change tooth position to relieve jaw pain associated with how teeth come together. Systems to accomplish these goals vary from fixed or traditional bands and brackets to removable plastic trays such as Invisalign.

Traditional braces with bands and brackets are cemented to teeth and connected to other teeth with wires on some or all the teeth. Traditional braces can be used to relieve crowding, reduce overbites, correct rotated or tilted teeth, close spaces or gaps or help impacted teeth erupt. Traditional braces may require the patient to wear elastics and maintain excellent hygiene throughout treatment which typically lasts 2 or more years.

Orthodontics can also be accomplished using removable appliances. Typically these are made up of a series of plastic trays which are fabricated to move the teeth while in the patient’s mouth. The trays can be removed by the patient for eating and cleaning both the teeth and trays. The trays require the patient to be more responsible about wearing them as prescribed by the dentist. Each type of treatment has its strenghts and weakneses and can be used to accomplish different results. Sometimes the best treatment results can only be obtained by combining both treatment modalities. 

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