What is preventive dentistry?
Preventive dentistry is the modern way of helping you keep a healthy mouth. It helps you to keep your teeth, and means you need to have less dental treatment. The two main causes of tooth loss are decay and gum disease. The better you prevent or deal with these two problems, the more chance you will have of keeping your teeth for life.
When the dental team and patient work together, this can help to prevent the need for treatment – especially fillings and extractions. Your dental team may recommend a course of treatment to get your mouth into good condition, and then work out a ‘maintenance plan’ to help you keep it that way.
Can everybody benefit from preventive dentistry?
Yes. Preventive dentistry will benefit anyone with some of their own teeth. People who don’t have any teeth can also benefit, because conditions such as mouth cancer and denture stomatitis can be spotted during regular visits to the dental team and then treated. It is excellent for children and young people, but it is never too late to start.
What is involved?
Your dental team will first check your teeth and gums, and talk to you about any treatment you need. The main aim is to help you get your mouth really healthy. In a healthy mouth it is unlikely that decay or gum disease will continue to be a problem.
- The dental team will thoroughly remove all plaque and tartar from your teeth. This is often called a ‘scale and polish’.
- The dental team will show you the best ways to brush, and how to clean in between your teeth using interdental brushes or floss, to remove the bacterial ‘plaque’ which forms constantly on your teeth. When you eat or drink something sugary, the bacteria in the plaque turn the sugar into acid, which may cause tooth decay. Plaque can also cause gum inflammation (swelling and soreness) if it is not regularly and thoroughly removed. The hard tartar (or ‘calculus’) which builds up on the teeth also starts off as plaque.
- You will be told which oral care products are the best ones for you to use.
- The dental team will probably talk to you about your diet, and any habits you have such as smoking and drinking.
- Your dentist will also make sure that all your fillings are in good condition and that there are no rough edges to make cleaning difficult.
Will my dental team recommend treatment?
A ‘preventive dentist’ will often recommend treatment to strengthen a tooth to make sure it does not break. For example, if the dental team see that a tooth is cracked, or is weak and in danger of breaking, they may advise a new filling or perhaps a crown or ‘onlay’ to protect it. This is always better than waiting until the tooth breaks, and then dealing with it as an emergency.
What else can the dentist and hygienist do to help prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride helps teeth resist decay. Your dental team will recommend the right level of fluoride for you to use in your toothpaste. Fluoride varnishes may be recommended for children to help prevent decay. If you are particularly at risk of decay your dental team may recommend or prescribe a high-strength fluoride toothpaste.
What are pit and fissure sealants?
The biting surfaces of teeth can be protected by applying ‘sealants’. These make the tooth surface smoother and easier to clean, and prevent decay starting in the difficult-to-clean areas. Your dental team will suggest whether this would be right for you. (See our ‘Tell me about’ leaflet Pit and fissure sealants.)