Preventative dental measures help to avoid serious and costly dental problems and treatment. It is the secret to ensure a brilliant smile!
Preventing dental disease starts at home. Practice good oral hygiene and follow a healthy balanced diet. Your dentist and oral hygienist take prevention further in dental surgery by promoting, restoring and maintaining your oral health.
Prevention also includes regular dental examinations, cleanings and X-rays. Sealants and fluoride are great preventive treatments that help protect the teeth.
A preventive programme is a combined effort by you, your dentist and dental staff. It aims to preserve your natural dentition and supporting structures by preventing the onset, progress and recurrence of dental diseases and conditions.
A comprehensive dental examination will be performed during your first dental visit. Regular check-up examinations with your dentist will include the following:
Professional dental cleanings, often called scaling and polishing, are performed either by a dentist or an oral hygienist. Scaling and polishing includes:
Dental X-rays, or radiographs, are one of the major diagnostic aids that dentists use to detect dental problems not visible during a regular dental examination. Dentists use this essential, preventative tool to gain information and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities. X-rays also assist in compiling a proper treatment plan. Without X-rays, there is always a risk that problem areas may go undetected.
Digital X-ray technology is a fairly new development in dental radiology. Digital X-ray machines use electronic sensors instead of X-ray films. These sensors capture digital images that are stored on a computer. They can be instantly viewed and enlarged on a computer monitor. One of the main advantages of digital X-ray technology is the easier manipulation of X-ray images. This makes diagnosing of dental problems even more accurate.
Patients are often concerned about their safety when dental X-rays are taken. Dental X-ray machines produce only very low levels of radiation. Studies have shown that the amount of radiation exposure from a full-mouth series of X-rays is approximately equal to the amount of natural radiation that a person receives in a single day from natural sources in the environment.
The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist will recommend when X-rays should be taken. This depends on the findings during regular dental examinations, based on your dental history and signs and symptoms of dental disease.
A full mouth series of dental X-rays or a panoramic extra oral radiograph is often taken during the first visit for new patients. This is only repeated when essential for diagnostic purposes.
Bite-wing X-rays are X-rays taken of the top and bottom teeth, whilst biting together. These X-rays are often taken during routine dental examinations (check-up visits) to detect new dental problems.
Dental X-rays help to detect and treat dental problems earlier and easier. In the long run, this will save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort and eventually your teeth.
A sealant (also referred to as pit and fissure sealants) is a thin, resin (plastic) coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth.
Dental decay most often begins in deep pits and fissures. Since these are difficult to clean, plaque easily clings to these areas, making them very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing these deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits. They should be renewed when needed.
Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or oral hygienist. The whole process takes only a few minutes per tooth.
First, the teeth to be sealed are cleaned and dried. A weak acid solution is applied to the enamel surface to etch the teeth and to help the sealant bond to the teeth. After the teeth are rinsed and dried, the sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep pits and fissures. Depending on the type of sealant, the material will either harden automatically within a few minutes or will be cured with a special dental curing light.
Fluoride is most effective in preventing tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride are well known and its use as a preventative measure is advocated by numerous health and professional organisations.
Fluoride can reach and strengthen teeth in one of two ways:
Topical fluoride is found in toothpastes, mouth rinses or gels. It strengthens teeth by making the outer surface of tooth enamel harder and more resistant to decay. When needed, dentists and oral hygienists will apply topical fluoride gels to teeth during regular dental visits.
Systemic fluoride reaches teeth from drinking water and most foods. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement in drop or gel form and will be prescribed by your dentist when needed. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants. Tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years.
It is very important not to give supplementary fluoride to children without consulting a dentist. It is equally important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.
Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth while they are developing inside the gums, by hardening tooth enamel and making it more resistant to decay.
Most people receive sufficient fluoride from food and water. However, in special cases this is not enough to help prevent decay. Your dentist or oral hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay. It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks and visit your dentist on a regular basis.
Personal home care plays a vital part in maintaining dental health and a bright smile. This includes eating healthy balanced meals, limiting the eating of snacks, and correctly brushing and flossing to control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.
Brush at least twice a day. Brushing before going to bed at night is most important! The flow of saliva decreases during sleep and creates favourable conditions for bacteria to multiply and play havoc with your teeth and gums. This is the very reason we wake up in the morning with a dry, foul tasting mouth and night breath. Brushing before bedtime denies bacteria the food particles they feed on during the night.
Electric toothbrushes are easy to use and very effective in removing plaque. These brushes are recommended and your dentist or oral hygienist will be able to demonstrate the correct use.
Flossing is the only way to clean between teeth and under the gumline. It cleans these spaces, disrupts plaque from building up and prevents damage to the gums, teeth and bone. Floss at least once a day, preferably before bedtime!
Rinse your mouth with water after brushing and/or flossing. This will help to remove remaining particles of food and plaque, loosened by brushing and flossing. If you are unable to brush after meals, rinse your mouth properly with water or a mouthwash to remove as much remaining food particles as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns about dental treatments or procedures, contact your dentist today!