Researchers say that regular dental visits appear to be a key to better oral and overall health. Patients who visited their dentist every six months had fewer decayed teeth. These “regular” dental attendees also had fewer missing and filled teeth.
That’s only one study, but many other researchers have the same conclusions. For this reason, they associate preventive dentistry with better health outcomes.
What exactly makes preventive dentistry important, though? How can it benefit not just your teeth and gums but your well-being, too?
We’ve rounded up some of the top answers to these questions below, so be sure to read on!
Helps Remove “Left-Over” Plaque and Tartar
The mouth is home to more than 700 species of bacteria, many of which are beneficial or the “good” kind. “Good” bacteria help produce saliva, which has antimicrobial activity. Saliva also helps wash away food debris.
Many of the other bacterial species in the mouth are the “bad” kind, though. These harmful microbes create plaque, the sticky layer of biofilm that forms on the teeth. It takes minutes for this substance to form on the teeth, but the bacteria it contains colonize in two to six hours.
Those are some of the chief reasons you should floss and brush twice a day or after every meal.
However, flossing and brushing don’t always remove all the plaque build-up on the teeth. This is especially true for the layers that form deep within teeth crevices. In any case, the “left-over” plaque can harden into tartar, also known as dental calculus.
Dental calculus discolors the teeth and also encourages more plaque formation. Hardened plaque is hard to get rid of with brushing alone, as it adheres to teeth surfaces. The longer tartar stays on the teeth, the higher your risks of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
The only way to remove surface tartar is through preventive dental prophylaxis. However, if there’s tartar below the gum line, you may need teeth scaling and root planing. Both are special teeth cleaning methods designed to remove plaque and dental calculus.
Keeps Your Teeth Free of Decay
One of the goals of preventive dentistry is to reduce the risks of decay that plaque and tartar can cause. The “bad” bacteria in plaque and tartar release acids that can destroy the tooth enamel.
Now, keep in mind that enamel is the hardest mineral in the human body. It boasts a Mohs hardness rating of 5, making it harder than gold, silver, or even steel. However, it’s also as brittle as glass, so it’s easy to chip, crack, or break, especially if you let bacteria wear it down.
The loss of enamel through bacterial activity is one of the primary causes of tooth cavities. Since preventative dentistry gets rid of plaque and tartar, it helps keep tooth decay at bay.
Protects You From Toothaches
Dental cavities expose the dentin, a hard but porous layer of tissue right below the enamel. It houses tubules, which are small canals or hollow tubes. These tubules then connect to the pulp chamber, nerves, blood vessels, and tooth roots.
The loss of enamel makes it easy for temperature or acids to stimulate the dentin’s tubules. So, eating something hot, cold, or acidic can “excite” the cells, nerves, and vessels in the tooth. As a result, the affected tooth can feel sensitive or even painful.
For that reason, one of the many benefits of preventive dentistry is to help keep toothaches away.
Safeguards You From Gum Disease and Tooth Loss
Almost half of US adults 30 years and older have gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Plaque and tartar are, again, some of the primary culprits behind this condition. They can form below the gum line, all the way to the tooth roots.
When that happens, bad bacteria can irritate, invade, and infect the gums.
Left untreated, periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away or “recede” from the teeth. In this case, pockets form between the gum tissues and the teeth they support. Bacteria can then get into these gaps and cause further irritation and infection.
Over time, the bad microbes can reach the bones that support the teeth, too. From there, the bacteria can “eat away” at these supportive bones. The more bone that disintegrates, the wobblier the teeth can get.
All that makes your pearly whites susceptible to tooth loss.
It’s also for those reasons you should see your dentist at least once every six months. With preventive tooth and gum cleaning, you can keep plaque and tartar at bay. Without these substances, your gums can stay healthy and keep supporting your teeth.
Assists in Identifying Issues That Go Beyond Your Oral Health
Did you know that oral health care providers can detect signs of diabetes? In one study, dentists were able to identify 73% of diabetes and prediabetes cases.
Moreover, regular preventive dental visits may help protect you from pneumonia. That’s because the mouth harbors some bacterial species known to cause this infection. A study found that patients who don’t see a dentist regularly have up to 86% higher risk of pneumonia.
While pneumonia is usually mild, it can still take you one to three weeks to recover. In more cases, though, this lung infection can be deadly.
As preventive dentistry helps control bad bacteria, it may also help counter pneumonia.
Preventive Dentistry for Better Oral and Overall Health
Keep in mind that oral diseases cost the US at least $45 billion each year in productivity losses alone. Preventive dentistry counters and combats many of these oral health conditions. Plus, dental visits may help in the early identification of diseases like diabetes.
All that should be enough reason for you to see your dentist at least once every six months.
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