Rotten teeth, tooth decay, and gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis are usually the result of poor oral care. These health conditions cost far more to repair than to prevent.
You may not be able to kill two birds with one stone, but when it comes to oral health there is one very simple and affordable thing you can do to avoid these serious – and potentially expensive – problems. That is: take preventive oral hygiene seriously.
Tooth decay and gum diseases get their start with a substance called plaque. Preventive oral hygiene includes daily efforts to eliminate plaque and prevent its build up. It also includes regular checkups and professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar that can build up on teeth despite dedicated daily care.
What is plaque?
Plaque is the name for a sticky and translucent substance that is constantly being produced by our mouths. The bacteria in plaque consume sugars that are contained in various types of food. This creates acids that attack the surface of the teeth and toxins that may attack the bone beneath the gums.
The acids assault tooth enamel for 20 or more minutes after you have sugary food or beverages. Eventually, the acids may begin to destroy the enamel, which is how tooth decay gets a foothold, so to speak.
Plaque can also penetrate below the gum line, where the toxins can threaten the underlying bone.
Plaque can also penetrate below the gum line, where the toxins can threaten the underlying bone. The result is gingivitis or periodontitis. Obviously, neither situation – a rotten tooth or poor gum health – is high on anyone’s wish list.
Treatments and costs
Not least among the reasons for avoiding tooth decay or gum disease is the expense involved in treatment. In either case, treatment options depend on the severity of the problem, and as the severity mounts, so do the costs for professional care.
…as the severity mounts, so do the costs for professional care.
Milder cases of tooth decay may be treated by simply using a fluoride-based treatment. If cavities have developed, however, a filling will be required. More severe cases may require that a dentist fit the tooth with a crown, perform a root canal operation, or even pull the tooth altogether.
Gum disease is likewise increasingly more expensive to deal with the longer it is ignored or left undiagnosed and allowed to progress. If a milder case of gum disease is caught in time, patients may be able to simply brush and floss their way back to optimal health. More serious cases will require professional cleaning by a dental hygienist to get rid of built up plaque. A severe case of gum disease may require antibiotics or even surgery.
Preventing tooth decay and gum disease
Repair or prevent? Well, we think it’s a “no brainer” – but then, consider the source…
If you really need any more convincing, try plugging the phrases “Oral Conditions and Diseases” or “Tooth Conditions and Disorders” into your browsers’ search bar and see what images come up. YUCKA!!!
But, if you’re already convinced about the power of prevention – and could use a brush up on oral care basics – check out this overview of basic dental care in our blog archives.
While you’re at it, why not call to schedule your next dental checkup?
Share a smile with us! Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or add us to Google+.The Affordable Care Act mandates dental coverage for children 18 and younger, but it leaves adults to fend for themselves where oral health is concerned. That’s a shame. The connection between oral health and overall health is well documented, and leaving adult dental coverage off the list of essential health benefits sends the wrong message about the importance oral health.
Dental insurance is unique among insurance products in several ways:
First, the generally low cost of dental insurance makes it highly affordable for many individuals and families.
Secondly, many people who purchase dental insurance start to benefit immediately, because dental insurance encourages, and generally pays for, regular check-ups.
The Top 3 Reasons Why Dental Insurance Makes Sense
The truth is, even without a federal mandate, people have bought – and will continue to buy – dental insurance for a variety of reasons.
Here are three of the most common reasons for buying dental insurance:
Reason 1: To Pay for Costly Care
Dental care can be as simple as a twice-yearly visit for a professional cleaning and x-rays. On the other hand, it can involve costly care, such as oral surgery, getting a full set of dentures, or needing a crown.
…expenses can mount quickly – especially if dental work is required as a result of an emergency…
Because expenses can mount quickly – especially if dental work is required as a result of an emergency – it truly pays to be covered. Depending on the type of insurance, dental plans generally pay either all or a percentage of the charges related to dental care.
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Reason 2: To Maintain a Healthy Mouth
Preventing oral health problems before they start is one of the best ways to keep dental costs down. Many studies have shown that regular dental check-ups and cleanings help people keep their teeth and gums healthy. That’s why most insurance plans pay 100% for check-ups every 6 months.
Just how important is preventive care? Well, let’s put it this way: It’s important enough that some dental insurance plans will even pay for a check-up immediately after new plan subscribers are approved for coverage.
Reason 3: To Protect Overall Health
You may not know it, but the truth is, there’s an awful lot a dentist can tell while gazing into your mouth. Studies have shown that our mouths can exhibit symptoms related to more than 120 different non-dental diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
So even if there’s nothing wrong with your teeth and gums (and we certainly hope that’s the case!), visiting a dentist regularly can lead to early detection of serious diseases, which alone can make dental insurance well worth the investment.
Peace of Mind…and a Gorgeous Smile, to Boot
The lifetime cost of maintaining a healthy mouth can mount to thousands of dollars, but for pennies a day, dental insurance will be there to provide important benefits when needed.
To learn more about the types of dental insurance available and find answers to your questions about dental insurance and oral care, visit the DentalInsurance.com knowledge base.
Learn More: Preventative Dentistry
It’s estimated that 75% of Americans have some form of periodontal disease, which is the most common cause for adult tooth loss. That’s especially surprising in this day and age, because the means for prevention is well known: regular basic oral hygiene. So, let’s take a few minutes to review…
The top 5 dental care practices for good oral health
A regular, daily oral care routine has been shown to help prevent cavities and periodontal disease. Add to that regular exams and smart choices about longer-term oral health strategies, and you can keep your teeth healthy for your entire lifetime.
With that in mind, here are the top 5 dental hygiene practices you need to follow to protect and preserve your oral health.
1. Brush your teeth, of course, but be sure you do it properly
Basic dental care begins with brushing. To provide the best protection against plaque – the bacteria film that forms on teeth and gums after eating, which degrades the tooth’s enamel – proper brushing technique is key.
Here’s a refresher on how to brush your teeth:
- Use a toothbrush that is right for you: toothbrushes vary in size, bristle strength, and other factors, and you should use one that allows you to reach all your tooth surfaces easily (ask your dentist or oral hygienist if you need help choosing)
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride
- Hold the brush against your teeth at a slight angle, and brush gently back and forth with short motions about the width of one tooth
- To brush the inside surfaces of front teeth, use a gentle up-and-down stroke
- Ensure that all the surfaces of your teeth – inner, outer, and chewing surfaces – are well brushed
- Finally, be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, and – while you’re at it – be sure to brush your tongue as well, to help remove any remaining bacteria and promote fresh breath
2. Floss between teeth frequently
Flossing your teeth is another important way to maintain oral health. Even after thoroughly brushing your teeth, bacteria that can lead to tooth decay may remain between your teeth. To remove any stubborn bacteria between your teeth and at the gum line, frequent flossing is strongly recommended.
Here are some tips for successful flossing:
- Use about one-and-a-half feet (18”) of floss, wrap it around the pointer or middle fingers of each hand, and insert the floss gently into the crevice between your teeth
- Start at one end of the floss, and move it through your fingers an inch or so each time that you move on to the next tooth, so each tooth crevice gets flossed with a clean, new section
- Gently rub the floss against the tooth and gum line; when you reach the gum line, place the floss in the space between the tooth and gum and press the floss lightly against the tooth while you move the floss up and down
- Work your way from one corner of your mouth all the way around to the beginning again, one tooth crevice at a time, including the back sides of the teeth at the ends of each row
- Explore different varieties of floss, floss holders, or interdental cleaners until you find what feels and works best for you
3. Eat a healthy diet
To maintain optimal oral health, eat a balanced diet with only a moderate amount of sweets or snacks. Whether you choose the Mediterranean diet, the FDA food pyramid, or some other dietary system to follow, the key to good nutrition ultimately comes down to consuming a wide and balanced variety of foods.
When it comes to your teeth, not all foods are created equal.
When it comes to your teeth, though, not all foods are created equal. Sweet, sticky snacks such as preserves, candy bars, and dried fruit, can be a threat to teeth and should be avoided unless it will be possible to brush soon after eating them. Some choices for snacking that are less prone to promote tooth decay include vegetables, nuts, and popcorn.
To learn more about the important role diet plays in oral health, talk to your dentist, oral hygienist, or family doctor.
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4. Visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly
Now that we’ve covered the three must-do daily regimens for oral health, let’s look at two longer-term strategies for basic dental hygiene. The first of these is regular, professional dental exams and cleanings. To maintain optimal dental health, most dentists and health professionals agree that you should visit the dentist twice yearly for a regular check-up.
Routine teeth cleaning by a professional dental hygienist is an indispensable component of one’s dental health regimen. A dental cleaning, or “prophylaxis,” is the first line defense in the field of preventative dentistry, and as such it is right up there with brushing and flossing in overall importance.
Regular visits to the dentist’s office not only help keep teeth as beautiful as possible: they also help keep teeth as healthy as possible. Your regular visits allow dental professionals to monitor your dental health so they can spot and correct any potential problems as early as possible.
Your dentist or hygienist may also suggest adding personalized elements to your daily oral care routine based on your specific situation. For example, they may suggest rinsing with mouthwash, using toothpaste with a specific ingredient, or taking a fluoride supplement.
5. Plan ahead for good oral health
Finally, planning ahead is an important strategy for maintaining long-term dental health.
Planning ahead for optimal health means knowing what to do in an emergency. Before you find yourself in an emergency dental situation, talk with your family dentist about the best ways to deal with various dental problems that might arise.
If you understand in advance what to do in an emergency – such as a bitten tongue, broken tooth, or impacted wisdom tooth – you might just save a tooth or two.
Planning ahead for optimal health also means having adequate dental insurance coverage. There are a wide variety of dental plans, features, and services available that help people to cover the costs of their dental care needs, from simple checkups to root canals and everything in between.
You can learn all about dental insurance basics, such as deductibles, co-insurance, and premiums, in the dental resources section.
A lifetime of happy, healthy smiles
To keep your teeth in the best possible health, be sure that you understand proper dental hygiene and the other elements of basic dental care. With proper dental hygiene, regular professional care, and the right planning to meet your needs, your teeth can last a lifetime.
Which parts of your oral care routine need a brush up?