According to medical dictionaries, preventive dentistry is “dentistry concerned with maintenance of a normal masticating mechanism by fortifying the structures of the oral cavity against damage and disease.” Yet even with this definition, you may still be wondering “What is it?” In more general terms, preventive dentistry is an area of dentistry that focuses on preventing dental problems before they start. By utilizing procedures, practices, and life skills that help to maintain proper oral health, preventive dentistry aims to stop problems before they begin or to prevent the progression of an oral disease.
Typically, there are two aspects to this type of dentistry. The first and most important aspect involves the oral hygiene habits that you perform at home. In short, this involves regularly brushing and flossing your teeth in order to maintain optimal dental health. However, it is also encompasses assessments, procedures, and practices employed by your dentist and dental staff to help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. Both aspects are crucial to your oral health and the main objective is to stop the progression of oral diseases in their very early stages.
More specifically, its includes prophylaxis, examination, diagnosis, and treatment. Prophylaxis refers to the cleaning process employed either by yourself or your dentist. Obviously it is important to thoroughly and regularly clean your teeth at home, but it is also important to have regular dental check-ups by a professional. No matter how painstakingly you clean your teeth, there is always the risk of periodontal disease and only your dentist will be aware of all the signs and symptoms of a possible disease. In addition, thorough examination of your teeth and gums through professional dentistry techniques, x-rays, and oral cancer screening is another crucial aspect of preventive dentistry. Especially in the case of oral cancer, in which more than half of cases have already metastasized to the lymph nodes by the time of diagnosis, preventive dentistry can even be a life saver. Moreover, your dentist will have special techniques for identifying and diagnosing periodontal disease so that you can be given the correct treatment.
Finally, preventive dentistry also relies heavily on education. Your dentist can give you very useful information about home care, nutrition, and lifestyle habits that have a positive or negative impact on your overall dental health. Of course proper brushing and flossing on a regular schedule are crucial for your oral health, but mouth rinses, home fluoride applications, and learning the proper techniques for brushing and flossing are also keys to preventive dentistry. In addition, your dentist can give you information and access to techniques for smoking cessation and other skills that will help you to maintain healthy teeth and gums throughout your life.