What is Oral Health, anyway?
And why should I care? I just want a great SMILE. That is the refrain I hear from some of my patients when they come to see me for consultations about improving their smiles. They often are surprised to learn that the most important element to a great smile is healthy gums that drape just right around the teeth.
A healthy mouth has pink firm gums, the tongue is pink and not coated, and the teeth are clean and have minimal or no plaque deposits. A healthy mouth smells clean and fresh and is free from gum diseases and other disorders – including oral cancer. Isn’t that what everybody wants? Yet while many of my patients are diligent about their dental care, there are still some who steer clear of the office until it really hurts. They skip cleaning appointments and checkups thinking that somehow they are immune to dental diseases … until they have one!
The Importance of Preventative Dental Care
Studies show that despite years of dental health education, millions of people simply don’t show up for needed cleaning or treatment. This translates into millions of lost workdays as these people take time off for more extensive dental treatments later on.
The fact is, without regular, professional, preventive dental care, dental disease is almost inevitable and treatment is always more complex and costly than prevention.
You may think you’re saving by missing a few dental appointments, but odds are you’ll pay a lot more later, and I’m not just talking about money. Alarmingly, this year, as every year, for example, thousands of people will contract oral cancer. Caught in its early stages, its cure rate is excellent and I routinely screen for it during each checkup – unless you don’t show up, that is.
Actually, when I check your teeth, I see many other things you won’t see in your mirror. I can be alerted to possible hairline fractures, impacted wisdom teeth, deterioration of fillings, crowns, and other restorations, the beginnings of root cavities, pockets of infection caused by gum disease, and new decay tucked under the gumline or under existing older fillings. I can also tell when you are particularly stressed or at risk for the suffering that goes with temporomandibular (jaw) joint and bite problems by checking for bite marks on your cheeks, worn down or cracked enamel, and changes in your bite alignment.
Dental Problems Start Earlier than you Think…
Think about it: a healthy attractive smile is far more than vanity. It’s common sense. After all, the mouth is also the gateway to the body, and research continues to reveal new relationships between oral bacteria and systemic diseases. And while I’ve been focusing on adults in this article, in reality problems start way earlier. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one quarter of 2-to 5-year olds and half of kids 12-15 years old have one or more cavities, and tooth decay has affected two thirds of 16-to 19-year-olds.
These are just some of the reasons why I am committed to sharing information and keeping you informed so that you can make choices that will keep you and your family happier and healthier, longer. So when is the best time to come in and discuss a plan to prevent and maintain your optimal oral health? Now. Definitely.