Let’s be honest. No one really wants to have a filling or root canal done. We get it! But it happens to the best of us. Whether it is because you haven’t seen a dentist for 5 years, you love candy or you got hit in the face by a hockey puck, life happens and sometimes things happen to your teeth that need to be treated. Either way, we understand that you would rather not have this done, today or any other day.
So what can you do to help yourself avoid having these treatments done? We are going to explore that over our next few blog posts in a series we are calling Prevention is Key. Stay tuned as we explore different avenues to prevent some dental issues.
As this is the first post about prevention, let’s start at the beginning with the most basic of all the prevention techniques:
Routine examinations by your dentist
Why is this important? If we are going to prevent something from happening, we need to be at least one step ahead of it and identify factors that put you at risk for something happening. Once we can identify the risks, we can do things to either avoid them or to help manage the risks. But if we don’t know the risks are there and we let them continue unchecked, it is more likely that something negative will happen.
What do we mean by this?
Let’s take a toddler who likes to go to bed with a bottle for an example. If no one has told his new parents that milk has natural sugars in it that can cause cavities to form on his teeth, they may put milk in his bottle because milk is his favourite. As he sips on the milk before he falls asleep, the sugars in the milk feed the bacteria that cause the cavities. Since he is doing this after he went to bed, the milk is not brushed off his teeth. After months and months of this, he develops cavities on his baby teeth that now need to be filled. But, if they had brought him to the dentist for an exam before this happened, we could have helped educate them on how milk in bottles at night can cause cavities. The parents then could have chosen to put water in his bottle instead and lowered the chances of their little boy having early childhood decay. I am sure that you would agree with me that in this scenario, knowledge would empower the parents to make the best decision for their child. No judgement here, just illustrating a particular situation that happens sometimes when parents aren’t aware.
And what about the father who likes to play recreational hockey with his buddies? They are just playing for fun on Tuesday nights and celebrate with beer and chicken wings afterwards. No one wears a sports guard or full face shield as it is just for fun. But then someone’s shot goes awry and dad gets a puck to the mouth and breaks 3 of his front teeth. No beer for dad tonight – he’s off to a see a dentist for an emergency visit and may lose some teeth! But if he had discussed his love for playing hockey with his dentist, they could have made him a fun coloured sports guard to wear when he is playing or discussed getting a full face shield for his helmet to protect his teeth from stray pucks. And who knows, he may have even told his friends to do the same!
There are many risk factors your dentist can identify during exams that help prevent dental issues down the road. Do they see wear on your teeth? You may be grinding your teeth and a night guard would help protect your teeth when you sleep. Is plaque forming on a specific tooth? They can point this out for you and help you find a way to clean it better to prevent a cavity. Are your gums red and swollen? They can identify issues causing this and help you correct them to avoid gum disease.
It is hard to go into detail here without going on forever about all the possible scenarios your dentist is looking for and thinking of at your visit. We will try to go into more detail about common ones over the next few blogs in this series for you. But basically, when you are in for an exam with your dentist, he or she is looking for:
- the overall health of the tissues and bones that form your head and neck
- lumps and bumps – these could be a sign of an infection, a cyst or oral cancer
- broken or decayed teeth
- early signs of cavities
- gum health and signs of gum disease
- the condition of the dental work you have in your mouth – crowns, fillings, dentures, retainers, etc.
- how your teeth fit together
- signs of grinding or clenching
- the function of your TMJ (temporomandibular joint) – your jaw joint
- anything else that doesn’t look right
We can’t prevent or avoid everything but the more we try, the healthier your mouth will be. So do what you can at home to help protect your mouth and visit your dentist regularly to identify risks and early signs of issues. And follow along as we go through as many prevention tips and strategies as we can for you over the next few posts!