Everything You Need to Know About Preventive Dentistry

Preventive dentistry is the practice of taking care of your teeth (and the rest of your mouth) to maintain good health and avoid oral health issues like cavities, gingivitis, and tooth sensitivity.

Daily oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings are the cornerstones of preventative dentistry. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends dental visits at regular intervals set by you and your dentist.

If you forgo these preventive methods, you may allow your dental health to spiral out of control. Tooth decay or damage, gum disease, and other oral health issues can cost you more money, time, and stress in the long run than if you had prevented these issues — not to mention their impact on your overall health.

Rejuvenation Dentistry prioritizes preventative dentistry, as well as biological treatments that don’t sacrifice your dental structure or holistic health. Schedule an appointment with Rejuvenation Dentistry in NYC today.

What is preventive dentistry?

Preventive dentistry is when a dentist gives you treatments, advice, or dental work to avoid oral health problems. That means going to the dentist regularly, even when you don’t have any oral health complaints.

  • Dental treatments may include fluoride treatments for early tooth decay or probiotics or an imbalanced microbiome.
  • Medical advice might be to change your diet or to floss differently.
  • Dental work may also treat dental issues while preventing future issues. For instance, orthodontic braces align teeth, thus preventing potential problems like TMJ disorder and possibly even sleep apnea. Another example: Fillings can prevent cavities or tooth infections from spreading. Most insurance providers consider fillings as a basic restorative service, though. (Make sure your dentist is not using mercury fillings; ask about biocompatible materials.)

What is the main goal of preventive dentistry? The main goal of preventive dentistry is to prevent oral health problems (cavities, gingivitis, halitosis, thrush, etc.) from developing. Preventing these conditions saves you money and improves your quality of life.

What are the three levels of prevention in dentistry?

  1. Primary prevention — This refers to completely preventing a disease, such as tooth decay, from developing in the first place. Primary prevention should begin at a young age.
  2. Secondary prevention — This refers to slowing, stopping, or reversing a disease that has begun to develop. If a dentist notices early signs of cavities, that decay can be addressed.
  3. Tertiary prevention — This refers to slowing or stopping a fully-developed condition from spreading. Some may consider this level rehabilitation or symptom management.

Key Elements of Preventive Dentistry

  • Brushing your teeth daily
  • Using a mouth-friendly toothpaste, such as Revitin
  • Flossing once a day
  • Eating a balanced diet that’s friendly to you oral microbiome
  • Visiting your dentist’s office 1-2 times a year for a cleaning and check-up
  • Scheduling oral exams, such as oral cancer screenings
  • Getting mouth-friendly dental work done
  • Rinsing your mouth out after consuming sugary, starchy, or acidic food and drink
  • Taking oral probiotics to balance the good bacteria in your mouth

Preventive Dental Care Starts at Home

To prevent cavities, gingivitis, and other oral health problems, preventive dentistry needs to start at home. Your daily oral hygiene routine is paramount.

Here are the best at-home tips to an oral hygiene routine which slows or prevents oral health issues:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day. Aim your brush at a 45° angle towards your gum line and brush in gentle circles.
  • Always use soft bristles on your toothbrush, never medium or hard bristles. Medium and hard bristles wear away at your dental enamel, leading to dental problems like tooth sensitivity.
  • Use a sonic toothbrush with a replaceable brush head, instead of a fixed manual brush.
  • Replace your brush head every 3 months. Frayed bristles are much less effective at cleaning teeth.
  • Floss once a day, before you brush. Brushing alone doesn’t address interdental plaque.
  • Air dry your toothbrush by sticking the brush head up in the air, far from any toilet. If the toothbrush must be near a toilet, close the toilet lid whenever you flush.
  • Rinse your mouth out with water (not alcohol-based mouthwash) after eating or drinking anything sugary, starchy, or acidic. Sugars and starches contribute to cavities, and acids erode your tooth enamel.
  • Eat a tooth-friendly diet — low in carbs, but high in calcium and fiber. Anything that promotes saliva production should help keep your mouth healthier.
  • Consider probiotics for your mouth and teeth. The oral microbiome is made up of beneficial bacteria, but an imbalanced microbiome can lead to inflammation, gum disease, oral thrush, and other issues. At-home probiotics can help balance the microbiome.

What is the best way to prevent tooth decay? The best way to prevent tooth decay is to brush and floss every day, and to visit your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings. You can also adjust your diet.

Preventive Dental Care Diet

A teeth-friendly diet is important to preventing oral health problems. A balanced diet should include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and fiber. A healthy diet should also avoid added sugar, excess starches, and highly acidic foods.

Here’s what you should eat and drink on a preventive dental care diet:

Here are the foods you should limit on a dental diet:

  • Sticky foods, like candy or dried fruit
  • Sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks
  • Highly acidic foods, like citrus
  • Constant carbs, including from bread
  • Alcohol

Preventive Dentistry for Kids

Pediatric dentistry is commonly overlooked, even though young ones’ oral health is vital.

Children should be taught proper oral hygiene to prevent dental health problems. As soon as a child gets a tooth, they should start to learn about brushing.

Just because they don’t have their permanent teeth doesn’t mean you can forgo oral hygiene.

At home, make sure kids are only using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Due to their increased tendency to swallow toothpaste, the pea-size standard reduces their risk of adverse events due to swallowing — especially if using fluoride toothpaste.

Professional preventive dental services for kids include:

  • Dental sealants use composite resin or glass ionomer to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Teeth cleanings are critical in getting rid of tartar and plaque buildup, especially under your gum line, where periodontal disease (gum disease) can quickly develop.
  • Fluoride treatments keep children’s healthy smiles cavity-free. Professional fluoride treatments are safer than fluoride toothpaste since there’s almost no risk of swallowing the treatment. Still, some parents may want to avoid fluoride due to its risks.

Do all dentists offer preventive care?

During regular dental checkups and professional cleanings, most dentists and dental hygienists will look out for warning signs of common oral health problems. They may consult you on how to prevent these oral conditions from getting worse.

Most dentists may also do dental work to slow or prevent oral disease progression. For example, dental sealants may protect your back teeth from developing cavities for many years.

A select few dentists and dental healthcare providers dedicate more effort to preventing all oral health problems, however rare, as well as systemic health issues that start in the mouth. They may call themselves functional, holistic, integrative, or biological dentists.

Is preventive dentistry expensive?

Many dental insurance plans cover 2 preventive dental visits per year — though sometimes, not the full cost. Check if your insurance covers anything else so you can take full advantage of the available preventive dentistry services.

The average cost of a dental checkup ranges from $90-$500, depending on where you live and if you’re getting X-rays. Dental insurance usually covers a lot of that cost. Many dental offices offer new patient specials.

Benefits Of Preventive Dentistry

Preventive dentistry prevents people from developing costly oral health problems, such as:

  • Cavities & tooth decay
  • Gingivitis & gum disease
  • Enamel loss
  • Dental infections
  • Dental cavitations
  • Oral thrush
  • Chronic halitosis

Everyone benefits from preventive dentistry:

  • Children’s newly developing adult teeth can come in strong and healthy if preventive dentistry has protected their early oral health.
  • Teens and young adults suffer when their oral health problems are allowed to go unaddressed. Preventive dentistry anticipates changes they experience through adolescence and young adulthood and leads to better health, employment, and social outcomes.
  • Adults can benefit from preventive dentistry since it helps them to keep their real teeth as they transition into later life.
  • Older adults can continue to benefit from prevention methods since some untreated oral health conditions increase your risk of heart disease or dementia.

Good oral health is associated with overall health in your whole body. The mouth can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, but it can also be a haven for helpful bacteria if you take care of your oral hygiene. To learn more about the connection between oral health and overall wellness, check out Dr. Curatola’s book, The Mouth-Body Connection.

Good oral hygiene may significantly lower risk of secondary systemic health problems caused by poor oral health, including:

Practicing preventive dentistry can also save you money in the long run.

Is preventive dental care right for you?

Preventive dental care is right for everyone. Letting your dental health slip can lead to oral health problems, systemic health issues, social dysfunction, and other problems that cost you time, money, and happiness.

Take control of your oral health. Contact Rejuvenation Dentistry today and set up your appointment to safely and effectively address your oral and systemic health problems.

Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned biologic restorative dentist with more than 40 years of clinical practice experience.

He studied neuroscience at Colgate University and attended dental school at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry where he now serves as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care.