Preventive dentistry is the area of dentistry that focuses on those procedures and life practices that help people to prevent the beginning or progression of oral disease. It includes at-home dental care performed by patients, as well as dental care and education by professional dental staff in the office or clinic.
Preventive dentistry includes two aspects of dental care, both performed to help patients avoid dental disease or to catch it in its early, more treatable stages. In part, it is the oral hygiene care performed by the patient at home. Preventive dentistry also encompasses what is done by the dental staff in their offices to help patients maintain healthy teeth and gums. In either case, the objective is to stop the development of oral disease or to find it at an early stage. We most often look for early signs of periodontal disease, dental decay, and other changes in the soft tissue of the mouth that could lead to oral cancer.
Preventive care in a dental office includes prophylaxis, or the cleaning of the teeth, which removes accumulations of calculus. It includes examination of the teeth and soft tissue, using visual and tactile exams, radiographic examination, such as x rays, and oral cancer screening. Newer techniques to diagnose periodontal, or gum disease, include computerized measurement devices that measure the bacterial content in the mouth. Sometimes, dentists prescribe medications to help prevent dental disease. These include anti-inflammatory mouthwashes to prevent periodontal problems.
Preventive procedures often performed by us for children include the use of fluoride supplements and applications. We apply dental sealants to children's teeth, forming a barrier between tooth crevasses and bacteria to help ward off dental decay. We also look for malocclusions, and might refer patients to a dental specialist, such as an orthodontist, to correct a patient's bad bite. Experts state that children should be evaluated by an orthodontist by age seven.
An important part of preventive dentistry performed by us is educating patients about at-home care, nutrition, and smoking cessation. At-home procedures performed by patients that help ward off dental disease include regular and proper brushing, flossing and sometimes use of mouth rinses and at-home fluoride applications. We and our staff explain proper brushing and flossing techniques. Preventive dental care should begin in infancy, within the first year of life before teeth first appear, and continue throughout life. Even before teeth erupt, parents can clean infants' gums after feeding. Preventive care in adolescence includes brushing and flossing, as well as wearing custom-made mouth guards to protect the teeth during contact sports.
Mr. Gopalkrishna Balimane
Deputy COO (Medical) at MetLife AIG ANB Cooperative Insurance