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The field of dentistry that seeks to prevent dental problems and help patients maintain good dental health is known as preventative dentistry. Maintaining good dental health should begin in infancy. Parents can clean their children’s gums after a feeding even before teeth appear. This sets babies on the road to a lifetime of good dental habits that can help ensure they enjoy good dental health for many years to come. Once the first tooth appears, children should visit the dentist for the first time and continue with regular checkups every six months. Preventative dentistry in childhood may include fluoride treatments or the application of dental sealants. Teens may be advised to wear customized mouth guards that can protect their teeth as they play certain sports.

Preventative dental care continues throughout adulthood as well. Because three out of every four Americans has some form of dental disease and about half of all adults have gum disease1, adults should continue regular dental exams at least every six months. Professional cleanings and exams may need to be more frequent if the patient has a history of cavities, gum disease or has certain health problems, such as diabetes. Older patients may need assistance with daily hygiene habits, particularly if they are suffering from cognitive decline or have limited motor skills due to arthritis or other health problems. Electric tooth brushes can help them better clean their teeth, and flossing tools can make it easier to clean between teeth even with poor manual dexterity.

Brushing twice daily or after meals can limit the amount of plaque that builds up on teeth. Plaque and the bacteria it contains are linked to the development of tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. When you brush, hold your soft-bristled nylon toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, and move your brush back and forth in a slight circular motion to clean two or three teeth at a time. Carefully brush the inside surface, the outside surface and the biting surface before rinsing thoroughly. The entire process should take about two minutes. Scrape your tongue to remove extra bacteria and debris, and then floss your teeth using an 18-inch length of dental floss slid carefully between each set of teeth.

Professional cleanings are necessary even if you are thorough in your daily dental habits. Some hard-to-reach areas may not be cleaned effectively, which can allow plaque and tartar to build up and threaten your dental health. Your dentist will use special tools to remove any tartar, which cannot be removed at home, and then polish your teeth to perfection. He or she may also offer advice on tools and products you can use to keep your teeth even cleaner. For example, electric toothbrushes are often ideal for people who have limited dexterity or who prefer their ease-of-use. You may also benefit from fluoride treatments if you drink primarily bottled water or if you have a history of tooth decay.

Your dentist will also carefully examine your teeth for signs of decay or damage. If you have any restorations, those will all be checked to ensure they are still strong and intact. Your gums will be assessed. Dental X-rays and impressions may be taken to create a treatment plan that will help preserve or restore your dental health. You may be provided with information that can help you better maintain your dental health.

By maintaining a strict regimen of at-home dental hygiene and regularly seeking timely dental care, you can often avoid many serious dental health problems and keep your teeth, gums and jawbone strong and healthy.



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