Ok, so I brush twice a day, floss at night, eat well – there is no pain so why should I go to a dentist?
A common misunderstanding about going to the dentist is that we can cure dental disease. This is only partially true. The reality is that everything wears out, be it your new car, house, computer, fillings or teeth! I have many patients with healthy teeth well into their 80s and some in their 90s, and many people disappointed with their failing teeth and unhappy with the results of years of dentistry under the age of 50. So how can we help you to become one of our long term satisfied patients enjoying the benefits of a healthy mouth for decades?
Dentistry fails—preventistry works!
I had a small filling done on a bottom tooth 30 years ago. It was replaced with a larger but stronger gold filling 8 years later. The tooth cracked around this strong filling on my 40th birthday and I needed a crown. About 5% of teeth that are crowned need a root canal treatment in 5 years. Root canal teeth are weak and it may split and need eventual removal! Sound Familiar?
So I may eventually lose one tooth but all my other teeth are in excellent shape. Why?
Prevention! Avoid the filling in the first place, or get it done as small as possible. Here’s my guide to healthy happy smiles for life!
Start Early – Bring children every 6 months to build up their confidence, and get good advice on hygiene and diet. Start from pregnancy and you will avoid the fear cycle and make dental visits fun for your child.
Seal Fissures– any grooves in your teeth attract bacteria and plaque films that can’t be brushed off. The most at risk are the biting surfaces of the adult 6yr old and 12yr old molars. Simple sealants that release protective minerals and stop bacteria starting decay on these areas are easily placed. Children who have been regularly from the age of 2 find this procedure fun and non-invasive, meaning they trust their dentist for life rather than developing fears.
I still get my teeth sealed with plastic more durable adult sealants if necessary but some of mine were last sealed nearly 20 years ago!
Treat Decay Early– If you need a filling, get it done ASAP. Why wait until there is little tooth left or you have a toothache and need a root canal – it just increases the risk! The teeth below looked fine until you see what was lurking beneath.
Maintain your engine– regular checks at the dentist also involves regular professional cleans. Over time the build-up on your teeth can result in gum disease. Your teeth become loose and the jawbone is damaged irreversibly. To prevent gum disease requires maintenance. Despite good home care and dental hygiene I still get moderate levels of calculus build-up after 6 months.
The important thing is that there is no damage to the gums because I haven’t missed a 6 month exam and clean in my life. Having a father and brother as dentists helped me understand the value of preventive care over a lifetime. See below the results of gum disease when you leave it too long.
Not having a regular clean is like driving a Ferrari around Fraser Island for years without a service and wondering what happened when it stops working!
Protect weak teeth – Old metal fillings creep over the years like lead being hit with a hammer. Eventually, this puts strains on your teeth and they can fracture and split. If you wait too long this split may be catastrophic. Even replacing metal fillings with white plastic fillings may not be strong enough to resist fracture forces. This is why dentists recommend a crown, and exactly what happened to me on my 40th birthday. (You can see my gold crown in the photo at the top of this post) Not what a dentist expects when they look after their teeth—but nothing lasts forever and my filled tooth had been weakened. You can see how teeth can split in the following pictures.
Below is a cracked tooth protected with a porcelain crown / cap
Wear a mouthguard – I just put this one in as a no brainer—no mouthgaurd / no play!
Replace missing teeth – It may not seem important at the time but when you lose a tooth your other teeth have to work harder, and are more likely to break or wear out. This leads to an ever worsening cycle of destruction. Also your jawbone becomes smaller and weaker and your remaining teeth move into poor positions.
Many people in later years find their mouth has become a complex and expensive concern to them. Intervention when they were younger would have made all the difference. People with full d entures have continuing jawbone loss because of the lack of bone stimulation dentures provide. As they lose more bone the dentures fit worse and worse in later years leading to great discomfort and lack of chewing power. The jaws also fail to support the face anymore. Many older people that have had dentures for decades complain that their new dentures are worse than the original ones. We regularly see denture wearers wanting to have implants to fix and recreate what they have lost.
Trust your dentist– We are here to help you enjoy your teeth for life. If you have questions, we pride ourselves on taking the time to help you understand your options. We love to talk, educate, and have happy patients! Does your dentist stand by their work. Do they help you understand your particular risks.
Find a dentist that wants to be there helping you for life, not someone that is just cheaper, a health fund preferred provider, and that may not be around in 5, 10, 20 years to stand by their commitment to your health.
Oh, and smile!