How to save yourself time, money and pain by visiting the dentist (really)

Dr. Erica Kight

Preventative Services at The Dental Studio

Preventative services. If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Today, dentists offer a variety of specialized preventative treatments to help their patients, well, prevent disease, emergencies, and pain. Pretty straightforward, right? They’re also pretty important. The problem is, your dentist’s approach to preventing issues is quite a bit different than your physician’s – in fact, they’re completely opposite. And that’s what keeps some people from getting the dental care they really need. Confused yet?

Let me explain.

The vast majority of people know the traditional medical approach to keeping tabs on overall health quite well – you see your doc, take a quick peek at this and that, kick the tires, and if all seems fine, you leave with some good advice on how to live healthier and reduce risks. Perhaps you’ll be back to do it again next year. But maybe, like many people you’ll say “hey, I’m healthy, nothing’s changed…so what’s the point? I’ll call her up if I get sick.” And that’s the key here – your doctor begins treatment only once you’re already sick. Not your doc’s fault – it’s just how medicine works (for now, at least).

But wouldn’t it be awesome if you could know what was coming, and take proactive steps to stop things in their tracks? The good news is that when it comes to your oral health, your dentist can!

In dental science, we’re able flip the approach, providing you with specialized treatments to prevent many problems before they affect your health, time and cash (and who doesn’t want more of those!). Below I’ll go through the specific preventative treatments I offer and why I recommend them, too. (Oh, and pro-tip…your dentist earns much more from fixing problems than preventing them…so don’t say I didn’t try and help you out.)

So if you’re like many people who call up your dentist only after something’s already gone wrong, that’s ok! You’re always welcome at our office – a decidedly 100% judgement-free zone. We know are lots of reasons a trip to the dentist can be an uncomfortable, and our goal at The Dental Studio is to remove as many of them as we possibly can. In fact, we like to say we do “Dentistry that’s delightfully different” – comfortable, friendly, and focused on you. I hope you’ll come check us out.

Alright, let’s get to preventing!

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CLEANINGS

(or if you’re super fancy… we dentists call this “prophylaxis”)

First off, the well-known cleaning that most people get every six months. Here’s the thing. Gum disease is 100% preventable. Plaque is a bacterial coating that forms on your teeth. It’s removed with brushing and flossing. However, if not removed within 24-36 hours, plaque hardens and turns into tartar (also called calculus). Even someone with meticulous oral hygiene will miss areas. The only way to remove that tartar (hardened plaque) is to have a cleaning by your dentist or hygienist. What causes gum disease is the bacteria in that plaque and tartar. Your body produces an inflammatory response to that bacteria. As result you can have red and inflamed gums (gingivitis). Over time you’ll lose the supporting bone (periodontal disease).

During your cleaning, the tartar will be removed. You’ll be evaluated for gum disease and informed of areas you’re missing. If you saw on social media, I had my cleaning done and sure enough. There were several areas where I needed to improve! And here’s another point. Many people are seen every six months. However, some people who have gum disease or are at a high risk may need to be seen every three or four months. It’s a case-by-case basis.

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FLUORIDE TREATMENTS

(The best defense!)

Fluoride treatments are not just for kids – I don’t care what insurance companies say. When it comes to fighting cavities, fluoride is one of the best defenses. Fluoride is often covered by insurance. However, even if it’s not covered, a $25 fluoride treatment is much cheaper than one and especially multiple fillings and crowns. To me it’s a no brainer!

I recommend fluoride treatments for kids because they are still learning how to brush and floss properly. Even when supervised by mom and dad, they still can miss areas. Fluoride helps provide a little extra assurance and protection for kiddos.

I still will recommend a fluoride treatment for adults if there is a history of having a lot of cavities OR we’ve seen multiple new cavities develop. It’s rarely covered by insurance, but you can think of it as “buying your own insurance.” Again, a $25 fluoride treatment is much less than any kind of filling or crown. It also helps save your own tooth structure!

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SEALANTS

(The defender of the back teeth)

Sealants reduce the risk of decay by almost 80%! The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released a report on the importance of sealants for school-aged children since cavities are the most common childhood disease.

How do they work? Sealants are a thin, protective coating that adhere to the chewing surface of your back teeth. They help prevent cavities that can form here. It fills in those deep grooves so that bacteria and acid cannot settle on your teeth. It also makes it easier to keep those hard-to-reach areas clean. 

Who can get them? Most of the focus is on children but anyone can… yes, even adults! However, the earlier you get them, the more protected your teeth will be.

Is it easy to get a sealant? Absolutely! It’s quick, easy, and pain-free. You do not have to be numb, and each one takes about 30 seconds or less!

Is there BPA in sealants? Yes, but it’s a super tiny amount. See the ADA’s chart to compare. You’ll get more exposure to BPA from breathing air.

It’s not summer break just yet. To review, learn more, and test your knowledge, take this sealant quiz.

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SPACE MAINTAINERS

(Adult tooth: “Hold that space for me!”)

“Oh, it’s just a baby tooth. It doesn’t matter.” It’s a phrase I hear, and it makes me cringe. Baby teeth are important! Baby teeth hold the space for the upcoming adult teeth. If a baby tooth comes out too soon, the surrounding teeth may become crowded. This blocks out the adult tooth from coming in.  It can lead to serious issues and even extensive surgery to correct.

The good news is an easy, pain-free space maintainer can be placed if a baby tooth is lost prematurely. All that is needed is a quick impression one day and the painless insertion of it another day. When it’s determined the adult tooth is coming it, it’s then easily removed. It’s a simple, non-invasive way to avoid a bad bite and unnecessary surgery or extra time in braces.

 

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ORAL CANCER SCREENINGS

(Every patient, every time)

Oral cancer screenings are done at every exam to look for any suspicious areas. This is because oral cancer can occur in anyone. Yes, there is a higher risk in those who use tobacco products or have other risk factors. Yet, I still check every patient, every time.

A lot of the time you may not even know I’m doing it. It’s that quick and painless! I’ll feel underneath your chin on your neck for any hard or fixed lymph nodes. I’ll then take a look at your soft tissues. Soft tissues are the “pink” areas of your mouth – lips, tongue, under your tongue, gums, palate/roof of your mouth, and throat. And that’s it! Easy, right?

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. You can check out my Facebook Live from last week for more information on oral cancer. Also, stayed tuned on social media for more information about this important topic!

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(Providing exams and fluoride treatments to kids in Cabo San Lucas while pregnant with Addison.)

MY PERSONAL PLEA

(Help me help you!)

One thing I love about dentistry is that I have the ability to help you avoid pain.

Here is a situation that breaks my heart. I’ve recommended sealants and fluoride (simple, painless, insurance-covered) to a parent for years. They continue to refuse. Then I have to deliver news that his/her child has multiple cavities or needs extractions. They will have several visits. And, the child will also have to be numb.

To those who don’t have dental insurance, I get it. My parents were small business owners and never had dental insurance either. Bless their hearts though. They took me every six months for cleanings and always made sure I had my fluoride treatments. They realized that preventative services were the best “insurance” they could have. The money that they put toward preventative items was significantly less than any fillings or other major work.

What I love is seeing healthy kids, with healthy smiles, having great experiences in my chair! These preventative services are easy for everyone. These kids leave with a sense of confidence and teeth without pain. Something every kid should have. Preventative services are a “win” for everyone!

Thanks for reading!

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