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Oral Health Questions Answered

Posted on February 19, 2020 in Dental Health


Oral Health Questions Answered

Take care of your dental health and your teeth, gums and smile will take care of you! Healthy teeth and gums are important for chewing, speaking clearly, feeling confident and more. With so many roles, it’s important to prioritize your dental health. However, what are the most important questions to ask your dentist? To learn those questions, and the answers, we spoke with Dr. Jeffrey Chaffin, vice president and dental director at Delta Dental of Iowa and asked him questions on dental health ranging from birth through your golden years. Here is what he had to say.

Children’s Dental Health

When should my child have their first dental exam? Your child should have their first dental exam within six months after their first tooth emerges or around one year old, explains Dr. Chaffin. He reminds parents that this is the time to begin instilling good dental habits such as brushing, going to the dentist and eating a healthy diet. These steps set your child up for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Now that your child is getting annual dental exams, an oft-asked question besides the basics - cavities and emergence of permanent teeth?  In addition to looking for cavities, dentists often assess whether they can put sealants on teeth to prevent future cavities. Dentists also look at whether there are growth or development issues that need early intervention.

Should my child wear a mouthguard during contact sports? Mouth guards are very important for children who play contact sports. Dentists recommend a mouthguard (for children and adults) for sports like baseball, softball, soccer, football, wrestling, hockey or activities like bike riding, horseback riding and skateboarding. Mouthguards are important because they can prevent trauma to the teeth and other oral structures. Your dentist can custom make a mouthguard but there are products available in stores as well.

Many people grind their teeth when they sleep, and dentists are often asked by parents if they should be concerned if their child grinds their teeth. Don’t stress about it, says Dr. Chaffin. It’s not uncommon for kids to grind their teeth but it’s okay to tell your dentist and have them look into it during a dental exam.

Acidic and sugary drinks can wreak havoc on teeth. We often hear parents concerned about their teenagers drinking soda and inquire about how to help their child kick the sugar habit. Sugary beverages can be difficult to cut and they are related to increased cavities. One suggestion is to try to encourage your child to reduce the consumption and/or offer some alternatives. Most important, though, is to make sure your child is brushing their teeth after drinking sugary beverages.

Dental Health for Older Adults

Our teeth can change as we age and a question that dentists often hear is what to do when teeth become sensitive to hot and cold drinks.  Dr. Chaffin notes that while the positive thing is that most people keep their teeth as they age, there can be some gum recession and some sensitive parts of the teeth become exposed. There are products available to reduce sensitivity, but if the sensitivity persists, see your dentist.

People of all ages can grind their teeth and in some cases, can cause jaw pain. What can be done to reduce or eliminate the jaw pain? You should tell your dentist so they can look at your jaw to determine if there are any underlying problems associated with grinding. In some cases, a mouth guard can be made to limit teeth grinding at night for adults.

Dentists are often asked, “What are some oral health conditions that affect us as we age?” The same oral diseases that affect younger people can still affect older adults. However, with many older adults on multiple medications, these can cause a dry mouth, which can lead to more susceptibility for things like cavities and periodontal disease. You dentist will look for these things during an exam, but be sure to let them know if you are experiencing dry mouth issues.

While some adults are affected by oral health conditions, some people's health conditions can affect oral health. For example, if you have diabetes, is there anything you can do to keep your mouth healthy? For a diabetic, there is a relationship between oral health and blood glucose levels. If periodontal disease or gum disease goes uncontrolled, it’s much more difficult to manage blood glucose levels, affecting overall health. I’m important to maintain good home care.

General Questions Answered

Another common question dentists are asked is if anything different needs to be done with teeth when pregnant. There are changes in the body while pregnant including the oral cavity, especially the gum tissue. Dr. Chaffin encourages women to seek care from their dentist to be sure there are no gum problems during pregnancy.

Some people are very fortunate to have perfect teeth, but does that mean you don’t need dental exams? No. You still need to see your dentist regularly because you don’t know what else may be going on in your mouth and its about more than just teeth. Your dentist looks at your overall oral health and they can identify any potential issues before they become more severe.

I have perfect teeth. Do I still need to have regular dental exams? According to Dr. Chaffin, even though it seems that your teeth are perfect, you still need to see your dentist regularly because you don't know what else may be going on in your oral cavity. Dental exams are about more than just teeth. Dentists examine for overall health as well and can help identify issues early.

Tips for Selecting The Right Dental Insurance

Many employers have discovered that offering competitive benefits packages that include dental insurance is a great way to recruit and keep great employees. Companies planning expansions or looking at adding dental insurance for the first time often ask, “What are the benefits of adding dental insurance to my compensation package?” Dr. Chaffin says that employers who offer dental insurance show they are interested in their employees overall health and these employees tend to go to the dentist more often. In addition, research has found that those with dental insurance are 1.5 times more likely to to a dentist each year. This practice helps dentists identify early problems and help prevent future disease.

It is important to know what is typically covered on an individual or family insurance plan. The goal of dental plans are to focus on prevention. Most plans are comprehensive, one of the most important things they cover are diagnostics and prevention – services such as dental cleanings, x-rays, dental sealants for children, etc. at little to no cost to the patient. These plans can also cover restorative procedures such as cavities, crowns, gum disease and oral surgery. Delta Dental of Iowa offers several dental plans to meet all types of needs.

While this may be a lot of information to digest, the most important thing to remember, says Dr. Chaffin, “We recommend brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, and seeing your dentist twice a year.” Healthy smiles and better overall health are possible with disciplined oral health care.