The Dental Care Approach Is Not the same as Health Care: Preventive vs Restorative Approaches
Did you know that dental coverage does not quite work like your health insurance does? Many people avoid going to the dentist because of the cost. But, maintaining a healthy mouth is proven to save you money. Why? Because it improves your oral health and your overall health, avoiding costly problems and conditions later on. Not taking care of your smile leads to tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontitis all contribute to worsening overall health conditions. That’s why maintaining our oral health by using preventive dental care is so important.
We've been trained to call the doctor when we have an ear infection, bad allergies, stomach pain, etc. That means we're waiting for the problem to occur to address and fix it. Your smile works differently, though. Your dentist's job is to make sure your mouth is so healthy that problems don’t have the opportunity to arise. The dentist helps you avoid potentially painful and costly problems resulting from poor oral health. If you maintain your smile health, restorative care procedures probably won’t be needed.
Restorative Care vs Preventive Care
Some individuals never have the need for restorative dental care because they maintain what's called “preventive dental care.” Preventive care includes seeing your dentist twice a year for a cleaning, brushing twice a day and after meals with fluoridated toothpaste, and flossing daily. Tending to any other oral health concerns like teeth grinding or a dry mouth should also be part of your preventive care routine.
We take preventive measures for our bodies, even if you’re not familiar with the term. We exercise, we buy organic foods, we (should) maintain enough sleep so we can perform at our fullest. Your smile deserves the same care and attention. It benefits from preventive care just like our bodies do.
Artificial trans fats are banned from restaurants and grocers, smoking is illegal indoors, and “healthier” diets crop up everywhere we look. But when was the last time you heard someone proclaiming the importance of preventive dental care?
We don’t hear about it as often. That leads many individuals to be unaware of the impact poor dental health can have on overall health. In turn, lifelong practices of poor dental care result in overall health concerns and the need for costly restorative dental care. Restorative care is the next step dentists have to take after preventive dental care isn’t enough.
Where’s the Education Around Preventative Dental Care?
When was the last time you saw something about the dangers of smoking and its impact on your mouth and teeth? Probably not nearly as often as you hear how smoking impacts overall health. Smoking is responsible for higher rates of cavities and periodontal disease, but also for certain forms of mouth and esophageal cancer. When was the last time you heard of a city that was banning soft drinks because its sugar content and impact on the teeth?
Let’s think about schools. What if they implemented a Presidential Oral Fitness Award to kids who can display amazing brushing or flossing habits? Maybe one day we’ll get there, but for now, progress lies in research. We’re seeing more research into the connection between our oral and our overall health. By utilizing good preventive dental and oral health care, nearly all of oral health-related diseases can be prevented.
Good Preventative Dental Care
Good preventive oral health care starts with regular visits to the dentist each year. But it’s also about knowing and having good oral health habits at home by brushing at least twice per day, and flossing at least once per day. Other habits negatively impact our oral health including smoking, sugar consumption, diet, and alcohol consumption. Oral health in America has improved over the years, but still has a long way to go.
One in four Americans has untreated tooth decay, putting the total number at close to 100 million Americans. People with dental benefits are far more likely to see the dentist, and about 77 percent of the population has dental benefits. Consequently, people with dental coverage are also more likely to practice good preventative dental care at home.
According to the National Association of Dental Plans, those without dental insurance are:
- 67 percent more likely to have heart disease;
- 50 percent more likely to have osteoporosis; and
- 29 percent more likely to have diabetes.
This is due mostly to poor preventative oral health habits and not seeing the dentist regularly.
While we don’t hear often about the consequences of poor oral health, they are still hugely impacting and life changing.
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