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What Is Preventive Dental Care?

Preventive dental care means actively caring for your teeth through brushing, flossing and regular checkups.

The goal of preventive dental care is to identify and fix small problems before they become big, and potentially costly, issues.

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1. Gum disease1,2

Gum (or periodontal) disease is one of the biggest threats to dental health, and 42% of us have some form of it.1 However, it’s often painless and can have subtle or no warning signs, meaning you could have it and not even know it.

That makes those semi-annual trips to the dentist vitally important. Brushing and flossing can help keep gum disease at bay, but only identification by a dentist can truly address a potentially dangerous but easily treatable disease.

Gum disease often starts as gingivitis. A few symptoms to look for include gums that bleed during and after brushing, persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth, or red or swollen gums. But remember, treating gingivitis right away can prevent it from causing harm to your teeth and gums.2

2. Replacement fillings3

Adults who had cavities filled as children likely have some metal fillings in their mouths. Metal fillings have been the standard for dentists for more than a century due to their durability, but they can wear out or become damaged. By making regular trips to the dentist, you’re ensuring your fillings are receiving regular evaluation for weaknesses. The earlier any such problems are detected, the easier they are to fix.

3. Oral cancer3,4

The American Cancer Socitety estimates more than 49,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.4 Early detection is the key to minimizing your risk. If you need motivation to keep making regular visits later in life, know you’ll be getting a cancer screening each time you settle into the dentist’s chair.

Be sure to tell your dentist if you have any problems chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue or jaw, as they can be side effects of oral cancer.

4. Overall health problems5,6,7

Research shows there are connections between your oral health and your overall health. For example, people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease;6 they are also at a greater risk for pneumonia. In addition, people with arthritis are eight times more likely to have gum disease.

Diabetes and gum disease are also closely connected. Having diabetes increases the risk for infection in your body, which can lead to gum disease. At the same time, having gum disease increases the amount of inflammation in your body, making it harder to keep your blood sugar under control.

5. Paying a little now can mean saving big later

Cost is a major factor with any sort of dental procedure and is often the reason many people avoid going to the dentist. A routine checkup could cost between $75-$200, depending on where you live. But even at twice a year, that’s significantly less expensive than a crown, root canal or set of dentures, which can start at around $875.5

That’s why preventive care and tackling small problems before they grow bigger is doubly important. It not only keeps you healthy, it saves money.

Another option to help with expensive dental bills is dental insurance. Many dental procedures — such as preventive, basic and major — are covered under dental insurance policies that are relatively inexpensive.

Did you know?

  • Gum disease can be painless and have no warning signs.
  • Metal fillings can wear out or become damaged.
  • Oral cancer screenings can be part of routine dental exams.
  • People with arthritis are eight times more likely to have gum disease.
  • The cost of twice-yearly dental exams is significantly less expensive than a crown, root canal or set of dentures.

Information from:

1 “July JADA: Periodontitis Remains Prevalent in U.S. Adults,” American Dental Association, ada.org, July 25, 2018
2 “Common Warning Signs of Gingivitis,” colgate.com, accessed Nov. 13, 2017
3 “A-Z Topics on MouthHealthy,” mouthhealthy.org, website of the American Dental Association, accessed Nov. 13, 2017
4 “What Are the Key Statistics About Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers?” American Cancer Society, cancer.org, revised Jan. 6, 2017
5 “Oral health: A Window to Your Overall Health,” Mayoclinic.org, June 4, 2019
6 “The Surprising Link Between Periodontal Disease and Heart Health: What Dental Professionals Need to Know,” Dentistryiq.com, January 30, 2017
7 “Dentistry & Orthodontics,” Cost Helper Health, health.costhelper.com, accessed Nov. 13, 2017 Dental Disclosure Information