How does your dental routine compare to ancient Neanderthals’? According to new research detailed in the Journal of Human Evolution, Neanderthals were surprisingly meticulous about their mouths’ health and appearance. Several fossilized teeth show signs of toothpick grooves. Scientists hypothesize that Neanderthals used bones or twigs fashioned into toothpicks to remove food and residue stuck in between teeth. The practice is “evidence of oral hygiene among Neanderthals,” Gizmodo continues.
While growing evidence shows that Neanderthals regularly attended to their dental and oral health, unfortunately, it is all-too-common for Americans of all ages to neglect their gums and teeth today. Just take a look at some of the facts:
- As many as 26% of adults have cavities or tooth decay that remains untreated.
- Almost half of all U.S. adults (30+) have telltale symptoms of gum disease, like red gums, bleeding gums, or swollen and puffy gums.
- According to the American Dental Association (ADA), under half of Americans 2 and up (43%) reported going to the dentist in the last year.
Of course, these figures are not an inevitability. There are plenty of ways Americans can take better care of their teeth, and one of the most effective ways is to establish an ongoing relationship with a trusted dentist. Why should we visit the dentist regularly? Here are just a few advantages of fitting trips to the dentist into your routine.
Your Dentist Can Bust Common Myths About Dental Care
Before ever stepping foot inside a dentist office, it is unlikely that you know everything there is to know about dental care. Even with more typical care — perhaps a visit here and there every few years, it is difficult to know everything. That is what your dentist is there for.
Your dentist can help fill you in where your dental education is lacking. He or she can help bust common myths, help you establish a routine that will be truly beneficial, and help you achieve that long-sought-after, dazzling white smile. For example, did you know that it is not best to brush your teeth immediately after meals?
If your answer is no, that is just one response to the question, “Why should we visit the dentist regularly?”
Dentists agree that there are a right way and a wrong way to approach preventative dental care services. For example, when it comes to brushing your teeth, brush twice daily and, optimally, wait an hour after eating to brush your teeth. According to MSN, digestion begins immediately after your meal. Acids invade your mouth. These acids soften the hard, protective layer on the surface of your teeth, called enamel. If you brush right away, you may permanently or semi-permanently brush away essential tooth enamel.
To avoid this, wait an hour before brushing your teeth. During that time, the acids in your mouth will neutralize, and they will no longer negatively affect your enamel.
Continually Covering Up Your Teeth? Your Dentist Can Help With That
Why should we visit the dentist regularly? The answers to that question are not always strictly related to physical health. Sometimes, quality dental care is important for our mental health, too. That is where cosmetic dentistry comes in.
Many young adults confess that they have significant insecurities surrounding the appearance of their teeth. According to the ADA:
- 33% try not to smile because their teeth embarrass them.
- Nearly one in four — or 22% — take part in fewer social activities because they worry about the state of their teeth.
- 38% describe life as “less satisfying” owing to the appearance of their teeth.
These statistics are eye-opening and reaffirm that having misaligned teeth, yellow teeth, missing teeth, or a suboptimal smile is a big deal. A dentist can personally work with you or refer you to an orthodontist to discuss your options for straightening adult teeth. Dentists can repair or replace cracked or missing teeth with dental implants, or help you reverse years’ worth of staining with thorough, professional dental whitening.
Why should we visit the dentist regularly? For many, their self-esteem depends on it.
Your Dentist Has Tools You Do Not Have
When it comes to professional dental cleaning, the fact of the matter is that you simply cannot do an equally effective job at home.
It is always worthwhile to brush and floss regularly, but that alone is not enough — particularly if you want to remove all bacteria, tartar, and residue in your mouth. Why should we visit the dentist regularly? There may be places in your mouth you simply cannot reach. Tartar buildup may be stubborn and difficult to remove through traditional means. Lastly, dentists have tools that you simply do not have.
When you visit a family dentistry practice, your dentist or hygienist will use specialized tools to remove particularly stubborn tartar, they will clean your teeth and gums thoroughly and completely, including your gum pockets, and they will polish your teeth, removing any lingering stains. Talk to your dentist about any extras that may benefit you and your dental health. Some offer dental sealants that can help prevent cavities for the next 10 to 15 years.
Your Dentist Can Treat Pain
Why should we visit the dentist regularly? Too many Americans live with pain, often because they are too anxious to go to the dentist, or they are concerned about the potential costs of seeking treatment. Don’t just grin and bear it. If you are in pain, see your dentist. What types of pain signify that it’s time to give your dentist a call?
- Mouth pain, including swelling in or near your mouth. Mouth pain may indicate a number of different problems. Most commonly, swelling and pain near a particular tooth can be ascribed to a toothache. Tooth decay, impacted wisdom teeth, or an abscessed tooth can all lead to toothaches. Sometimes, mouth pain may be localized or related to your jaw. Should that be the case, the culprit may be tooth grinding, gingivitis, injury, or TMJ. Possible solutions include filling dental cavities and extracting wisdom teeth. For tooth grinding or TMJ, your dentist may recommend muscle relaxants or an overnight mouth guard.
- Sensitive teeth. Exposed gums, exposed roots, gum disease, old fillings, insufficient enamel, cavities, and fractured teeth can all cause tooth sensitivity. If your teeth continually hurt after being exposed to extreme hot or extreme cold, it is time to see the dentist. Why should we visit the dentist regularly? Without getting to the root of the problem and determining what is causing sensitive teeth, you risk periodontal disease, gum erosion, and tooth loss. A dentist can help you treat the problem before it becomes too severe.
- Pain while flossing or brushing gums. Pain and/or bleeding while flossing is not only uncomfortable, it may be the first sign of gingivitis or gum disease. Inflamed gums are a hallmark of gingivitis. That inflammation typically comes from bacteria or plaque lingering on the gums and the teeth. If left untreated, gum disease will develop into a much more serious condition, called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease must be addressed immediately. If it is not, patients may suffer from gum loss, bone loss, and tooth loss. Reversing the effects of periodontal disease may require surgery.
- Persistent pain that does not go away. If you have persistent tooth pain that does not go away, you may need serious treatment, like a root canal. Root canals involve removing all infected tissue, usually including part of the root. From there, the dentist will seal off the tooth and fill and shape it as necessary. You may need a crown or dental implant to replace a tooth that is mostly missing or missing altogether. You may need a root canal if your tooth is loose, persistent and nagging pain, pain when anything comes in contact with the tooth, or an injury that aggravates the tooth. Talk to your dentist to learn more.
Why should we visit the dentist regularly? Leaving pain untreated will only lead to more problems. If you are anxious about dental treatment, talk about working together to mitigate your fear. If costs concern you, talk to your dentist about payment options, like credit cards and payment plans.
Dentists Are There In A Pinch
Why should we visit the dentist regularly? Perhaps one of the most compelling answers is to establish a rapport with your dentist and have someone to trust in the event of dental emergencies. Dental emergencies may include:
- A knocked-out tooth. If an injury or impact knocks out your tooth altogether, do your best to place the tooth back into position or use other methods to preserve it, like placing it in milk. To make sure that you do not lose the tooth permanently, you need to call your dentist right away.
- Severely chipped, cracked, or broken teeth. The last thing any of us want is to be out of options when we break or crack a tooth. Should you break a tooth, rinse out your mouth with warm water, apply cold to the area to reduce swelling, and contact your dentist right away.
- A laceration to the mouth. Hopefully, it should go without saying that a deep cut in or near your mouth is a dental emergency. Gently rinse out your mouth, and contact the appropriate emergency personnel. If you have a severe cut or laceration, it may be best to head over to the emergency room, where they will be able to give you stitches if need be.
Dentists Can Detect Health Problems Or Help You Treat Existing Ones
Did you know that dental care can be just as important to your overall health as seeing a family doctor?
Many patients do not realize that their dental health, oral hygiene, and physical well-being are closely linked. In fact, your dentist may be able to detect the early stages of health problems and chronic conditions during a routine dental exam. Some of these include:
- Diabetes. If you have diabetes, your dentist may notice cold sores, symptoms of gum disease, or a distinctly fruity smell coming from your mouth. According to Health magazine, diabetics’ breath may smell fruity because your body burns fat for energy. Those without diabetes will burn sugar for energy.
- Anemia. Anemia is most often caused by an iron deficiency. Your dentist can pick up on signs of anemia while examining your mouth. They may notice pale or white gums. Other parts of your mouth may lack a healthy, pink color.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). This particular condition “causes acid from your stomach to bubble up into your esophagus, giving you heartburn, chest pain, and trouble swallowing,” Health magazine reports. That acid, in turn, causes dry mouth, bad breath, and canker sores. If you do not treat GERD with appropriate medication and/or diet changes, it will erode the enamel on your teeth — another telltale sign of acid reflux your doctor may be able to pick up on.
- Certain types of cancers. During an exam, your dentist may notice atypical bumps, lumps, white spots, or red spots. Typically, these symptoms grow worse over time and do not go away on their own. If you have head or neck cancer, your dentist may advise a follow-up with your physician if he or she notices that you have swollen glands.
Why should we visit the dentist regularly? Not only can your dentist help identify major health problems, but they can also stop certain conditions in their tracks. For example, there is a connection between excess bacteria in your mouth and excess bacteria in your heart and lungs that ultimately causes cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Biannual cleanings and regular dental visits can help remove these bacteria and stop these problems before they start. Similarly, pregnant women may be more vulnerable to inflamed and bleeding gums, a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. A dentist can help patients get this condition under control and prevent complications like low birth weight and preterm birth.
Seeing the dentist is important. It is just as important as regular visits to your family doctor. Protect the health of your gums, teeth, and the entire body by scheduling biannual dental appointments at a minimum — and more if necessary.