Avoiding the dentist may seem like a good idea until you have a broken tooth or worse yet a toothache.

People avoid the dentist for many different reasons, fear from past bad experience, afraid they will be lectured, financial concerns, or they were not raised going to the dentist and did not see a need. It is not a priority for many people.

The assumption is, I have no pain, so everything must be ok!  I have people every day, when we show them a cavity, say, “I don’t feel anything.” If you get anything from this blog, you understand that dental disease is a silent disease.

By the time you feel something, it has become a major issue.

Another problem with not seeing a dentist is you do not know the health of your mouth. The health of your mouth has been linked to several systemic diseases as a contributing factor to illness in your body.

Fifty percent of Americans with dental insurance do not even visit a dentist once a year. They are leaving good money on the table, and they are paying for anyway and could have been used to prevent dental disease, instead of waiting to treat a problem.

Most dental disease is 100 percent preventable with proper oral health, diet, pH control of acid in your mouth, and regular dental visits. So if there is a problem, it can be diagnosed in an early stage when it is easy to treat. Instead then waiting until there is a problem and could be more costly, not only financially, but it could result in the loss of teeth or if left untreated long enough lose of life.

It may seem a little dramatic, but gum disease is a direct contributing factor to heart disease and premature delivery.

I have several case studies personally where a visit to the dentist has saved lives; there were signs in the mouth that lead us to send the patient to see their physician and systemic condition was found and treated.

I have had patients came back from their doctor and thanked me for being insistent on getting the condition checked. The diagnosis has ranged from high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, leukemia, kidney cancer. All due to what the mouth, gums, and tongue looked like at the time of their maintenance visit.

As a dental hygienist, we do more than just clean teeth.

  1. We take an x-ray’s to look for bone loss
    1. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums bleeding in one or more areas of the mouth, 1-4mm no bone loss on the x-rays 
    2. Normal healthy gum measurement are 1-3 mm no bleeding on probing No bone loss on x-ray
    3. Gum disease stage I, 1-5 mm bleeding on probing with the radiographic bone loss on the x-rays
    4. Moderate gum disease stage I,  is 5-6 mm probing depths with bleeding on probing, bone loss on the x-rays.
    5. Gum disease in a stage III or higher will have measurements over 6 MM
  2. Measure the space between the tooth and the gums
    1. We measure the gums in millimeters
  3. Check for bleeding
  4. Check for oral cancer
  5. Check for cavities
  6. Check for gingivitis and other symptoms that may be so subtle you don’t even know there is a problem

Any stages of gum disease may require more than just regular teeth cleaning known as prophylaxis in the dental world. Gum disease with bleeding on probing and bone loss will require what is known as deep cleaning. The patient may need to be numbed to make it more comfortable. When you can see the calculus which is a hard build upon the x-ray below the gum line, it can be painful to remove without numbing the gums. It may even take more than one visit to remove all of the calculus also known as “tartar” due to bleeding and insurance stipulations.

Also, it can determine how long it has been since you have been to the dentist, how much has accumulated, and how much bleeding is involved. All of this can dictate how many appointments it will take to get the situation under control.

Once you remove the deposit below the gumline, you need to give the gums time to heal and shrink to make sure everything has been removed. When there is a lot of bleeding in the mouth sometimes it is hard to see or feel if it had all been removed. Once you let the tissue heal and shrink you go back and to your dental professional and they can reassess to see if further treatment is indicated.

Your oral home care is the most crucial key to having and maintaining a healthy mouth.

While dental disease is 100% preventable, you are the only one that can indeed prevent it, as you are the one that sees your teeth every day. Brushing twice a day helps remove the plaque and biofilm that accumulate on your teeth daily.

Some people can have a build-up in less than a week. Plaque is a soft deposit that can be brushed off as long as you are getting all of the surfaces of your teeth with your tools, ie. toothbrush, floss, waterpik, interdental brushes.  Once the plaque hardens, it has to be scraped off. This is where going to the dentist comes in.

They can clean the teeth, check for disease, and show you where you need to tweak your daily routine to stay healthy. The health of your mouth is not just about your teeth any longer. Your mouth is a window into your overall health; we need to make caring for our mouth a priority to live a healthy life.