Brighter Smiles: Dental Health for Life – Part 2

Tuesday May 16, 2023

Last week I talked about oral care for mothers-to-be and babies. Preventive care truly does start before birth. This week we journey past those early years of life.
In preventive-based dental practices we go far beyond saying to patients, “you need to brush and floss more.” We truly believe that dental disease, both dental caries (cavities) and gum disease, is very preventable. However, we recognize that not every individual is equal when it comes to susceptibility. Each person presents with their own unique genetic pool, good and bad habits, number and position of teeth, and willingness to truly make a change. The one constant is that most of us have room for improvement.
It goes without saying that preventive care includes regular visits to the dentist. Based on my experience, even many of those who visit the dentist on a regular basis have significant room for improvement. However, it is up to your caregivers, hygienists and dentists, to have that preventive frame of mind to go beyond just telling you to brush and floss more.
Technique is vital when it comes to home care. Although daily removal of plaque (the thin, sticky film of bacteria that creates cavities and gum disease) can be accomplished with a manual toothbrush, the proper power toothbrush is more appropriate and effective for most people. We routinely ask patients to bring their toothbrushes with them to their appointments to review technique. The same goes for the water pik. Think of your dentist and/or hygienist as your dental coach. Coaching, in anything, increases an individual’s potential for improvement.
The same approach goes for kids. Although we do the same thing with children, they need that additional coaching from home. The best way to guide your family to good oral health is to lead by example. Parents should supervise toothbrushing by children younger than age 8 to make sure they are doing a thorough job. This also goes for flossing. This is done until the child is consistently getting good homecare reports at dental visits.
The challenge of good home care increases with the addition of braces. Children and adults in braces need extra coaching on technique and more time spent on their daily routine. I am a firm believer that preventive visits to the dentist should increase during orthodontics. There is too much at risk during this time and the extra professional care and coaching are vital to escaping the pitfalls of poor homecare while braces are on.
As life goes on, your genetic make-up, the amount of professional care and coaching you receive, your effectiveness at home, and your willingness and ability to improve, will shape your oral health. The fact of the matter is, there are those who need more professional care and more rigorous homecare than others.
As I stated earlier, I believe that most dental disease is preventable. What it takes to prevent dental disease in one person may very well not be the same for another. Between finding the right fit with a dental office, utilizing the coaching expertise of those individuals, using the right homecare products, and always striving to improve, excellent oral health for a lifetime is possible.
In the final segment of this series next week, I will discuss some simple ideas to maintain good dental health for your entire adult life. It is simpler than you think.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at

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