Brighter Smiles: Dental Health for Life – Part 3

Tuesday May 23, 2023

In the first segment of this series, I discussed the role of caregivers in early dental care. Prevention starts as early as 6 months into pregnancy and continues with essential steps early in a child’s life. The second segment discussed dental care for children as they develop. In this final segment I will discuss easy prevention and maintenance steps to take to help ensure dental health for a lifetime.
As I stated a few weeks ago, 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.
Here are 4 simple things that will help maintain dental health for a lifetime:
Professional Maintenance – It is easy to put professional hygiene visits on the backburner. We are pulled in many different directions in life, and the absence of pain in our mouths sometimes grants us permission to skip regular dental appointments. Some people will use the excuse of lack of insurance for not going on a regular basis. The most important thing you can do to prevent dental disease is to commit to a lifetime of professional dental visits. This is a choice. Your cell phone costs more per year than these visits will. Some people require four visits a year to maintain health and others may only require one. There are no set rules. However, it is up to you to make the commitment.
Home Care – Most people have significant room for improvement with their home care. Coaching, in anything, increases an individual’s potential for improvement. Think of us as your dental coach. We routinely ask patients to bring their toothbrushes with them to their appointments to review technique. As simple as it sounds, constant evaluation and improvement of your home care can only decrease your chances of dental disease.
Diet – What we put in our mouths, when we do it and how often are all choices as well. As with everything, some people can get away with things that others cannot. Decay rates are different for different people and can change during the course of a lifetime. This is an important topic to routinely discuss at regular visits.
Dental Orthotics – This is in reference to any oral appliance, typically worn while sleeping, but there are some worn during the day. This is another situation where absence of any symptoms sometimes allows us to ignore what is really going on. It is easy to get someone to wear an appliance in their mouth if they present with TMJ issues or headaches. On the other hand, it is often difficult to convince someone to routinely wear a nighttime appliance if they have no symptoms. For example, people who have had braces should be wearing retainers. People who have sleep apnea may have the option of wearing an oral appliance. However, those who have evidence of clenching and/or grinding are the most undertreated. It is my firm belief that if more people committed to unfailing routine use of a properly made nighttime appliance (if they show any indications they need it), many potential dental problems would be avoided.
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. Choose and commit to these four things and you are guaranteed fewer dental problems over your lifetime.
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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