How To Prevent Oral Problems & Expensive Treatment

Posted on Apr 28, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Let’s face it – health care is expensive. Although insurance coverages help, just the price of the coverage is a strain for many people. The 2014 National Health Expenditures report estimated that U.S. adults spend over $9,523 per year on health care.

Caring for your smile requires a monetary commitment as well. The Government Accountability Office reported that between 1996 – 2010, the average out-of-pocket dental costs per individual per year increased 26%, from $520 to $653.

While these expenses are hefty amounts for most, caring for our health does require an investment and one that is well worth the cost. Even though people are typically committed to annual screenings and exams, many often fail to place an equal priority on their oral health.

Your smile influences far more than facial appearance. The presence of teeth is vital for maintaining jaw bone mass, processing a healthy diet and feeling confident in social settings. It is a fact that people who wear dentures have more gastrointestinal problems, take more medications and eat out less.

However, a deeper problem can emerge from having poor oral health. The bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease have been found to create internal inflammation elsewhere in the body. These inflammatory reactions trigger a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies and impotency.

Gum disease is also the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. And, it’s running rampant in the U.S. It is estimated that over 47% of adults over the age of 30 have some level of gum disease. For those who are over age 65, 64% are said to have moderate to severe gum disease.

As a Periodontal Specialist, the majority of the problems I see and treat could have been prevented altogether. By taking proactive measures, it’s actually easy to prevent oral problems and costs for repairs. Simply spending a few minutes each day and having 6-month check-ups can save you greatly.

Your dentist structures your regular oral hygiene visits to remove buildup that can lead to problems or catch ones that may have emerged at early stages. Early treatment can help to keep time and expenses needed for repairs to a minimum.

The ‘way to save’ begins at home, for the most part. Your oral care routine at home can help you avoid problems by keeping oral bacteria to minimal levels. When performed correctly, twice-daily brushing and flossing are very effective in reducing oral bacteria and preventing buildup. Brush (for at least two minutes each time) using a soft to medium bristle brush and fluoridated tooth paste.

However, brushing without flossing is like rinsing off in the shower but not using soap. After brushing, food particles can remain between teeth, which provide oral bacteria the sustenance they need to thrive and reproduce. When you feel a sticky film on teeth and gums (known as plaque), it is actually an accumulation of oral bacteria.

For those who are in the habit of flossing, it takes about a minute a day. And this one minute can make a world of difference in helping to keep oral bacteria from damaging tooth enamel and gum tissues. If you would like, our dental hygienist can show you how to comfortably hold floss and move it easily between teeth (even those hard-to-reach teeth). However, for those who have dexterity problems, an electronic flosser can make the task easy but still very effective.

Oral bacteria can also be greatly reduced by using a tongue scraper. This tool gently uproots oral bacteria that are embedded in the tongue. Scrape 2 – 3 times over the tongue, starting at the back of the tongue where most bacteria exist and rinse after each pass. You can also brush your tongue after brushing your teeth, if preferred.

For many, a surprising cause for oral bacterial growth is ‘dry mouth.’ The natural flow of saliva in the mouth is designed to continually rinse oral bacteria. When saliva levels are low, oral bacteria can accumulate quickly. Smoking, alcohol, caffeine, some medications and mouth breathing (such as snoring) are all drying to oral tissues. The aging process and some health conditions, including anemia, hypertension, arthritis and diabetes also contribute to causes of dry mouth.

To lessen the negative effects of dry mouth, drink plenty of water throughout the day. If you take medications that are drying to the mouth, ask your doctor about alternative options. Also, consider using an over-the-counter mouth wash designed specifically to replenish oral moisture.

To protect the tooth’s enamel, delay brushing after eating for 20 – 30 minutes. The reason? Each time you eat, an acid attack begins in your mouth. While this is a helpful part of the digestive process, these acids tend to soften tooth enamel for about 30 minutes. Brushing during this time can wear away precious tooth enamel.

It may seem expensive to absorb the cost for crowning a tooth, but it can actually prevent costly future problems or even tooth loss. A tooth that is too laden with fillings or has cracks is vulnerable to breaking. If the break extends below the gum line, the tooth must be removed. This leaves you with an entirely new set of expenses.

Missing teeth affect the alignment of surrounding teeth and increase the risk for broken, chipped or worn teeth. Misaligned teeth can lead to night-time clenching and grinding as well as migraines, headaches, sore jaw joints, pain in facial and neck muscles, dizziness and ear ringing.

The added bonus of a healthy mouth is fresh breath and the ability to avoid preventable problems from occurring – thus, saving you time and money. Be committed to your dental health every day. You will be greatly rewarded!

If you are experiencing problems with missing teeth or have tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, call 828-274-9440 for an appointment.

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