Despite major advances in dental technology, one factor keeps us from being cavity-free: skimping on routine oral care. Not everyone has the benefit of growing up with a dentist as a mother, so Dr. Matthew Moniaga made it his mission to make sure his patients get the same advice about the importance of preventative care that he did as a child!
Times are changing
Cavities, fillings, crowns, implants, veneers, root canals. You are probably familiar with at least a few of these terms. In recent years, advances in dental technology have improved all of these techniques. We have moved on from the mismatched look of silver fillings to practically invisible, perfectly color matched white fillings. Rather than relying on removable dentures, we have the ability to replace missing teeth by implanting a new tooth anchored by a titanium screw. However, the biggest advance in the field of general dentistry within the past ten years can be summed up in two words: prevention and hygiene.
Born to be a dentist
Growing up in a dental family, I had the privilege of simply walking into my mom’s office whenever I had a dental problem. A filling here and a filling there - the free and easily accessible treatment meant I never really appreciated all the work that was done in my mouth to fix my cavities. All I had to do was show up, take some x-rays, and sit down in the chair while my mother simultaneously drilled and lectured me against my habit of eating large amounts of candy (I rarely listened to that particular piece of advice). While the dental work my mother provided was beneficial, the lessons and dental values she taught me were priceless. Fast forward 15 years, and I suddenly found myself as a first year student at the UCLA School of Dentistry trying to figure out how I could convince my patients to brush and floss more, and eat less candy.
Getting back to basics
I’m now in my fourth year and I have learned almost all there is to know about fixing teeth: new technologies for whitening, veneers, perfectly matched implants, crowns made so precisely you wouldn’t believe they are actually crowns…I could go on and on. These dental procedures are all exciting, new, and extremely helpful, but prevention and hygiene are the only two subjects that I stress to my patients during every single appointment.
What do I mean by prevention and hygiene? Simply that, through daily brushing and flossing (combined with professional dental guidance and cleaning), almost all problems of the mouth can be prevented before they even start. Unfortunately, not all of us have the privilege of growing up with a dentist as a parent, and only recently has there been a spotlight on the importance of proper and thorough routine oral care. With all the advances in dental technology, one thing has gone unchanged: most people are not that good at brushing and flossing regularly.
Small changes, big savings!
In addition to preventing problems before they start, oral hygiene is arguably the single most important factor in affecting the longevity of your fillings, crowns, veneers, and implants. To put it into perspective, the average cost of a single crown ranges anywhere from $600 to $2000. According to a study conducted by the American Dental Association, the average amount spent on dental care per person per year in the US is $700. This is the same amount you would spend to upgrade to the newest iPhone year after year! When you invest such a significant amount of money in your mouth, is it really that hard to convince you that it is a good idea to protect your fillings and crowns?
It’s simple really
All dentists would recommend brushing twice and flossing once per day to maintain optimal oral health. In addition, visiting the dentist every 6 months helps ensure that any small cavities just starting to form will be caught before they become more of a problem. For those of you who already have fillings, crowns, or any other dental work done, visiting a dentist twice a year becomes even more important. A restored tooth is unfortunately never going to be as good or healthy as a tooth that has been untouched by a dental drill. Once a tooth has been restored, it is more prone to cavities and decay, and routine oral care becomes even more important. So do yourself a favor and brush twice a day, floss once a day, and see your dentist regularly. This way, perhaps you won’t feel as guilty upgrading to the new iPhone every 12 months.