Before modern dentistry, people suffered toothaches, tooth loss, and were disfigured by dark, crooked teeth. Toothless senior citizens suffered malnutrition and early death because they were unable to chew.
Today, preventive dentistry has reversed this suffering. However, many people avoid the dentist because of indifference, the expense, or fear. I avoided the dentist for all of those reasons until I had a toothache that hurt more than childbirth. I eventually had to have a root canal. The pain relief was so tremendous that I became a believer of dentists from that day forward.
To appreciate the importance of preventive dentistry, we should understand what dentists are trying to prevent. Bacteria thrive on food particles. They convert sugar into acids that attack the tooth enamel. Eventually tooth decay results when the enamel weakens and forms a cavity. When the decay reaches the pulp of your tooth, you may suffer acute pain. You will have the dreaded toothache.
Other bacteria form plaque. If plaque is not brushed away, it hardens to form tartar, which may inflame the gums and make them pull away from the tooth. This results in a gap between the tooth and gum where trapped food provides a feast for bacteria that may infect your gums. The tissue surrounding your teeth may become so damaged that your teeth actually fall out.
Your saliva provides protection by neutralizing the acid in the plaque on your teeth. Since saliva flow is low while you sleep, one of the most destructive things you can do to your teeth is eat or drink sugar and then go to sleep for the night without brushing your teeth. However, sugar-free gum after meals is said to increase saliva flow and help protect your teeth.
Dentists recommend having regular check-ups once or twice a year, depending on the condition of your teeth. It is to your advantage to follow those recommendations because healthy teeth contribute to improved general health and can help you to enjoy life more fully. So rather than being afraid of the dentist, think of the dentist as your friend who wants to save your teeth and helps you maintain a beautiful smile.
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