Maintaining good oral health is vitally important in keeping your family happy and healthy, but maintaining good dental hygiene can present its own set of challenges.
If members of your family have anxiety about visiting a dentist, or you’re simply overwhelmed by the amount of oral care products on the market, it can be difficult to find a care routine that works for you.
Oral health doesn’t need to be confusing.
By identifying just a few concrete steps you can take to protect your family, you too can enjoy life knowing that you’re doing everything possible to care for your loved one’s teeth.
Why oral health is important
While many people may consider a cavity here or there a minor, easily treatable condition, the reality is that many oral health issues can lead to long term negative health outcomes in both adults and children.
More than a quarter of US adults are living with untreated tooth decay that can cause pain and sensitivity, which can in turn potentially affect their ability to consume sufficient nutrition and negatively impact their social lives.
Cavities can also cause embarrassing odors which may affect personal relationships or social confidence.
Gum disease is another common oral health issue, with almost half of adults in the United States showing signs of this condition.
Left untreated, tooth decay and gum disease can lead to total tooth loss. Tooth loss can result in embarrassment, speech impediments, or expensive dental procedures to install implants or dentures.
In children, oral health issues have been linked to higher levels of missed schooling and lower grades when compared to children with optimal oral health.
Issues such as cavities and gum disease can lead to pain or infections which may affect a child’s interest in or ability to eat, socialize, or pay attention in school.
The CDC estimates that 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 11, and 13% of children between 12 and 19 are living with untreated tooth decay.
If you’d like to put an actionable plan in place to protect the oral health of your family, consider these easy steps you can take to create your own dental health plan:
1. Choose the right dentist
Your family dentist will play a large role in the health and protection of your loved one’s teeth, which is why choosing the right dental practice is essential.
When looking for a dental clinic in your local area, research is key. If you have dental insurance, ask your insurer which practices they cover to ensure you don’t face unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.
After shortlisting some clinics reasonably close to home, review their websites and read through some client feedback on their social media pages or third-party review sites.
If a dental clinic has a poor ratio of negative to positive reviews, consider removing them from your shortlist.
Look for dental practices with reviews full of praise, and who have a relaxed online demeanor. Many practices will outline how they help manage dental fear and anxiety, which is a great sign of the attentive customer service you can expect from them.
If you have small children, a specialized pediatric dentist may be a good choice, as these practitioners tend to excel at making a dental visit a positive experience for young ones.
Dental anxiety and fear are fairly common, so a good pediatric dentist will have strategies to help your child feel at home during their appointments.
In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Dundee School of Dentistry in the UK, it was found that distraction techniques such as the use of audio-visual equipment, dental instrument camouflage, and toys may be useful in reducing anxiety and fear in adolescents when visiting their dentist.
Look for pediatric clinics that have a waiting room stocked with games and toys, and treatment rooms with televisions or other distracting elements.
Above all, a pediatric dental clinic will be friendly and warm, allowing your child to relax during their visit.
A good dentist will be able to clearly explain any procedures and recommendations, while maintaining a friendly demeanor.
Come to any appointments prepared with questions, and consider requesting non-invasive treatments such as dental sealants, which can prevent up to 80% of cavities by protecting the chewing surfaces of some teeth.
2. Establish a good at home oral care routine
No matter how wonderful your dentist is, without proper at-home oral health habits, you can still fall victim to tooth decay and other dental issues.
Establishing a good home care routine for your family is the best way to prevent oral hygiene problems.
Adults and older children should brush their teeth at least twice a day, and use a suitable toothpaste containing fluoride to do so.
Adding regular daily flossing and mouthwash to your brushing routine is essential to make sure any food particles are removed from the teeth, and to help prevent build up.
Soft bristle toothbrushes are generally recommended by health professionals, but ensuring you choose a toothbrush that works for you is essential in creating a routine you can stick to.
It’s important to set an example for younger children when it comes to regular tooth brushing and flossing.
Infants can get used to a routine by having their new teeth brushed gently with a soft, child sized toothbrush and plain water, and they can graduate to a small amount of toothpaste as they get older.
Young children should be supervised when they brush, to ensure they have good technique before they are trusted to look after their teeth alone.
3. Understand your risk factors
As with many potential health concerns, prevention plays an important role in the way we approach our health care plans.
There are some common factors which can increase a person’s risk of experiencing oral health issues; being aware of which of these risk factors apply to your family can help you to prevent or minimize future dental problems.
- A diet high in sugary food can increase your chances of developing tooth decay. Limiting snacks high in sugar and sticking to a healthy diet may help prevent cavities.
- A family history of tooth decay or cavities can increase the chances of a person developing these themselves. Letting your dentist know your loved ones are susceptible to these problems can help them personalize your treatment.
- Wearing orthodontic devices such as braces may increase the risk of dental decay, as these can trap food particles in hard-to-reach places. Speak to your oral care professional about any special tools or brushes they recommend that may help prevent this.
- Heavy smoking or drinking, particularly in people aged over 55 may be linked to various oral cancers, which your dentist can help identify with regular visits. Ensure you fill in your patient intake form correctly and honestly when they ask about your daily habits, and update the clinic if anything changes.
- Chronic diseases and weakened immune systems may leave a person at higher risk of developing some oral health issues. Make your dentist aware if your family members have any medical conditions they may need to know about.
4. Use the right products
If your family genuinely likes the dental care products available in the home, they’re more likely to stick to a routine.
While getting fluoride varnish treatments or using toothpastes containing fluoride is critical in reducing cavities in children, consider your child’s personal tastes also when choosing these products.
Many toothpaste and mouthwash products are available in different flavors and colors, if your child likes a certain color, consider finding matching products to keep them excited about brushing their teeth.
Older children or adults may have other priorities in their dental care routines, consider whitening toothpastes, flavored flosses, or trendy electric toothbrushes to keep your family interested in their teeth cleaning routines.
If you have children with busy lives, consider purchasing travel-sized floss packs and toothbrushes for their backpacks, to ensure they have access to good teeth cleaning products wherever they may be.
Whatever products you’re using, ensure you’re replacing toothbrushes at least two or three times per year, or whenever the bristles become visibly damaged.
5. Make dental appointments a priority
Visiting the dentist should be a regular part of your family’s routine. Although it can be tempting to wait until someone has a toothache to set up an appointment, adults should visit a dental clinic every six months.
If you have a new baby, they should see a pediatric dental professional by the time they turn one, to ensure any potential problems are identified early.
By maintaining regular visits, your chosen dental practice can keep your family up to date on any new oral health treatments and preventative measures which may be available, and can identify any potential issues early.
Consider making your next dental appointment while you check out of your most recent visit; most dental practices have reminder systems in place to alert you when an appointment is coming up soon.
Making your next appointment while you’re still in the clinic minimizes the chances of you forgetting to make a new appointment at six-month intervals.
Protecting the oral health of your family is essential to maintaining a happy and healthy household.
Tooth decay and cavities can be caused by a variety of factors, but by establishing good oral hygiene at home, attending regular dental appointments, and understanding your risk factors, you can help prevent oral health issues in your loved ones.
Speak to your family dentist about any oral care issues or questions you may have, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek guidance from them to improve your home tooth care routines.