If a cross-section of individuals was approached to compile a list of favourite activities, it is almost a certainty the list would not include going to the dentist.
Over the years, however, we have learned that proper dental care means more than a strict regime of brushing and flossing. The rule of thumb is that it is important to visit a dentist every six months for a regular checkup and professional cleaning.
A dental hygienist or dentist will scrape along and below the gum line to remove built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Then he or she will polish and floss your teeth.
X-rays taken at the office can diagnose problems otherwise unnoticed, such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.
Usually, it is children who are most prone to cavities. Yet, assuming that kids get cavities because they’re lax about brushing and flossing is not entirely true.
Tooth decay may be caused by specific germs that can spread easily within families, and can last a lifetime. It has been said to be more common among young children than other chronic diseases, including asthma and diabetes.
Going to the dentist should be a lifelong commitment.
One of the advantages of reaching adulthood is that the majority of us are treated to decades of relatively cavity-free teeth. Yet, with the arrival of our senior years, the cavities can come back with a vengeance.
A common cause of this is dry mouth. Dry mouth is actually not attributed to aging, alone. Instead it is a side-effect of various medications used by older adults; including those with allergies or asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Thus, it is imperative that the dentist be aware of any medications a patient is taking.
Gum, or periodontal disease is also a problem among older adults. It could first appear when the patient is younger, but is insidious insofar as it is often a painless and hardly noticeable condition until it reaches its advanced stages.
Advanced gum disease can eventually destroy the gums, as well as bone and ligaments supporting the teeth; resulting in tooth loss. Fortunately, with regular dental visits, gum disease can be treated or prevented entirely.
Even more serious than gum disease is cancer. Canadian Cancer Society statistics point to nearly 5,000 cases of oral cancer being diagnosed annually, with about a quarter of them resulting in death. Studies in the U.S. put the average age of most people diagnosed with this disease at 62.
A dentist can check for signs of oral cancer and regular dental visits are important because, in its early stages, oral cancer typically does not cause pain and early detection saves lives. Symptoms include open sores, white or reddish patches, and changes in the lips, tongue and lining of the mouth that last more than two weeks.
All in all, there is no denying that regular visits to the dentist are vitally important. We are all aware that dentistry is not covered under the various government health plans in this country and budget concerns cause many to shy away from making regular visits.
After chewing on the consequences of neglecting oral health, the question is not whether one can afford to go to the dentist, but whether one can afford NOT to go to the dentist.
There is an old saying: “Let a smile be your umbrella.” Well, if you want that umbrella to keep you dry and comfortable for the rest of your life, make a point of going to the dentist.
Written by: Dan Pelton | Resources: Bolton Family Dental Centre