As a kid, you may have learned the fundamentals of oral hygiene, such as brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and going to dental checkups every six months. Indeed, these practices are essential to maintaining a child’s oral health. But keeping a solid dental routine is just as vital for adults as it is for kids. Among other things, doing so helps you to prevent tooth decay and tooth loss, avoid expensive medical bills, and foster your all-around health and well-being.
What’s the moral of the story? Don’t outgrow your good dental habits! Below, Adam Brown DDS will discuss some of the best reasons for going to the dentist and practicing consistent oral hygiene as an adult. And we’ll also cover some of the most common adult dental problems, as well as how you can overcome dental anxiety.
Why Go to the Dentist as an Adult?
So, you know that taking your child to the dentist is important. Let’s discuss why you, an adult, should also make regular visits to your local dentist office:
Maintaining Strong Teeth
Dentists and dental hygienists have the expertise and equipment necessary to deeply clean your teeth. Even if you brush for two minutes, twice a day at home, you can’t eliminate the hardened plaque and biofilm (a.k.a. calculus) found in your teeth. And that’s especially the case if the calculus is located beneath your gingiva.
Along with following a dental hygiene regimen at home, going to checkups and cleanings at your dentist’s office every six months can help your teeth stay healthier and stronger than if you only use a toothbrush at home.
It’s well known that adults are more prone to plaque buildup and periodontal disease. Oftentimes, such issues slowly progress and go unnoticed until they’re severe. If you skip your dental visits, gum disease and other problems can go undetected, eventually leading to tooth decay and tooth loss.
Reducing the Likelihood of Expensive Bills
As with other health problems, issues with your teeth and gums will be easier and safer to treat when you catch them early. And that means that you won’t have to spend as much money fixing those problems. For example, say you have a minor cavity. If you allow, even unknowingly, that cavity to keep spreading, it can enter the dental pulp over time and ultimately lead to infection. To put it into perspective: Your $175 filling just turned into a $2,000 root canal and crown, if not a $4,000 implant procedure.
Be proactive about being preventative. Get regular exams at the dentist so that any potential issues are addressed before they turn into emergencies.
Benefitting Your Overall Health
It’s well established that your oral health is strongly linked to your overall health. A number of diseases are often discovered through oral health issues. For instance, pneumonia and endocarditis, as well as pregnancy complications, are sometimes identified when patients come in with a dental problem. In fact, it is recommended that any woman planning to get pregnant should get a dental exam and address any issues as soon as possible.
Health issues outside of your oral health can also impact your oral health. Heart disease, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, for instance, tend to leave your body more prone to infection. This, in turn, can cause a variety of oral health problems. You won’t necessarily become diabetic because of poor oral health, but any oral health complications you have could be exacerbated by diabetes. Moreover, going to the dentist regularly can help you foster your mental health by boosting your self-esteem and giving you peace of mind.
Minimizing Bad Breath
Anyone can have bad breath every now and then. But if you notice that your bad breath has become regular and cannot be mitigated by strong mouthwash or breath mints, you might have something a little more serious going on.
Enter halitosis—the fancy medical term for chronic bad breath. Factors like dry mouth, leftover food particles, and tobacco use are common causes of halitosis. But severe health issues like sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, and liver or kidney disease can also be the culprit. If you think you might have this problem, it’s advisable to visit the dentist so that you can be examined and determine whether your bad breath is or is not related to your oral health.
Detecting Oral Cancer Early
We mentioned that going to the dentist is an excellent way to detect tooth and gum problems, and that includes oral cancer. Oral cancer comes with a higher death rate than some other types of cancers, primarily because it frequently goes undiscovered until it is well developed. And with each year you age, your chances of getting oral cancer become higher.
Don’t rely on yourself to be able to identify oral cancer because it’s almost impossible. Oftentimes, there is no alarming pain or symptoms when oral cancer begins to develop, and it can appear in any area of the mouth and throat.
A professional dentist or dental hygienist has the education and training necessary to recognize the signs and symptoms of oral cancer early in development. By going to the dentist every six months, you stand a much better chance of detecting the onset of oral cancer.
Increasing Your Self-Confidence
There’s no getting around the fact that straight, white teeth make for a great smile, which can add some major self-confidence. As we’ve said before, brushing and flossing each day can go a long way in maintaining your smile, but going to the dentist is the surest way to get rid of the plaque under your gum line, clean the hard-to-reach places between your teeth, and take care of stains. A deep cleaning, not to mention professional whitening services, will promote a healthier and brighter smile than you can attain by yourself.
Yes, poor oral health can have a negative impact on your self-confidence. But, like it or not, it can also play a role in how others perceive you. It’s unfortunate, but bad teeth can negatively impact an individual’s personal and professional life. Going to the dentist to correct any dental problems and returning for regular checkups is the best way to keep your oral health in excellent shape. And doing so will inevitably shine through your smile and increase your self-esteem.
Getting Checked for Things You Can’t See
Many people may choose not to go to the dentist every six months because they brush and floss religiously, and their teeth and gums appear to be fine. However, even if everything seems good on the surface, you never know what underlying dental health issues—those which can only be diagnosed by a dentist—are developing in your mouth. Therefore, the safest bet is to attend regular checkups and to get any necessary exams, X-rays, and other simple procedures that can help you stay ahead of potential health issues.
How Age Impacts Your Dental Health
All of your body’s cells, tissues, and organs are impacted by the aging process. The changes that come with age affect every part of your body, and that includes your teeth and gums. Here are some of the most common dental health issues that adults face:
Essentially, cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth that convert sugars and starches into acid. The acid then goes to work at eating away tooth enamel and, thus, cavities form. And these cavities often develop at the tooth’s root because of gum recession.
Moreover, bacteria build-up occurs more easily if you suffer from dry mouth, which can also lead to tooth decay or tooth loss. There are several reasons older adults are more prone than younger people to get dry mouth. For some, it’s simply because of age. For others, it’s due to particular medications they take. And specific health conditions can lead to dry mouth as well.
Dry mouth is a serious condition because of how critical saliva is to oral health. Saliva helps your gums remain healthy and protects your teeth from decay. So, when your mouth is not producing enough saliva, it can put you at risk for a number of issues. Gum disease, tooth decay, mouth sores, thrush, and difficulty chewing, swallowing, and tasting are some of the most common examples.
It’s normal for the salivating glands in your mouth to produce less saliva as you progress in age. But dry mouth more often occurs in older adults as a result of medical problems.
For instance, a wide range of medications can decrease saliva production, including those used to treat pain, depression, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. You can also get dry mouth when undergoing cancer treatment, and many different health conditions (e.g., stroke, diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, etc.) can be the culprit.
Some of the most common dental health issues that occur in adults have to do with the gums. In the simplest terms, gum recession refers to when your gum tissue begins separating from your tooth; this exposes the root of your tooth and leaves you more vulnerable to bacteria build-up, which can result in inflammation and decay.
Perhaps the most severe dental health condition is oral cancer, which is most common in individuals over the age of 45 and twice as common in men than women. Lifestyle choices can play a big role in the development of oral cancer. People who smoke and/or use other forms of tobacco are the most susceptible. And people who add excessive drinking into the mix increase their risks even more.
But those are not the only factors at play. Poor dental and oral hygiene, regularly taking immunosuppressants, and gum damage from rough teeth, fillings, or dentures can also cause cancer. Certain infections like the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) can be a cause as well.
Overcoming Dental Anxiety
It’s no secret that a lot of children dread going to the dentist. But dental anxiety is also common in adults. Rather than allowing your anxiety to keep you from maintaining your oral health, consider this information and advice:
The Most Common Culprits
There are many reasons why adults struggle with dental anxiety. In most cases, the fear of going to the dentist stems from childhood—usually because of an unpleasant or painful experience that is permanently imprinted on the mind. The good news is that there have been many advances made in dentistry over the last few decades, and most modern dental procedures cause much less pain (if any) than they used to.
Another common culprit of dental anxiety is the fear of needles. A lot of people hate needles in general, while others are afraid that the anesthesia used in a procedure will not be effective. And sometimes, people are simply scared of being embarrassed.
Say, for instance, that you’ve been dealing with a toothache for a while and are hesitant to visit the dentist because you’re embarrassed about your teeth or dread receiving bad news. Don’t worry—the team at Adam Brown DDS doesn’t judge or shame anyone!
Practical Steps to Take
If you’re struggling with dental anxiety, the best thing you can do is speak to your dentist. Chances are whatever is causing your anxiety is something that your dentist has heard many times before. And the only way they can help you is if you explain your fear and remain open to their suggestions.
One thing you can do is to ask your dentist to thoroughly explain each stage of the appointment or procedure at hand so that you can mentally prepare. You could also agree on a stop signal such as raising your index finger or tapping your leg to notify your dentist that you need a break.
Some individuals cannot stand the drilling or buzzing sounds during a dental procedure. If this is the case with you, consider bringing headphones to your appointment. In severe cases of anxiety, nitrous oxide or IV sedation can be administered; but those options are only chosen when the patient agrees to it.
The necessity of going to regular dentist visits doesn’t stop when you enter adulthood. The older you get, the more susceptible you become to dental health problems, and visiting the dentist is the surest way to prevent or mitigate them.
Don’t let dental anxiety keep you from going to the dentist and getting any procedures necessary to keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you’re ready to make your next appointment, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact Adam Brown DDS today!