Seeing a dentist may not be top of mind for many people, but this practice goes a long way in saving your teeth and gums from harm. According to the CDC, 84.9% of children between the ages of 2 to 17 visited a dentist at least once in 2017 while the percentage for adults aged 18 to 64 stood at 64.0%. The data also showed 65.6% of persons over 65 years and more visited a dentist at least once. While these numbers are impressive, they also indicate a population that neglects dental checkups for one reason or another.
The rising cost of dental care is a major hindrance for average Americans, especially those without insurance. Tarzana Dental Care in California boasts years of experience in addressing all manner of dental needs, and we have prepared this article to highlight the importance of regular dental checkups for kids and adults alike.
- Detecting Oral Cancer Early
Mouth cancers are classified among head and neck cancers, and they have similar courses of treatment. Many kinds of cancer can be successfully treated if they are diagnosed at the onset. Oral or oropharyngeal cancer is so pervasive that roughly 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed per year. Regrettably, 9,750 patients succumb to this ailment per year, adding to the growing death toll of various cancers. Out of these newly diagnosed persons, just above 50% of them will make it through the next five years. Going for regular dental checkups allows for screening for oral cancer so you can begin treatment sooner than later.
There are many variations of oropharyngeal cancers, but 90% of cases are normally squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Other less common cancers include adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) and mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC). Their survival rate is much lower due to a dearth of knowledge about treat them, which makes them far more dangerous than SCC. We have found that most cases of oral cancer are not detected until it has metastasized to another area, such as the neck or lymph nodes.
More so, patients are unable to detect the possibility of oral cancer on their own because it doesn’t present pain or recognizable symptoms at the early stages. This lack of detection paves the way for second primary tumors to manifest, and by this point, the tumor has invaded deep into body structures. Even when patients survive the first encounter with oral cancer, they stand a 20% more chance of getting another cancer in their lifetime.
We want to help you prolong a healthy life, and that is why we strongly advise patients to come in for bi-annual dental visits so we can screen for the following signs of oral cancer:
- Lip or mouth sores that refuse to heal despite intervention
- White or reddish patches on the inside of your mouth
- Loose teeth that are not linked to trauma
- Pain when swallowing food or drinks
- A growth or lump found in the mouth
- Pain in the mouth and ears
While the above signs and symptoms could be indicative of other problems, visit a dentist if they persist for more than two weeks. It remains unclear what causes mutations in squamous cells, but mouth cancers are generally linked to risk factors like tobacco use, human papillomavirus (HPV), excessive alcohol consumption, etc. A dentist will examine your mouth for any anomalies that are precancerous or if the cancer has already developed. Historically, mouth cancers are common among people aged 40 and above, but recent statistics show diagnosis among younger people, especially those using smokeless tobacco.
- Detecting Tooth Decay in Children
Apart from serious ailments like mouth cancer, there are many other problems that a dentist can find with regular checkups such as tooth decay. This problem is generally triggered by excessive acid-producing bacteria in the mouth, which can be transmitted through saliva, contaminated utensils, and pacifiers. Some parents have a habit of tasting children’s food before feeding them or cleaning out the pacifier using their mouth, and this exposes the child to bacteria.
If a child is exposed to other liquids apart from water or food for extended periods, they become susceptible to tooth decay. These foods and drinks have natural or added sugars that produce acid inside the mouth, which then erodes the teeth enamel, a condition known as bottle mouth. Avoid giving your child juices – even when diluted with water – milk, or other snacks during bedtime or throughout the day. If the child is old enough, they should brush their teeth before bed and not take anything else afterward.
Cavities can develop from an early age and trigger premature removal of baby teeth. When this happens, the remaining teeth may start shifting and not leave enough room for adult teeth to develop. Tooth decay or dental caries can launch infections that affect adjacent teeth and even hurt gums, and these advanced problems are expensive to treat. What’s more, your child will be experiencing unnecessary pain and discomfort that could have been avoided with proper dental practices.
For these reasons and more, we advise parents to bring their toddlers and older children for dental checkups so we can discover any anomalies from the onset.
- Teaching Children Good Dental Practices
Starting regular dental visits from an early age helps the child to appreciate the need for proper oral hygiene. The fear associated with dental checkups dissipates or is not exaggerated so much that it keeps them from seeing a dentist. Children learn about acceptable dental hygiene practices from a professional, and this helps them embrace such practices at home.
Research surmises that children who start dental visits early in life have a better attitude toward oral health and are therefore more likely to take proper care of their teeth. Parents can start this process at home, even before milk teeth begin sprouting. You can run a damp washcloth over the gums to remove harmful bacteria that break down sugars into acid. Once the teeth come in, brush them using a baby toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste to minimize the amount that could be swallowed. Ensure your preferred toothpaste bears a seal of acceptance from the American Dental Association's (ADA).
As the kids get older, you can increase the amount of toothpaste to pea-size but ensure they spit it out when brushing. Parents must supervise this process for children under 8 as they are more likely to swallow toothpaste even when you have cautioned them against doing so. Other ways of preventing fostering good dental hygiene include:
- Teaching children to use regular cups as their motor skills develop
- Ensuring that children take fluoridated water, which typically comes naturally. People using water from wells can ask the dentist to prescribe a fluoride supplement or apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay.
- Limit the amounts of sticky or sweet foods and drinks you give the child
- Serve juices only during meals time, then give them water throughout the day
- Visit a dentist before the child turns one
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends finding a dentist for your child as early as six months so you can establish a dental home. Your pediatrician can help you find one or at least suggest ways of maintaining proper oral care to stave off tooth decay and other oral issues.
- Plaque, Tartar, and Cavities
Adults need proper dental care just as much as growing children. You are more prone to plaque buildup, which then leads to tartar, and creates holes in teeth. Cavities can develop progressively over time without causing any pain or discomfort until they are fully manifested and cause excruciating pain. Seeing a dentist regularly saves you from cavities down the line as they can see them during mouth inspection. A qualified dentist will examine every tooth, including the hidden places where you may not see using a mirror. Our job is to help you discover problems early on and deal with them before it’s too late.
- Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity is a pervasive problem that is normally felt upon consuming cold or hot food and drinks. Some people experience this issue when brushing and flossing teeth, and the pain could be localized in one or more areas lasting from a few seconds to for most parts of the day.
It is tempting to self-medicate with over-the-counter pain relievers, but this is only a short-term solution for tooth sensitivity. From experience, tooth sensitivity could be indicative of cracked teeth or tooth abscess, or other dental issues that call for immediate treatment to stop the infection from spreading. If you have been battling tooth sensitivity from time to time, make an appointment today so we can help you address this issue.
- Head, Neck, and Lymph Node Checkup
Another importance of seeing a dentist often is the opportunity to inspect the head, neck, and lymph nodes. Our professionals led by Dr. Siavash Zargarpour start with inspecting the mouth, gums, and tongue for any problems or signs of oral cancer, then proceed to examine your neck, jaw, and lymph nodes. These nodes are found slightly beneath your jawline, and they are prone to swelling, lumps, or other abnormalities when things are awry.
It is vital that you have neck and thyroid checkups habitually, and this effort can mean a world of difference for your health and wellbeing. The dentist may find a nodule in your thyroid and send you to an endocrinologist for further consultation. Research shows that 95% of thyroid nodules are benign, but this can only be determined after taking an ultrasound and then a fine needle aspiration (FNA) test. Whatever problem there is, your dentist can find it early and refer you to the concerned specialist if necessary.
- Curtail Harmful Habits
There are many negative habits that increase the likelihood of tooth decay, gum disease, and other mouth-related problems. Smoking, neglecting to brush your teeth, or eating sugary foods are common mistakes that people make. Other habits are seemingly innocuous but can lead to problems just as much. For instance, biting nails, grinding teeth, clenching the jaw, drinking too much coffee or wine, chewing on hard sweets, etc.
All these habits wreak havoc on your teeth even without you knowing it, but seeing a dentist can help you stop. The professionals at Tarzana Dental Care are keen to discuss lifestyle habits that could affect our patients’ oral health and put forward suggestions on how to curtail these bad habits.
- Inspect for Gum Disease
The accumulation of acid in the mouth not only causes tooth decay but also harms the gum tissues. This problem happens due to bad oral hygiene habits such as forgoing brushing and flossing your teeth daily. A sticky film of bacteria forms atop teeth and hardens with time to become plaque, which is colorless. When this plaque is not removed through daily cleaning, it becomes tartar, which can only be removed through professional teeth cleaning.
Tartar builds up at the point where gums and teeth connect, thus leading the gum to separate from affected teeth. This problem is commonly known as gingivitis, and if left unattended, the tissue attaching gums to teeth wears off over time. Periodontal (gum) ailment is characterized by swelling, tenderness, or bleeding in the mouth, and the bone holding teeth in place start to break down too. Other signs of gum disease include the following:
- Persistent bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Receding gums or teeth appearing longer
- Pain when chewing
- Loose and sensitive teeth
Missing teeth are unsightly, affect your teeth, and may cause speech problems even in adults. Apart from bad oral hygiene practices, there are other risk factors for gum disease, such as smoking, diabetes, genetics, hormonal fluctuations, etc. Seeing a dentist regularly is vital so they can probe for any pockets around teeth and determine their depth using a tiny ruler. The normal depth of these pockets for healthy persons is typically 1 to 3 millimeters. The dentist may also decide to take x-rays to see any signs of bone loss, and both these procedures are painless.
Treating gum disease calls for specialist intervention, and this is expensive. You may require several rounds of treatment, including surgical procedures and medication. Smoking complicates treatment, thus making it harder for the patient to recover from periodontal ailment.
The pain, expenditure, and other inconveniences that come with battling gingivitis and periodontal disease are completely avoidable. We recommend patients to come in for regular mouth inspection, so we can detect signs and symptoms early on and launch a treatment plan before things escalate.
- Get Dental X-Rays
Some teeth and gum problems cannot be detected accurately with the naked eye, and for this, we recommend performing dental x-rays on problematic areas. X-ray images of your teeth, jaw, and bones help the dentist to see what is happening beneath the surface like impacted teeth, overcrowding, cysts, bone decay, tumors, etc.
X-ray imaging helps to discover destructive ailments that hardly show symptoms before they manifest and cause severe damage. The most reliable way of staving off such problems is visiting your dentist at least twice per year so they can give proper diagnosis and advice on how to keep problems at bay. If you are yet to see a dentist in 2019, we highly recommend making a reservation before the year closes. Apart from this procedure, your dentist will clean your teeth professionally at no extra cost.
- Discuss Teeth Whitening
Having discolored teeth is not good for your appearance and self-esteem. Some people have mild discoloration, while others have nearly brown or yellowish teeth that are unsightly. Tooth whitening has become increasingly popular in recent times, but this process is still shrouded in mystery for most people. Misconceptions can confuse people regarding the safety and legality of this procedure, thus keeping you away from achieving a beautiful smile.
Our dentists at Tarzana Dental Care are knowledgeable in cosmetic procedures ranging from teeth whitening to orthodontic treatments like veneers. We are in a position to allay your fears about teeth whitening and advise you on how to care for them afterward. Do not entrust this procedure on unqualified people as such moves can yield more harm than good. Make an appointment with us and let us handle this delicate procedure with personalized service.
Moreover, our professionals have years of training and experience to address just about any dental problem, and we are on hand to give advice to clients. Seeing your dentist often helps to nurture a fruitful relationship so they can customize advice to suit your specific needs now and as they evolve.
Find the Best Dentist Near Me
There are many teeth problems that require intervention by a qualified dentist before they morph into something more serious, like excessive decay that cannot be solved by a root canal. Unfortunately, many people ignore issues like halitosis (bad breath), tooth sensitivity, and bleeding gums until the problem is far gone. You could end up losing a tooth or more, not to mention the risk of developing periodontal disease or oral cancer.
You can prevent these problems by seeing a dentist at least twice per year, even when nothing is particularly wrong. Tarzana Dental Care in California offers free teeth cleaning with each visit and a proper mouth inspection so you can rest assured that no problems abound. Our aim is to help you maintain the desired oral health so you can keep your teeth healthy and strong for longer. Call us today at 818-708-3232 for a free consultation.