Times are tough and everybody is looking to cut corners. Your dental care is not the place to do it. It's a clear case of short-term savings and long-term expense. Regular check-ups and cleaning can head off issues that can lead to serious dental problems that can cost a lot to fix - and actually compromise your overall
"There are some real overall health issues that are related to your dental health," says Dr. Mike Shirtcliff of Advantage Dental.
Infections can impact heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other conditions.
"We're oftentimes the first ones to spot...systemic problems," says Sisters dentist Tom Rheuben. "We're a lot of times a window into the whole medical field."
Rheuben notes that he recently spotted oral symptoms of an autoimmune disorder in a patient and referred the patient to a physician. That kind of thing is very common; all systems are connected and dental health should not be separated from overall health.
"I think we find a lot of nose and throat problems," Dr. Rheuben notes.
Dr. Shirtcliff notes that the practice of dentistry has in a sense set itself up for isolation from general health care and health maintenance.
"Dentistry has been so good at repairing people that we've come to think going to the dentist and getting repaired makes you healthy," he said.
But that misses the point. Disease has to be stopped before it takes hold, and Dr. Shirtcliff says that 75 percent of disease can be eliminated through simple cleaning.
"Trying to fix our way out of it doesn't work," he says. "That's where prevention comes in."
And it's not just cleaning at the dentist that counts.
"It's all about the home care," says Dr. Rheuben. "If the home care is not there, coming in once every six months is not going to do it."
Learning proper care techniques is important, says Rheuben. The dentist is also adamant that smokers have to quit if they want to see improved dental health.
"Virtually every smoker we see has periodontal disease," says Rheuben. "We try to treat it, but as long as they're smoking, we'll never improve it."
What's the single most important home care tip? According to Dr. Shirtcliff it's this: "Make sure that they NEVER go to bed at night with dirty teeth."
Bacteria are active at night and you mouth is dry, making the nighttime the right time for the advance of disease. Dr. Shirtcliff recommends putting on a light coating of fluoride toothpaste before bed.
Dentists make every effort to keep preventative care as accessible and affordable as possible. Don't let your dental health slide in order to pinch pennies. It'll cost you in the long run.