When you buy a new car, you get an owner’s manual that tells you when to get the oil changed, how much air to put in the tires, and when to get the brakes repaired, among other important details about routine maintenance.
When it comes to our teeth, though, we aren’t always as conscientious about following maintenance schedules – and our oral health suffers as a result.
“Every child and most adults should be given an operator’s manual for dental care,” says Dr. Ami Barakat, a dentist and author of Perfecting Smiles, Changing Lives (www.villanovadental.com). “Too many people have no idea how to maintain good dental health.”
It makes a significant difference when they do, he says. For example, parents who have a history of good dental care usually pass that knowledge on to their children. But unfortunately, Barakat says, parents with little or no knowledge of the proper way to care for their teeth and gums don’t have good habits to pass on – so the cycle repeats generation after generation.
If there were an owner’s manual for dental care, here are a few things Barakat believes it should include:
- Basic routine maintenance. Everybody has heard about brushing and flossing, but not enough people actually floss or know the proper way to do it. The four most common flossing mistakes are flossing too often, moving too quickly, missing both sides of the tooth and quitting at the sign of bleeding gums.
- It’s not just the mouth. Too many people think dentists worry only about cavities and the smile. In reality, the mouth can be linked to back injuries, neck injuries, headaches and a host of other issues.
- Easy fixes. Just as keeping tires properly inflated is an easy fix that will prevent big problems, dentists have a few of those too. Easy, quick and comparatively cheap fixes are available for chipped teeth, cavities, sensitive teeth care and gingivitis.
- How prevention is cheaper than correction. Good dental health is frequently a pocketbook issue. A comprehensive and frank discussion with your dentist about what your dental-health-insurance coverage is, (what you can afford and what you cannot) will enable you to plan for your future.
“We are doing a poor job of educating the general public about good dental health and what dentists can do to improve dental health,” Dr. Barakat says. “People need to understand that preventative care works just as well in dentistry as it does in automobile care.”