By Dr. Joseph Banker
Quality dentistry is now more accessible and comfortable than ever. We have better instruments, better anesthetics, cozy offices, and efficient procedures. Yet, the systemic effects of poor oral heath are still being extensively covered in the media.
Cities like Phoenix and many small towns consider phasing out fluoridated water. The CDC also reported the first increase in over 40 years in the number of preschoolers with cavities. The case for dental care is being covered on a daily basis, but many are overlooking the increase of poor hygiene in adults, unrelated to any of the factors mentioned before.
If dentistry is so accessible and the benefits are so clear, why are we still seeing an influx of patients with obvious signs of poor oral health due to poor oral hygiene?
I conducted my own unscientific survey of New Jersey area dentists with patient bases ranging from urban and blue collar to suburban and white collar, as well as from various socioeconomic backgrounds. What I, and many other dentists, found was that a very large number of those patients with poor dental hygiene claimed some sort of financial hardship that occurred within the past few years. Many had lost jobs and reported a high level of stress due to the uncertainty of their future. It makes me wonder if other dentists across the country are experiencing similar circumstances.
There is no surprise that, in times of economic hardship, an individual's focus moves away from his or her personal care. All of the dentists felt that this was a common theme that they had encountered recently. This recession has taken a toll on our patients, and we don't know when the economy will recover.
While some patients have made the effort to get to the dentist, it is more important now that ever to take the time to reinforce the importance of oral hygiene for those experiencing a stress or hardship who face obstacles in visiting a dentist. There are simple, daily habits and routines that patients can get into that can dramatically improve their oral health.
- Spend at least three minutes brushing your teeth two times a day: in the morning and before bed. Make sure you brush your tongue too in order to get rid of excess bacteria.
- Make sure you’re using ADA-approved toothpaste, toothbrushes, and mouthwash.
- Brush or rinse after eating, especially after sweets, to get rid of sugars and acids that can damage enamel.
- Floss, floss, floss! Can’t stress enough how important flossing is to preventing tooth decay and heart disease. Incorporate flossing once a day into your nighttime brushing routine; it takes less than two minutes.
These tips, while seemingly very simple to adhere to, are sometimes hard for patients to incorporate into their daily routine. Getting in the habit of taking better care of their teeth when they don’t have the time or resources to see a dentist can be a temporary relief from the stresses in their daily life. Taking five minutes each morning and night to improve oral hygiene can prevent a lot of future stress from intense dental procedures to fix rotted and ruined teeth. You may not have time or money to come sit my dentist chair now, but trust me, you don’t to be in it down the road with a mouth full of cavities.