A key component of any preventative program is the ability to assess a person’s risk of developing a disease. In the case of dental caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, we are now able to establish a risk profile on a number of levels, such as an individual’s community, the individual’s behaviour or even certain tooth and tooth surfaces. This expanded approach helps dental professionals better manage patients from a preventative perspective. By understanding patients’ susceptibility to disease, better treatment and preventative regimens can be offered.
At the start of the 1980s, there was limited scientific consensus on what constituted the disease process called dental caries and no real understanding of the bacterial biofilm that initiates the disease. Some even doubted that dental professionals or graduates of dental assistant schools would ever embrace a preventative treatment for adult tooth decay! Today, preventative dentistry is a dynamic and exciting field constantly innovating with the goal of helping you avoid cavities. Here are some of the most exciting new trends in this field.
Fluoride for the 21st century
Whether you’ve noticed or not, the common toothpaste has evolved at an amazing pace these last 20 years and will continue to do so, subtly becoming more complex and efficient. Water fluoride toothpastes and rinses are proven to reduce the prevalence of dental cavities, and there is no credible evidence that water fluoridation is associated with any adverse health effects. What we’re starting to see on the market is slow-release fluoride devices, allowing slowly dissolving fluoride beads to attach themselves to molar teeth using an acid-etch composite.
Although sealant use is strongly advocated by several oral healthcare agencies, sealant application is still an emerging sector of preventative dentistry. Among the general public, or even students from a dental assistant program, the benefits of sealants for disease prevention appear to be misunderstood. Misconceptions exist that sealants will seal in existing decay, or that they are easily lost. This goes against numerous studies that have shown that sealants effectiveness and retention has greatly improved over the past 20 years, and that caries do not progress when sealants are applied to tooth that show lesions.
Dental cavities can be caused by a number of factors, such as the individual, his or her environment, habits, etc. Through genetic analysis, it’s possible, at least, to establish a risk profile of the individual, determining whether or not he or she is naturally at risk. Genetic analysis is still slowly being rolled out on the market, but will start to become more popular and widespread in its use as the core of the population ages, increasing the need for preventative dentistry.
As microscopes become more flexible, powerful and efficient, it’s now possible to detect an area at risk that would have looked healthy before. To eliminate the bacteria, dental professionals with dental assistant training rely on advanced, local antimicrobial delivery systems that are precise and sophisticated.