Most people think about dentists as practitioners who treat cavities. And indeed, if you have a cavity, you should see a dentist for a filling, or in some cases, a crown. However, dentists actually prefer to take a preventative approach, meaning they also offer services that help protect against cavities. Here's a look at some of those main services and treatments.
Yes, the biannual teeth cleaning appointments your dentists recommends are for more than just keeping your teeth looking clean. A professional cleaning is really the only way to remove tartar, which is a calcified substance containing bacteria and old saliva. Removing tartar decreases the overall bacterial load in your mouth, which reduces your risk of cavities. So keep those biannual cleaning appointments and make them a priority for both you and the kids.
Sealants are basically pieces of a plastic-like material that are inserted into the grooves of back molars. The substance is liquid when it is applied, but it hardens within seconds. Sealants are most often used for kids, but they can be used for adults, too. They basically form a barrier between your tooth and the rest of your mouth, preventing the deep, hard-to-clean crevices of your molars from being exposed to oral bacteria that would cause cavities. Sealants stay in place for about 10 years, and they don't cause any damage when they do fall out. Your dentist can apply new ones once the original set falls out. The deeper the grooves in your molars, the greater your need for sealants.
Fluoride is a mineral that your teeth need in order to built strong enamel. It's not even that important that you swallow the fluoride; your teeth just need to be exposed to it. Some people get enough just by drinking tap water, which is often fortified with fluroide, but if you primarily drink bottled water, you may not be getting enough. Your dentist can perform what's known as a fluoride treatment. Basically, you'll be asked to bite into a tray that contains fluoride, and then let the treatment sit on your teeth for a few minutes. It will then be rinsed away. The fluoride will strengthen your tooth enamel, making it resistant to cavities.
Dentists do treat cavities, but most dentists would prefer to work with you to prevent them! Contact a family dentist in your area to inquire about these and other preventative treatments.