Most of us have heard the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Research has shown that prevention is key to not only avoiding dental issues but also helping control and even preventing medical ones.

A comprehensive evaluation of your present oral and medical condition helps to achieve this. Dental imaging is used to detect decay, bone loss and bone abnormalities. Oral screening for soft tissue abnormalities or possible pre-cancerous conditions should be part of every dental hygiene appointment.

The advantage of early detection of issues is that it is less traumatic and less expensive than finding conditions after they become well developed.

Periodontal screening for disease and beginning stages of tooth loss is an important component of proper preventive care. Research shows that if you have bleeding gums, there is inflammation. Where there is inflammation in one area of the body, it tends to increase in other areas.

The pathogens in a deep pocket that cannot be reached with routine home care are far more aggressive than the pathogens that live above the gum line. The “cleaning” procedure is not just to remove stain and tartar, but to prevent and reduce inflammation by removing those pathogens.

In a healthy mouth, oral pathogens are specific to the mouth. When oral inflammation is present, these bacteria enter the blood stream and have dramatic effects on your general health.

With all the medications being used now and the number of cancer survivors out there, there is a dramatic increase in xerostomia (dry mouth) as well. Dry mouth leads to decay, inflammation and discomfort, which is another sign of oral decline. Your dental team can help you significantly reduce these results.

The reality of COVID-19 has resulted in an increased fear of exposure to this virus in the dental office. However, any ethical dental practice has taken great measures to reduce any risk of transfer.

Most offices have implemented HEPA filtration with UV lights, treatment room isolation and rotation, extra PPE, patient and staff temperature screening, and aerosol reducing suctions, in addition to standard sterilization practices.

If there is doubt, call your dental office and ask about their precautions, but don’t let COVID-19 keep you from defending your oral health.

So, is “an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure”? We say, “Yes!” Now that you know more information, we hope you will, too. Dental health involves more than “just a cleaning.”

Stephanie Bailey is a registered dental hygienist at LowCountry Dental Center.