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Letter: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

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Letter: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

By Dr. Maureen Sorensen, Worthington

Board Member, Minnesota Dental Association

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That homespun saying may be good advice for auto mufflers or washing machines, but it doesn’t apply to dental care. Dentistry focuses on regular preventive care to offset more serious and expensive care later.

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As a practicing dentist in Worthington, I know that most dental problems start out small and may be hard for patients themselves to detect in the early stages. If your teeth and gums feel fine, it could be tempting to put off regular visits to your dentist. However, delaying checkups and treatment can lead to serious problems later on. The plaque you didn’t notice can lead to gum disease. The sensitivity to hot and cold you ignored can be a sign of an abscess, cavity, inflamed tooth pulp (nerve), cracked tooth or receding gums.

The Minnesota Dental Association has an excellent public awareness campaign called Healthy Gums, Healthy You that discusses how oral health is vital to a person’s overall health and well-being. Check out their website at www.mndental.org/healthygums.

The mouth is a gateway to the entire body and gum disease can be associated with other medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and pregnancy issues. The good news is that your dentist may be able to detect early stages of gum disease during regular exams, and treatments are available to help stop the progression.

To maintain a healthy mouth, the following steps should be part of everyone’s preventive dental care: regular brushing and flossing, avoiding sugary foods, and having regular checkups, cleanings and X-rays.

In addition, the American Dental Association has seven vital commandments to keep your smile healthy:

* I will not use my teeth as a tool to crack nuts, pull staples or tear open plastic wrappers.

* I will not chew ice. (Expos-ing teeth to such a hard, cold substance can cause cracks in the enamel and weaken the structure of the tooth.)

* I will wear a mouthguard when I play contact sports.

* I will avoid biting down on hard foods like peanut brittle, hard rolls, popcorn kernels and hard candy.

* I will avoid sticky foods. (They cling to the teeth and expose enamel to acid attacks that cause cavities.)

* I will brush and floss regularly.

* I will have my mouth checked by a dentist at least once a year.

Now that summer has arrived and children are out of school, it’s a good time to make an appointment for their dental checkups. Don’t let the summer slip by and find that your dentist’s schedule is full right before school starts again in the fall. Those late summer appointments get filled up quickly, so plan ahead and book now ... for yourself and the whole family!

Take care of your teeth and you’ll have a smile to be proud of!

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