Most Americans are greatly invested in keeping their teeth healthy and attractive since the mouth of healthy teeth means a great smile and ease with eating and speech. Healthy teeth often only need minimal dental work, such as routine cleaning and X-rays, and these teeth may be less likely to develop cavities, discoloration, and other ill effects. Visit your dentist regularly to keep on top of your dental care, and if you move to a new city or county, it is time to find a new dental care provider right away for yourself (and any children you might have). Children, too, need dental care so that they can grow up with healthy teeth and smart dental care habits for everyday life. Even your pets, mainly dogs and cats, can get dental care, and at a vet clinic, dog dental care services and products should be available. Just how often do Americans visit their dentists every year, and what sort of dental problems might adults and children develop that need professional attention?
Americans and Dental Care
To begin, let us consider the general state of the American dental industry. There is good news: dentistry ranks among the top 10 most trusted and ethical professions in the entire U.S., and many people are visiting their dentists regularly. You can even head to an urgent care clinic and receive trusted dental care, as well! Many parents are also taking their children (some as young as age two) to their dentists, and many different dental offices accept a wide variety of healthcare insurance policies. Many employees can get dental health plans from their employer, too, a popular form of private insurance. The CDC says that every year, an impressive total of 500 million dental appointments take place.
But there are some unfortunate trends, too, and they demonstrate why everyone should be careful to visit their dentists every year. In 2012, for example, an estimated total of 16 million children from the nation’s low-income households did not visit a dentist, and in that same year, around 130 million Americans did not have dental insurance at all. By age 65, 25% of all seniors aged 65 and up have lost all of their permanent teeth, and a huge number of workdays are lost every year due to tooth illness. Not even children are exempt from tooth problems; across the U.S., nearly 20% of children aged four and five are experiencing tooth decay, and the CDC estimates that 50% of all American children will experience tooth decay by the time they are in third grade. By age 17, that figure grows to 86%. So, to prevent this sort of problem from happening to you or your children, it is a good idea to find a dentist if you do not already have one, and visit their office regularly and follow good dental care practices in everyday life.
Finding a Dentist
When will someone need to search to find a high-quality dentist in their area? Often, someone may do this when they move to a new city or county, and they don’t yet know all the healthcare providers there. In other cases, someone’s child just became old enough to start visiting a pediatric dentist. If a person does not already have a trustworthy personal reference for finding a dentist, then they can simply conduct an online search to find local dental offices, and start narrowing down the selection. To begin with, that person may enter their home city or town’s name, and phrases such as “best dentist” or “top-rated pediatric dentist” and even enter their ZIP code to keep the results local. A whole list of results may appear, showing the names of local dentists and dental offices, as well as the address of each one. A client can also lookup patient reviews for further reference.
The client may strike out dental offices that are deemed too far away, or those that don’t accept the necessary dental insurance policy. Or, a dental office may not be desirable if it’s not accepting new patient anyway, or if it has too many negative reviews from previous patients. Once the list is narrowed down to the most promising candidates, the client may visit each one in person, and visiting in person allows them to form a fair impression of what each dental office is like. While there, the client may meet the dentists and dental assistants who work there, and interview them and even review their credentials.
If the client is looking for a pediatric or a family dentist, they can bring along their children for a repeat visit, and check that the child feels comfortable there and gets along with the staff. Pediatric dental offices do their best to make the premises comforting to young patients, but it’s best to double-check this. Take note that family dentists, like family doctors, can treat patients young and old alike, and can take on an entire family of patients at a time. In fact, a client may prefer this sort of dentist over more specialized ones. At any rate, the client can visit any number of dental offices this way until they find one that suits their needs, and sign on as a regular patient.
Typical Dental Care
Now it is clear how often Americans visit their dentists, and how they can find a dental office that suits their needs. When a patient visits for dental care, what might happen? If there are no particular issues with the patient’s teeth and gums, they may undergo a routine cleaning (minimally invasive) and perhaps have X-rays of their teeth taken. But there are many other services that a dentist can provide, some to protect teeth from future harm, and others to address infected or damaged teeth.
Unfortunately, teeth can get infected, and this can cause pain and perhaps threaten the patient’s life. If one or more teeth are infected, then a dentist can take some steps. More involved dental care may take the form of root canals, and this is a painless operation that can remove an infection from any tooth. Many Americans dread the idea of a root canal, but this procedure causes no discomfort, and the infected tooth doesn’t even have to be removed. Instead, the dentist will numb the affected tooth, drill into it, and extract all of the fleshy material inside, which is where the infection is located. This leaves behind a tooth that is hollow and infection-free, and this tooth will be slightly more fragile and no longer feel heat or cold.
What about the removal of a tooth? A patient’s tooth may be pulled out of the mouth if it is badly infected and a root canal is not a viable option for some reason. Tooth extraction may also be done for a badly damaged tooth, to make room for a false replacement. Or, a patient’s wisdom tooth is coming in, and if left untreated, that tooth causes harmful crowding in the mouth, pushing the “regular” teeth out of the way. So, the wisdom tooth is numbed and removed once it starts coming in. In fact, some Americans may have more than one wisdom tooth extracted.
Fortunately, not all dental care is as graphic as tooth removal or a root canal. What else might be done for the patient’s teeth? There is an entire field of dentistry known as cosmetic dentistry, which concerns itself with the appearance and shape of teeth for the sake of aesthetics and function alike. Most Americans care a great deal about what their teeth look like, after all, and ugly or damaged (or missing) teeth can harm a person’s social standing and make a poor impression on others. Some cosmetic dentistry will enhance the color of teeth, as most beauty standards call for dazzling white teeth (such as the term “pearly whites”). Teeth may become discolored after years of tobacco use (nicotine stains them), or if too much tartar builds upon them. To fix this, a dentist can use a tooth whitening gel on the patient’s teeth, and Americans can also find and buy tooth whitening gels on their own. Cosmetic dental care may also involve the placement of porcelain veneers over the teeth, to restore their color.
Cosmetic dentistry can also restore the shape and function of teeth. An adult tooth cannot grow back, not can it regenerate lost material, but dentists can add new tooth material in other ways. For example, suppose a tooth is worn down or cracked, which makes it sensitive and vulnerable. So, the dentist can have a mold made for the patient, and a crown is fitted onto the tooth to restore its shape and protect it from further damage. This also makes eating and speech easier, and crowns are a common form of dental implants among Americans today.
Suppose a tooth is entirely missing? This, too, can be addressed with cosmetic dental care. The doctor will make a mold of the patient’s current teeth for reference, and while a false tooth is being made elsewhere, the patient may have a temporary false tooth put in place. Then, when the final false tooth is ready, the dentist will fit it into the tooth gap. Such false teeth are often known as “dental bridges” because the false tooth has fixed covers on either side that slip over the real teeth flanking the gap, with the false tooth in the middle. Once secured in place that way, the false tooth can mimic both the appearance and the function of the missing tooth. This restores the patient’s smile and eating functions. Lastly, elderly patients may get entire rows of teeth replaced at once or all of their teeth. These are dentures, and such false teeth are fixed into false gums to keep them together. Unlike other dental implants, dentures can be fitted into the mouth and taken back out again at will. Often, senior citizens remove their dentures for sleep and put them back into their mouths in the morning. Dentures make it much easier for the elderly to eat, speak, and smile with attractive teeth.
One final note on cosmetic dental care: if a patient’s teeth are not aligned correctly, then they can have discreet plastic retainers fitted into their mouths, and each retainer is molded for a patient’s unique teeth. Such retainers will correct the teeth’s alignment while being difficult for other people to see. Such retainers come in a variety of brand names and prove quite popular.
What about children, and their need for dental care? Children can be taken to see pediatric or family dentists starting at age two, and parents are urged to begin looking after their children’s dental care right around that time. Unfortunately, bacteria and diseases don’t discriminate, and they may infect and damage even a child’s teeth if possible. So, a child may undergo routine cleaning and X-ray at the dentist’s office as an older patient would, and children can also have some special care done for them. A child can have sealant put on their teeth to help toughen the enamel, and lower the odds of tooth damage or cavities from that point on. And if a child’s teeth are growing in crooked or incorrectly, then a pediatric dentist will fix braces onto that child’s teeth. Some older patients might also have braces fitted in, if need be.
A pediatric dentist may also give a child toothbrushes and sample tubes of toothpaste for free. Additionally, they will instruct that child on good dental care habits for home. After all, the pediatric dentist can’t be there to follow the child around. A child should brush their teeth after every meal just like adults do, and children over a certain age can even use mouth wash if they are supervised. To protect teeth from blunt trauma, children are also encouraged to use a mouthguard when playing sports such as soccer or hockey, and they should refrain from chewing on any hard items, such as ice cubes. Teeth are tough, but their enamel always runs the risk of getting cracked or chipped.
Dentists provide distinct care, different from when someone needs to be be taken to general emergency clinics (including 24 hour emergency care clinics) or urgent care clinic for help. Dentists don’t typically work in a regular walk in clinic, after all.
As a bonus, a client may even look up dentists who work not in a building, but in a wheeled vehicle. Some dental patients are very busy or have limited transport, and this makes it difficult for them to visit a dental office for checkups or surgery. These are mobile dentists, who work in refurbished RVs that are equipped with basic dental care items. Only basic dental care is possible in these mobile offices, but for some patients, that is sufficient for their needs. A client may reserve a time slot for one of these mobile offices, and have that dental vehicle meet them at their college, place of work, or anywhere else that is accessible.