Are you looking for a rewarding career that will give your life meaning and purpose? Bringing back someone’s smile is just one of the many benefits and fulfilling roles of a dental assistant. The future looks very bright as dental assistants are an important part of a dentist’s practice. Not only are the benefits usually outstanding, but flexible hours are an option too. This is especially important if you are married and have a family. Dental assistants must have a general knowledge of oral health and how it pertains to one’s body. Good oral health means taking care of your teeth, gums, and mouth.
Oral Health: Teeth
Not only are teeth visible and one of the first things a person notices about someone, it’s important to take care of your teeth for these three reasons:
- Life expectancy increases
- Quality of life improves
- Health problems are diminished
People who have missing teeth risk bite misalignment which may cause trouble eating, pronouncing words, and cause lower self-esteem. It’s hard for some to smile if their teeth are missing or are crooked. Also, missing teeth may sometimes signal oral health problems that may cause other issues, such as: heart disease, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and oral cancers. It’s important to take care of your teeth with preventive care.
Preventive Oral Health Care
By taking care of your teeth, you can avoid oral problems with these steps:
- Brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes using fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss between your teeth daily.
- Cut back on sugary foods and drinks
- Eat less acidic foods
- Drink alcoholic drinks in moderation
- Avoid smoking or tobacco use
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and teeth cleaning
Getting into a regular routine with healthy oral habits can prevent cavities (tooth decay), avoid tooth pain, and the loss of teeth. Brushing your teeth is important, not only for fresher breath, but for removing stains. Brushing also removes plaque, which is a sticky film containing millions of bacteria. When brushing, don’t forget about your tongue as it contains bacteria too and will help to freshen your breath.
Flossing between your teeth prevents plaque from building up and can reach areas that a toothbrush can’t. It’s the bacteria in plaque that produces acids that will harm your teeth’s enamel. Eating too much sugar and acidic foods contribute to tooth decay, as does drinking sugary drinks and excessive alcohol. Using tobacco products or smoking cigarettes creates more tartar build-up and will cause your teeth to become yellow. By visiting your dentist regularly, any tooth damage can be caught promptly and treated before becoming an issue. It’s recommended to see your dentist every six months.
Other ways to fight tooth decay include eating a fiber-rich diet of vegetables and fruits and eating or drinking dairy products. Also, chewing sugarless gum, drinking black or green teas, and drinking water with fluoride are helpful in maintaining good oral health.
Fiber-rich vegetables and fruits help to stimulate saliva flow which defends against tooth decay. Saliva washes away food particles and cleans your mouth. It also neutralizes the acids that attack your teeth. Your teeth need the minerals found in milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Vitamin D, phosphates, and calcium are all helpful in reducing cavities and in strengthening teeth. Chewing sugarless gum, especially after eating a meal, helps to rinse off harmful acids from your teeth. Drinking tea helps to slow down the process of tooth decay by suppressing bacteria. Water with fluoride also helps slow down tooth decay.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can maintain oral health:
- Try to refrain from eating too many starchy foods, such as: chips, pasta, crackers, or bread.
- Avoid drinking too many sodas or drinks that contain sugar. Instead, try drinking tea, water, or coconut water.
- Drink fruit juices through a straw. This helps keep the sugar from making too much contact with your teeth.
- Acidic fruits, such as lemons, should be limited as to how long they stay in your mouth.
Oral Health: Gums
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is the leading cause of adults losing their teeth. It’s also linked with an increased risk of degenerated diseases. Even though your mouth is somewhat protected by disease-causing bacteria, if the balance of pathogens is disturbed, periodontal disease occurs. These disease-causing bacteria can trigger the immune system to fight back, which in turn produces a substance that destroys bacteria and harms gum tissue.
How do you know if your gums are damaged? Your gums will range from a mild redness to swollen gums, known as gingivitis. They may also be tender or bleed easily. Advanced periodontitis is the complete destruction of the bony support structure in the tooth which leads to tooth loss.
To prevent gum disease, it’s important to follow the same steps as preventive care for your teeth. It’s also vital for good oral health to eat a diet that is rich in vegetables. Vegetables are high in anti-oxidants and help fight off inflammation. Nuts, fruits, legumes, and fatty fish are also excellent sources to help fight periodontal disease. Using a mouthwash also helps to reduce gum disease.
Healthy gums are also important for these four reasons:
- They protect sensitive tissue around your teeth
- They help to lower or prevent heart disease
- They may improve or help your memory
- They help in preventing infections to keep your body healthy
Oral Health: Mouth
It’s essential to not only take care of your teeth and gums, but also your mouth. Just think how much it’s used throughout your day for eating, smiling, and even speaking. By taking care of your mouth, you can avoid oral cancer, especially if you avoid smoking, chewing tobacco, and drink alcoholic drinks sparingly.
Your overall oral health affects the health of your body. Inflammation can start in your mouth from gum disease. This may weaken your body’s defense against infection. It also makes it harder for your body to control blood sugar. If someone has high blood sugar, infections are more likely to grow and can cause health issues, such as endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy and birth, osteoporosis, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
There are also other conditions that may have a link to oral health and your body, such as eating disorders, head and neck cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes dry mouth by attacking glands that make saliva. It can also be accompanied by lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Your overall oral health and body health will be much better by taking care of your teeth, gums, and mouth. When you have healthy gums, you reduce the risk for having tooth decay, bad breath, and several other diseases that can be harmful. Developing good habits of brushing, flossing, using a mouthwash, eating healthy, and visiting your dentist regularly will help you to avoid the dangers of an unhealthy mouth later in life.
Often dental assistants will educate patients how to properly brush their teeth and gums. Toothbrushes should have soft bristles because they are better at removing debris and plaque. The head should be able to brush one tooth at a time and comfortable to handle.
When brushing your teeth, you should wet the toothbrush first and then squeeze a small amount of toothpaste on the brush. You should gently brush your teeth in a circular motion instead of up and down for two minutes. Then rinse your mouth out with water.
You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and then before going to bed. It’s also a good idea to brush, if possible, after eating foods that are sugary, processed, or acidic. Don’t forget to floss!
Besides teaching patients about good oral hygiene, dental assistants also make sure patients are comfortable, offer follow-up instructions, document the patient’s visit and record what treatments or concerns the dentist noted. The dental assistant is also responsible for taking x-rays of the patient’s teeth and developing them.
One of the most important duties of a dental assistant is to assist the dentist. Not only do they hand the dentist the necessary tools, but they also aid in surgeries and orthodontic procedures. It is vital that the instruments used by a dentist are kept sterilized. Dental assistants have a significant role in a successful dental practice and their jobs are never boring. It’s a fantastic career for those who want to make a difference in someone’s life.
Interested in educating patients about oral health and how it affects their overall body health and well-being? Do you need to become a dental assistant first? The Dental Assistant training program at Meridian College provides extensive hands-on training including a school externship at a dental office where you will assist the dentist in treating actual patients.
Contact Meridian College today to learn more about becoming a dental assistant.