By Dr. Grant Hinze

Oral hygiene has been practiced for a millennium. The ancient people did not understand the biology of oral diseases, however they used rudimentary self-care tools, such as chew sticks, twigs, feathers or animal bones as picks.

During the 1930s, “see your dentist twice a year” and “brush your teeth twice per day” became a common principal. However, it became evident that some people needed more professional care and more intense self-care while others required less.

Studies discovered fewer cavities in areas with a higher concentration of naturally occurring fluoride. This led to the addition of fluoride to municipal water supplies beginning in the mid-1940s. Toothpaste also became more scientific with the addition of fluoride and other components like sodium lauryl sulfate (giving it the sudsy feeling) and pyrophosphate (to help decrease calculus formations) and antiseptics (like Triclosan) that actually kill bacteria for hours.

Mouth rinses have added quaternary ammonium compounds and chlorhexidine (just like your hand soap) to battle ever-present bacteria that causes decay, gum diseases and of course bad breath.

There have been several design changes in the evolution of the toothbrush like the bristle size, hardness or softness, lengths, and of course powered brushes – all to ward off the plaque formation that causes the majority of dental diseases. Manual toothbrushes achieve the same results, however with a little more effort. If it will excite or motivate the patient toward better self-care, I’m all for it!

In the future, get ready for individual diagnostics with genetic testing that will identify those areas requiring more attention. Some people will benefit with frequent visits, whereas some will not need as much monitoring. As the Baby Boomers grow older, prevention hygiene will be tailored for individuals, understanding that better oral hygiene translates into decreased risk for systemic diseases. Increased internet savvy will improve knowledge of preventative care and a better understanding between the dentist and patients. Prevention is a lot easier, less time consuming and a lot less expensive.