‘Primary’ prevention concerns actions taken before the onset of a disease. For oral health the obvious measures include dietary advice, reinforced oral hygiene, the use of fluoride toothpaste and fissure sealing. Avoiding refined sugar and acidic food will diminish the risk of decay; with respect to periodontal (gum) infection, tobacco consumption should reduced, or even better stopped.

‘Secondary’ prevention aims at early detection of the disease process, frequently before the patient has any symptoms. This will stop the situation worsening, limit the extent and lessen complications. A routine check-up can immediately reveal a condition the patient was unaware of but also supplementary investigations such as X-rays and periodontal assessment enter at this stage.

This is perhaps the moment to mention a special dental ‘pathology’ - bruxism: teeth grinding or clenching. Although not exactly a disease bruxism can result in serious destruction of tooth substance and frequently causes fractures; often the teeth need to be extracted. The onset is usually imperceptible or the patient may complain of sore jaw muscles on waking but the dentist may notice wear patterns that indicate a grinding habit. The recommended treatment is a night guard (occlusal splint) to be worn while sleeping.

For Dr. Francis Haley, an English dentist based in Cascais, these concepts are a part of daily practice. The clinic is primarily concerned with preventive dentistry and when necessary, minimally invasive restorative treatments. These measures, together with healthier life-styles and modern medical technology are seeing more and more people living longer and maintaining most if not all of their teeth.

For more information, Tel: 214863012 or visit: http://clinic.cdhaley.pt