Preventative dentistry consists of two folds: 1) to prevent cavity formation, and 2) to prevent gingival or gum inflammation. Both components of preventative dentistry are bacteria in origin.
Cavity formation can be understood readily through an equilibrium process between demineralization and remineralization, and the bacteria acting as an intermediate agent without which the demineralization process will not take place. For example, consumption of diet high in sugar content in combination with poor oral hygiene results in formation of acids by oral bacteria causing demineralization of tooth structure and therefore by defination a cavity. On the other hand, remineralization process can be favored by practicing good oral hygiene, appropriate use of dentifrices and healthy proper diet low in sugar content. The following photograph shows cavity on chewing surface, also known as pit and fissure caries, which can easily be avoided through good oral hygiene and placement of dental sealants immediately following eruption of these teeth.
Gingival inflammatory process is again bacteria in origin. It results from accumulation of debris including bacteria in the gingival sulcus or housing of the tooth causing one's immune system to react through inflammation. If the debris is not completely removed and oral hygiene is not improved, the gingival inflammatory process continues and eventually causes the support structure of the tooth, namely the underlying bone, to resorb causing the affected tooth to become loose. As a matter of fact, it is the advanced gum disease called periodontitis which is the main cause of tooth loss. The following photograph shows the presence of calculus (tartar) adhering to the roots of this molar tooth which eventually caused the loss of this tooth.
The following photographs compare healthy gingival tissue to that of the inflamed. Healthy gingival tissue is pink in color and is firmly attached to the tooth without any signs of inflammation and swelling. Diseased gingival tissue, on the other hand, is red in color from the presence of inflammation and is also swollen at the gingival margin from the presence of dental plaque and food debris eliciting body's immune inflammatory response.