Dental technology has come a long way, and there’s a lot you can do to repair your teeth if they have suffered damage over time.

Cosmetic dentistry can improve your smile with veneers, whitening, crowns, bridges or even implants if your teeth have suffered damage over time from decay or wear.

But the best way to keep your teeth functioning at the highest level and looking good is to practice good oral hygiene and keep a regular schedule of dental cleaning and screening appointments.

Preventive dental care helps keep your smile healthy for years. When tooth decay is identified in its earliest forms, it can be addressed with non-invasive techniques like fluoride and sealants.

Evansville dentist Dr. Max Lingo provides such preventative dental care.

Visiting your dentist twice a year for a thorough cleaning and exam will help prevent small problems from becoming big ones. If the tooth has only a small cavity and it’s detected early, a small restoration can be placed before more tooth structure becomes involved. However, delaying preventive visits might mean a small cavity turns into a big one before it’s found.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 percent of children aged 5 to19 have untreated cavities, and for adults aged 20 to 44, the number rises to more than 30 percent. Statistics show that parents are pretty good about getting their children dental care — with almost 85 percent seeing a dentist in 2014, the last year of the survey — but they were not as good about going themselves. The percentage of adults who had seen the dentist in the year surveyed was only 64 percent. The number dropped slightly for older adults; only 63 percent of those over the age of 65 had had dental care in the past year.

Yet visiting a dentist like the office of Dr. Max Lingo for preventive care once or twice a year can help you avoid common oral complications that cause discomfort or result in expensive treatments later on.

And yes, even if you are the best brusher and flosser in the world and you generally have healthy teeth and gums, you should still have your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. A professional cleaning can remove the plaque and tartar buildup that even the best electric toothbrush can’t clean away.

Seeing your dentist regularly also helps establish a baseline of your oral health that the dentist can use to identify risks and problems before they become serious issues later on. At every regular examination, your dentist should also screen for conditions such as weak or decayed teeth, deteriorating bone density levels, gum health and more.

Screening for periodontal disease (also called gum disease) is especially important. Gum disease causes more people to lose their teeth than any other dental condition, including tooth decay.

Professional cleanings remove calcified bacteria from areas that are missed by brushing or flossing, buildup that would otherwise cause bone loss and gum disease. Your dental team will also work with you to identify ways to improve your current method of plaque control.

And periodontal disease isn’t just related to poor oral health. Research has linked harmful mouth bacteria to problems ranging from cardiovascular disease to complications in pregnancy, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetic complications.

Experts say that inflammation is a common component of both gum disease and heart disease, especially hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. There are also similarities between the bacteria present in both diseases.

Another danger that dentists screen for at regular checkups is oral cancer. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and the disease will cause almost 10,000 deaths. Only slightly more than half will be alive in five years.

Oral cancer is a deadly disease that can be hard to identify in the earliest stages. Most people do not realize that they have oral cancer until it has spread to a large area. Dr. Lingo’s office performs a thorough cancer screening on every patient to identify irregular tissues when treatment is easier and more effective.

Part of the reason the death rate with this cancer is so high is because it is often found in a late stage of development when it has spread to other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes. Twice-yearly oral cancer screening during a dental exam increases the chances that oral cancer will be caught in an earlier stage when the treatment outcome is more likely to be positive.

Often people think that oral cancer is a disease that only affects people who smoke or drink alcohol, but that is not the case. Sun exposure and some viruses also are known to cause the condition, so everyone should get screened.

As with oral cancer, it’s best to catch all oral health problems, such as tooth damage or decay or gum disease in an early stage. Earlier-stage problems are easier to detect thanks to new imaging technology, and are easier to treat if they’re found before extensive damage has occurred.

Because of new technology, it’s easy for dentists to immediately show patients if a problem area is detected. Digital X-rays reduce patients’ exposure to radiation and are instantly visible, making it easier to point out and explain areas of concern and discuss treatment options.

Intra-oral cameras are another way to capture images of areas of concern or problem teeth. Intra-oral cameras might capture images of teeth that show structural issues despite the absence of symptoms. These images also can be displayed immediately on a monitor in the treatment room for you to discuss with your dentist.

Another useful technology is laser decay detection, which can identify tooth decay even before X-rays or clinical exams can.

Preventive maintenance goes a long way towards good oral health. Visiting your dentist for a checkup every six months should become a habitual part of your health maintenance routine. A twice-yearly visit is an excellent investment in your oral and overall health.

For more information about preventive dentistry and oral health maintenance, contact the office of Evansville dentist Dr. Max Lingo.