Prophylaxis is the method of controlling risk through behavior. It means “guard” in Greek. A good example of this is the vaccine regiment our children go through and the vaccines that are administered throughout adulthood to avoid certain diseases.
The alternative is to do nothing or very little and risk infection. In some cases, such as the flu, the risk is fairly minimal to healthy individuals; the worst that can happen is a few days of feeling awful.
Some diseases are deadly, however. A vaccine makes it impossible or at least, extremely implausible, for a recipient to become infected. Not taking the vaccine, though, can result in infection and in some cases, severe health issues, including death.
In oral and dental health, a prophylaxis approach means preemptively taking action to avoid disease risk.
This can include:
- Regular visits to the dentist,
- Dietary restrictions to reduce acids in the mouth or the promotion of bacterial growth,
- Dietary additions to reduce pH levels of saliva and nutrients for good gum, tooth and bone growth,
- Good oral hygiene,
- Addressing issues as they are discovered, not waiting until they become oral emergencies.
A prophylactic regimen is anything that helps avoid dental health issues.