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Focus Stories

Alafaya Family Dentistry

by Laura Breen Galante

Featured Photo from Alafaya Family Dentistry

Dr. Karen Schmitt and Dr. David Ross at Alafaya Family Dentistry are dedicated to both preventative and restorative dentistry. They think of oral health as a critically important part of whole-body health, and with that in mind, the doctors believe the best way to be healthy is to stay healthy.

“We recently introduced Dental Fitness, a program to   help people take control of their dental health,” explains Dr. Ross.
Dental Fitness is a preventative measure to help keep patients plaque-free and therefore reduce the need for extensive dental work. The program uses a computerized system that gives patients helpful visual aids and educates them on the best practices to clean their teeth. The program involves measuring the patient’s gums, determining how much plaque develops over time, identifying which spots patients may miss while brushing, and charting pesky bacteria so that patients can avoid periodontal disease and costly dental work.

“By removing the bacteria and being able to brush and floss really well, their plaque-free score will be high,” says Dr. Ross. “We measure, and the program gives us a readout of where patients are right now as far as plaque. Then, we can work with them to improve their dental health.”

As patients progress through the program, they move up the chart to become plaque-free. 

“We want patients to be at 90 percent or above on the plaque-free chart,” says Dr. Schmitt. “That starts with brushing and using floss, but what we find is most patients have a certain technique, and they may be missing spots. Or they get busy, and they brush too fast.”

Even fancy electric toothbrushes can miss spots if the brusher isn’t careful, she says. 

The Dental Fitness program creates a custom visual aid that shows areas where each patient might be missing when they brush.

“They can take that home and concentrate on those areas, and we work with them,” says Dr. Schmitt.

“We do it in a non-accusatory way,” adds Dr. Ross. “We don’t scold anyone.”

Those who can keep their plaque-free score at 90 percent or above have significantly fewer decay and gum problems, and their mouths are a lot healthier.

“Things start going south when we see periodontal disease,” explains Dr. Ross. “This can lead to loss of teeth, and we don’t want that. We’re becoming more and more preventative as we go along this plan. We really want people to be healthy.”

Many dentists can fix something if it’s broken, but Dr. Schmitt and Dr. Ross prefer to find the root cause of the issue and prevent it, if possible.

“We do a lot of education,” says Dr. Ross. “Some people just want a cleaning, and that’s fine, but that’s like giving someone a fish. I’d rather teach them how to fish.”

Looking Good, Feeling Good
Another groundbreaking offering at Alafaya Family Dentistry is Bioesthetic Dentistry. This technique is based on a biologic model created from studies of elderly men and women who still have their original, healthy functioning teeth. In studying these patients, research has found that proper alignment of the jaw joint is a critical factor in reducing wear on the teeth. If the joint is out of alignment and the bite is imbalanced, it can cause grinding or wearing down of the teeth, pain in the joint area, headaches, and stress on the facial muscles.

“Most people aren’t concerned until it becomes an aesthetic problem, or they’re having muscle pain,” says Dr. Schmitt, who has helped many patients restore proper joint alignment with the use of a special orthotic appliance. “We adjust it over time until their teeth consistently hit in the right spot.”

The results can be dramatic. Patients appear much more relaxed and even show fewer wrinkles due to less strain in their facial muscles. 

Alafaya Family Dentistry is the only Bioesthetic dental practice in the state of Florida and is proud to be one of only a few that offer the Dental Fitness program.

“Like an automobile, we could fix the broken parts, but is it going to be the best thing for the patient?” asks Dr. Ross. “We want to help our patients understand what’s going on. We want to work with them to achieve their goals.”

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