How to have fabulous teeth at any age

Oral health is important for all of our wellbeing and prevention is the key.

According to the National Oral Health Plan, three out of ten adult Australians have untreated tooth decay. Oral hygiene is an important health issue that affects all of us. Poor oral health is among the most common health problems experienced by Australians and it can lead to a slew of other problematic health-related issues.

Why is oral health important?
The last National Survey of Adult Oral Health showed more than fifty per cent of Australians 65 and older suffered from periodontal (gum) disease.  As well as causing discomfort and social difficulties, poor oral health can lead to a suite of other serious health problems.

An analysis by the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry indicated that people with gum disease were twice as likely as others to die from a heart attack and three times as likely to have stroke. Why? The researchers found that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can release toxins into or travel through the bloodstream and help to form fatty plaques in the arteries. These plaque deposits can lead to serious problems, such as blood clots, which can block blood flow.

Poor oral health may even be connected to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the UK discovered the presence of a bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of dementia patients. The researchers noted that this bug is also usually associated with chronic periodontal disease.

People with diabetes must be particularly vigilant with their dental hygiene as they have a lower resistance to infection and thus their gums are more susceptible to bacteria. Consequently, diabetics should regularly visit their dentist for advice on how to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

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Prevention is key
Not surprisingly, the best way to avoid dental problems is through prevention. The National Oral Health Plan recommends that Australians receive an oral health check up and preventatively focused oral health care a minimum of once every two years. However, the consultation report also notes that four out of ten Australians with good oral health visited the same dentist at least once a year for a check up.

Every individual has different dental needs, so consult your dentist to find out yours. On top of regular check ups, be sure to visit your dental practitioner urgently if you have pain in your mouth, bleeding gums or any sores, lumps or discoloured patches in your mouth.

Did you know?  Replacing your toothbrush every three to four months and after a cold is important because bristles contain bacteria. 

Brushing, flossing and mouthwash
Brushing twice daily is crucial for removing plaque from your teeth. Aim to brush your teeth and along the gum line with a soft toothbrush after breakfast every morning and before going to bed each night. Also, be sure to brush your tongue to remove particles and bacteria that can build up on its surface, particularly towards the back.  Finally, don’t brush too quickly after eating as this can brush acid onto your teeth, a process which erodes tooth enamel. Try to wait at least thirty minutes between your last meal and brushing or rinse your mouth out with water first. 

Getting into the habit of flossing (by sliding the floss between the teeth and using a saw-like motion) every day is important for removing plaque where your toothbrush can’t reach. In doubt if you are doing it right? Ask your dentist to show you how on your next visit.

By flossing, you can effectively prevent - or at least cut down dramatically - on cavities and gum disease. Mouthwash can also help to ward off gum disease, but that’s only if you use a bacteria-fighting, non-alcoholic rinse after brushing and flossing. Ask your dentist for the best options for you. It is also important that dentures be cleaned with soap and water after every meal, to remove food particles and bacteria. 

Did you know? Chewing gum is good for you. Numerous studies have confirmed that chewing sugar-free gum can in fact reduce your risk of tooth decay. Chewing gum increases the production of saliva and makes your salivary glands larger and more efficient. This helps to protect teeth by keeping them clean and strengthening the natural production of enamel. 

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In the 1930s, American scientists discovered that towns with higher levels of fluoride in the water-supply experienced less tooth decay. Most Australian towns and cities were fluoridated in the 1960s and 1970s, and today around 90% of Australians enjoy the decay-fighting benefits of fluoride. According to the Australian Dental Association, it contributes to fewer fillings, fewer extractions and fewer visits to the dentist. Fluoridated toothpaste has also had similar effects.

Did you know? Smoking has been proven to cause mouth cancer and gum disease. Quitting smoking will improve the health of your mouth, gums and teeth.

Medication with added sugar isn’t ideal for your teeth. Consequently, try and get sugar free medication, or if that isn’t possible get into the habit of rinsing your mouth out every time you take medication which includes sugar. Some medications can also cause xerostomia (dry mouth), which increases risk of tooth decay. Seek professional medical advice if your medication is giving you a dry mouth.

Did you know? Dental health week is this 4th August? 

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Dental diet
Eating foods with high levels of sugar is a leading cause of tooth decay. Aim to limit your intake of food with added sugars and try not to add sugar to tea or coffee. Fruit juices and soft drinks can also contribute, so aim to stick to tap water (bottled water doesn’t contain fluoride). Also, limit between-meal snacks as this reduces the number of acid attacks on your teeth and gives them a chance to ‘repair themselves’.

Beneficial foods include ones that make you chew, such as raw fruit and vegetables. Calcium rich foods such as salmon, almonds and kale are also highly beneficial. Don’t forget to also consume plenty of dietary fat and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2, which are found in quality butter, organic meats, avocados and eggs.

What works for you when it comes to keeping your teeth in tip-top shape? Join our conversation below…