The Australian Dental Association’s Dental Health week kicks off on August 7 – how are your dental habits?
Like it or not, most people’s lives these days are fast paced and busy, making it a challenge to devote time for proper oral hygiene.
Yet it’s vital to allocate a time to oral health in your daily routine, just like you would for exercise, reading or spending time on social media. Cleaning your gums and teeth removes plaque which consists of bacteria and leftover food – the bacteria increases acidity in the mouth which can cause bad breath, caries, gingivitis and periodontal disease as well as exacerbating complications of systemic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Brushing teeth and gums should be done for two minutes, morning and before bed. A small soft toothbrush with a flexible head aimed at 45 degrees to the gum line and brushing in small circular motion is recommended to avoid damage to the enamel and gums. The tongue should also be brushed or scraped to reduce the bacteria build up. A battery operated or electric toothbrush can be a useful tool for people with poor manual dexterity.
Flossing is essential as the toothbrush can’t reach between our teeth to remove the plaque, and should be done once a day at bedtime. With practice flossing should only take a minute or two, and it doesn’t really matter whether you floss or brush first as long as it’s done thoroughly. It can be done by traditional floss or other tools such as tiny brushes that look like bottle brushes, flosspicks or waterjets. Mouth rinses shouldn’t replace tooth brushing and flossing, but used afterwards as an adjunct to freshen breath.
Drinking water, reducing sugary-laden snacks and drinks between meals and chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after a meal will also reduce the acidity in the mouth and reduce tooth decay.
Children’s or baby teeth should be cleaned as soon as they appear by using a clean wet cloth or face washer, morning and before bedtime.
At 12 months (or earlier if tolerated) an infant toothbrush can be used with water and the child should start to learn to spit while brushing.
At 18 months, low fluoride children’s toothpaste the size of a grain of rice on a soft children’s toothbrush can be used. This can be increased to a pea size at the age of three if the child is able to spit so as to avoid swallowing toothpaste.
Once the baby teeth are through and touching each other, gentle flossing can be started, at night time.
As a general rule parents should brush and floss their children’s teeth until the child gets their ‘pen licence’ – usually around eight to ten years old.
Avoid overnight feeding for babies such as milk in a bottle at bedtime as it can lead to tooth decay. A visit to the dentist is recommended by the child’s first birthday and from then on, every six months.
Five or six minutes in a 24 hour day is all it takes to look after our teeth and gums to maintain proper long term oral and systemic health.
________________________________________________________________________Dr Samia Bainy B.D.S from Thornleigh Dental Care has been practicing general family and cosmetic dentistry in Thornleigh since 1992. Her 25 year milestone is being celebrated by giving back to the community with promotions available at www.thornleighdentalcare.com.au