The health of our teeth and mouth are linked to our overall health and well-being in a number of ways. The health and normal functioning of our mouth especially the teeth and gums is referred as dental health. Apart from the impact on nutritional status, poor dental health can also adversely affect speech and self-esteem.
However, there are many of us who regularly suffer from dental issues such as caries, inflammation of gums, tooth loss and bad breath. Dental diseases not only result in additional medical expenditure but are also regressive to productivity. Both children and adults may miss time from school or work because of toothache, which is considered to be one of the most severe pains known to humans.
Dental Issues: Types and Causes
- Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, is the most common disorder affecting the teeth. The main factors controlling the risk of dental caries are oral hygiene, exposure to fluoride and a moderate frequency of consumption of cariogenic foods.
- Teeth are also affected by tooth wear and erosion. This condition is a normal part of aging where tooth enamel is lost due to exposure from acids other than those produced by plaque.
- Attrition and abrasion are other forms of tooth wear. Attrition occurs when teeth are eroded by tooth-to-tooth contact such as teeth grinding. Abrasion is caused by external mechanical factors such as incorrect tooth brushing.
- Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is caused by infection and inflammation of the gums, the periodontal connective tissues and the alveolar bone. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.
Oral Hygiene:The Use of Fluoride
In recent years there has been a reduction in the incidence of dental caries. An increase in oral hygiene including regular brushing and flossing to remove plaque and the use of fluoridated toothpaste, combined with regular dental check-ups is thought to be responsible for the improvement.
Fluoride inhibits demineralisation, encourages remineralisation and increases the hardness of the tooth enamel making it less acid soluble. The proper amount of fluoride helps prevent and control caries. Fluoride can be supplied systemically through fluoridated community drinking water, other fluoridated beverages or by supplementation. Alternatively it can be provided topically direct to the tooth surface via toothpaste, mouth rinses, gels and varnishes.
Tooth brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is thought to be the most important factor in the observed decline in dental caries in many countries. Brushing and flossing helps along with the fluoride application to remove bacteria from the mouth and reduce the risk of both caries and periodontal disease.
Although the decline in tooth decay in many countries has been largely linked to fluoride exposure and improved dental hygiene, eating habits still affect the risk of tooth decay.
Over the last few decades sugar intake in many countries has remained constant whilst caries levels have declined. This suggests that where appropriate oral hygiene is practiced (i.e. regular tooth brushing using fluoride toothpaste) the role of sugars in tooth decay is less manifest.
Frequency of Eating
As with the relationship between diet and caries, the link appears to have been weakened with the adoption of good oral hygiene and fluoride.
Each time we nibble a food or sip a drink containing carbohydrates, any decay-causing bacteria present on the teeth start to produce acid and demineralisation commences. This continues for 20 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking, longer if food debris is locally entrapped or remains in the mouth. If food or drink is taken too frequently the tooth enamel does not have a chance to remineralise completely and caries can start to occur.
Some foods help protect against tooth decay. For example hard cheese increases the flow of saliva. Cheese also contains calcium, phosphate and casein, a milk protein, which protects against demineralisation. Finishing a meal with a piece of cheese helps counteract acids produced from carbohydrate foods eaten at the same meal.
Ensuring dental health
- It is advisable to start dental care early; brush your baby’s teeth with a fluoride-toothpaste as soon as they appear in the mouth. Do not habitually allow infants to fall asleep while consuming foods.
- Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. And if possible, clean between the teeth with dental floss or toothpicks once a day. Do not eat after cleaning teeth at bedtime as salivary flow decreases as we sleep.
- Visit the dentist about every 6 months for a check-up. And seek the dentist’s advice before using aesthetic products (e.g. teeth whiteners) that could have a deleterious effect on the teeth.
- Do not nibble food or sip drinks continuously. Allow time between eating occasions for saliva to neutralize acids and repair the teeth.
Dental health professionals play an essential role in monitoring dental health and treating or preventing dental problems. Access to good dental care, including regular check-ups is vital. Manipal Institute of Dental Science is one of the leading centres for all kinds of dental and maxillo- facial procedures & services, offering a comprehensive range of dental services from full mouth digital x-rays, root canal treatment, cosmetic dentistry to fixed tooth implants and many other latest procedures. Our team of experienced dentists and surgeons ensure that you receive the least painful treatment and are determined to put the smile back on your face.