25 May 2024

Practice good oral hygiene to avoid tooth decay, advises a dentist

Dr Avi Prasad

When was the last time you got your dental check-up done? Based upon my experience as a dentist, I believe not many of you may remember or even regularly get your teeth examined.

As teeth are hidden inside our mouth, people often neglect their oral hygiene assuming all’s well until tooth-ache strikes and you can’t chew, or sleep due to pain.

As a result of this neglect, the required emergency dental treatment often proves expensive as it may require taking antibiotics, filling cavity, extraction, treating hardened plaque that has led to calculus build-up and gingivitis (early gum disease), etc.

Tooth decay continues to be stubbornly high among all age groups in spite of publicly-funded dental care for children up to their 18th birthday, and essential dental treatment costs available up to $1,000 for those on low income or benefit. This amount is not required to be paid back to Work & Income.

While your dentist may be able to treat dental diseases and repair teeth damaged by decay or gum disease, it’s always preferable to take care of teeth and stop problems before they start. This is where good oral hygiene comes in and your own everyday habits prove crucial.

Why dental charges are high?
Good oral hygiene can save costs

Although our teeth are very resistant, maintaining a complete dental hygiene routine is essential.

Preventative care and practicing good oral hygiene is mainly aimed at avoiding factors that could damage or endanger our teeth and stop before they occur. Ranges of benefits include keeping your teeth free of plaque and tartar, the main causes of periodontal disease, and retaining a beautiful smile.

Regular visits to the dentist are an essential part of dental care, and any problems that may compromise the patient’s dental health are taken care of in early stages.

Achieving healthy teeth needs regular care, and taking it’s care needn’t be a difficult task. Even if you’ve been told that you have nice teeth, it’s crucial to take the right steps every day to take care of these and prevent future problems. This involves being mindful of your daily habits that are crucial to your overall oral health. Here are some tips to help keep your teeth and gums healthy and pain-free:

  • Brush your teeth before breakfast and before going to bed.
  • Replace your toothbrush at early signs of wear.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to make teeth stronger, more resistant to tooth decay. The Expert Advisory Group of the NZ Guidelines Group recommends using toothpaste with a minimum of 1000 ppm fluoride. But remember to use an age-appropriate fluoride toothpaste for your children.
  • Rinsing mouth with water after brushing is not necessary, just spit to retain effect of fluoride.
  • Flossing is equally important, so floss daily.
  • Avoid snacking on sugary and hard foods. Keep sugary food and fruits to meal times (or 40 minutes before or after), and choose sugar-free snacks. Sugar converts into acid and there is a risk of erosion of teeth enamel leading to cavities. Hard foods such as nuts, half-cooked popcorn kernels, chocolate stored in fridge, etc can crack your teeth.
  • Best beverage is water, so avoid fizzy drinks.
  • Rinse your mouth after every meal or sugary food to remove any stuck food and to dilute its acidic effect.
  • Use mouthwash: A simple saltwater mouthwash is a good homemade alternative. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in half a cup of warm water, thoroughly rinse your teeth and gums in it, gargle and spit.
  • Avoid smoking, and
  • Get your teeth checked by your dentist at least once in six months.

Remember, any neglect in regular oral hygiene, including dental check-ups, can often result in painful and expensive dental treatment. Good to follow the adage – prevention is better than cure.  

*Dr Avi Prasad (BDS/Otago) is a practicing dentist at City Smile Dental, Hamilton

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