This month, the profession celebrates Dental Health Week, and I hope that your social feeds came with at least one or two messages concerning your oral health. It is not something to be thought about for one week in August, but every day.

Some facts and figures about Australia’s oral health.

Despite the public health campaigns, poor oral health contributes around 4.4% to the non-fatal disease burden in our country.  Tooth decay affects the baby teeth of about 2 in 5 children under the age of 10.  When it comes to their adult teeth, 1 in 4 kids will have experienced decay by the time they reach 15.  When it comes to looking after ourselves, adults aren’t that much better.  25% of the population has untreated tooth decay, and 1 in 2 of our retiree population has moderate to severe gum disease. Poor oral health is also being linked to cardio-vascular disease, stroke and some pregnancy related outcomes.

What can we do to reduce the rates of disease?

Well, good dental health is largely not a matter of chance, but a matter choice.  I don’t want to sound all preachy, but if you look after your mouth, it will look after you. And do you know what, there are really only four steps to keep your teeth and gums in great shape.

Step 1 :  Brushing.  Don’t do what only 50% of Australians do – which is brush just once a day (or less!!).  Take the time to brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for a whole two minutes. I plan to look at type of toothbrushes and pastes in a later article.

Step 2 : Flossing.  There’s no getting away from it, your toothbrush will not get between your teeth, so you’ll need to learn how to floss.  If the gaps between your teeth are a bit wider, then an interdental brush (it looks a bit like a small pipe cleaner on a stick) can also be used.

Step 3 : Eat healthy.  Eat a balanced diet and try not to snack or graze. Limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks.  Remember, sugar remains the greatest risk to dental (and general) health.  Drink tap water, not only is it free, but you’re helping the environment when you don’t buy a plastic bottle.

Step 4 : Regular visits to the dentist.  Of course I would like to see you, but if you have a family dentist you trust and like, make sure you see them at least once a year. As I am fond of saying to anyone who’ll listen, if you are waiting for something to hurt, then you probably waited too long.  Many dental problems are easy to diagnose and treat in their early stages.

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