Written by Dr Murray of Heal Dental Care
Do you regularly see the dentist? Are you so astute that you book your next checkup at the end of your last appointment? Or do you only see the dentist if you have a problem? Maybe you (like many others) wait until the pain is unbearable; because your past dental visits were so painful themselves that you don’t really see any other option.
Everyone is different. We all have different life experiences, personalities and values. These in turn influence our relationship with our health and more specifically, our dental health. So while most of us prioritize holistic health, in reality we often have vastly different approaches to how we approach dental care.
The majority of the population receive “reactive” dental care. These individuals may sometimes go to the dentist for a sensitive or tender tooth; but more commonly dental visits are delayed until there is significant discomfort or pain. If you receive this reactive style of dental care it is quite possible you have been discouraged with dentistry due past experiences, which were either very painful or expensive (or both!). Nobody wants to let their teeth get to a painful state, yet a negative cycle often exists; where one feels so helpless and traumatized by the past that they won’t see a dentist unless it is an emergency. This can be devastating. In my dental clinic in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast we have a holistic focus for all patients yet I have had to arrange immediate emergency referral to specialist oral surgeons for treatment of severe dental infections, which caused septicemia and almost stopped a patient’s breathing!
Fear of pain, financial loss, and even fear of the unknown are all reasons why people delay going to the dentist. Unfortunately most dental conditions become worse when left without attention. This leads to increased treatment times, systemic health risks, greater cost, often more time off work and ultimately the negative cycle is exacerbated.
Logic would dictate that we should visit the dentist sooner rather than later. Easier said than done that’s for sure! One way we can try to convert this understanding to personal action is by changing our perception. We have a saying at our clinic that “Symptoms are gifts”. It’s a small thing, but if we realize that symptoms are actually the body sending us early warning signs then this is a more positive way of viewing our dental health. Remind yourself that the earlier dental conditions are diagnosed and attended to; the more likely you will be to save money, time and avoid pain.
Preventative dentistry takes this one step further. Instead of waiting for symptoms to develop, regular professional cleans and examinations are booked 6 months in advance. This means that you have the best chance of having your dental health maintained optimally without significant painful procedures or cost surprises. The other benefit of this style of dental care is that you develop a long-term relationship with your dentist. This is called “continuity of care”. In my holistic dental clinic I routinely monitor suspicious findings - sometimes for years before recommending treatment. This approach requires time and effort. All issues are carefully documented with photos and other diagnostic images, and we discuss the approach which best suits the individual needs of each person.
You can’t see in your own mouth, so we take the time to explain our findings and educate you on exactly what is happening. This will give you control as it raises your awareness about your current oral health condition so that you can make informed and prepared decisions, instead of being reactive about your dental health.
How many times a day should I brush my teeth?
It is recommended that your teeth and gums are brushed twice a day. A soft or an ultra-soft toothbrush is best. A hard or medium toothbrush should be avoided, as it is a bit like taking a wire brush to a polished timber table-top causing damage.
What causes cavities?
Cavities or dental decay are holes in teeth caused by dental plaque. It will affect both children and adult teeth the same. It is caused by a number of factors all overlapping to create the perfect environment to allow a cavity to form. The factors are Bacteria, Acid, Diet or B.A.D
Bacteria: Plaque is the soft stuff that gathers on teeth daily and is easily brushed and flossed away – It is soft! These bacteria are designed to stick to tooth surfaces and produce an acid. This acid is designed to dissolve teeth – cause decay on enamel only. Fillings will not decay as they are not enamel. Plaque will only affect tooth surfaces.
Acid: As mentioned before dental plaque creates acid which is focused in the areas that it remains. This plaque acid will soften, dissolve enamel and create a hole in the tooth surface it is touching. Acids in the diet will also contribute to dissolving tooth enamel.
Diet: Foods in our diets will contribute to dental plaque growth. Diets high in refined sugars will produce the greatest amount of bacteria which causes decay. Refined sugars are the sugars found in processed or packaged foods and are added during the manufacturing process to make the food taste good so you consume more. High acid diets include lemons, wine and vinegar all of which contribute to dissolving tooth enamel.
How often should I go to my dentist for a check-up?
Life gets busy. Attending regular appointments for preventative care with your dental team, will assist in avoiding dramatic changes in your oral health. It is recommended check-ups are done every 6 months for both adults and children alike. We not only review your teeth for signs of decay, our professional dental team also review for oral cancers and other conditions including any changes to your medical history which may impact on your oral health.
There are so many toothpastes to choose from; how do I know which one to use?
Toothpastes taste and feel good when brushing and deliver their ingredients to the moth when used. Controversially, toothpastes are not necessary as it is the mechanical removal of plaque that keeps the teeth healthy – you can brush with water and floss well, and still remove plaque. Fluoride containing toothpastes are available at the chemist or supermarket and arguably they have their place. We however choose Fluoride free alternative toothpastes.
Which is better, a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush?
Both. If used properly, a manual toothbrush can do an excellent job resulting in clean teeth and a healthy mouth. Manual toothbrushes rely on the user to move and manipulate the toothbrush over the surfaces of the teeth and gums to remove the plaque. An electric toothbrush can also achieve this result. The electric toothbrush has the added benefits of assisting individuals with manual dexterity issues helping them brush areas that would otherwise be missed; the elderly for example. Both will fail if the toothbrush head is not placed properly in the areas of the teeth and gums that need plaque to be removed resulting in plaque buildup.
How does sugar damage your teeth?
Sugar is the perfect food for dental bacteria or plaque. Sugar in our diets is often unnoticed or are added and causes the growth of dental plaque populations. As more sugar is consumed from the diet and dental plaque remains undisturbed for example not flossing; the plaque population changes to different types of bacteria that create bacterial acids that cause decay or holes in teeth.
What causes bad breath?
Oral health: Bad breath (or Halitosis) can be caused by a number of things. The bacteria in plaque is a living organism which creates waste. They also produce a gas which will cause bad breath. Regular professional dental care along with great personal care through brushing and flossing will keep the levels of dental bacteria low.
Water: Being dehydrated will affect the quality and quantity of your saliva. A dry mouth can cause bad breath along with other oral health issues so keep the water levels up.
Diet: Bad breath can also be a result of diet. Certain foods will contribute to bad breath such as garlic and coffee. Keeping well hydrated through drinking plenty of water is also suggested as this will also reduce dry mouth and affect the quality of your saliva. Being mindful of your diet and how it may affect your breath is worthy of consideration.
Tummy health: Certain foods or drinks in a person’s diet may a cause reflux or excess stomach acids and gases. This too can result in bad breath. Our oral health professionals often consider weather bad breath is a result of oral health or systemic health (or even both). We often discuss this with patients and refer to their GP to discuss the presented health issues.
Medications: Certain medications have a side-effect of causing dry-mouth. As mentioned before, the lack of saliva can result in bad breath as the saliva is not effective in washing away food and plaque from the mouth.
How often should I floss?
It is not always easy to achieve in our busy daily schedules however, as a part of your home care routine we suggest flossing daily. Flossing is not an easy thing to do if it is not a part of your routine already. There are alternatives like pickster or interproximal brushes. These are small brushes that are placed in between the teeth at the gum-line that help to remove the plaque in this area. Flossing is still needed to move plaque from the contacts in between the teeth. So, keep trying; it is worth it!