GETTING YOUR TEETH INTO GOOD HEALTH
The once controversial issue of fluoridation of water now has broad national support. More than 70% of the Australian population has access to artificially fluoridated drinking water consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. And, since the 1960s and 70s when this oral health strategy was introduced, the incidence of dental caries (tooth decay) in Australia has been significantly reduced. Nevertheless, just drinking fluoridated water doesn’t necessarily guarantee a lifelong mouthful of strong teeth and healthy gums. So, during the recent Dental Health Week the Australian Dental Association released The Young Person’s Oral Survival Guide. This publication aims to help young adults ensure their teeth make it well past their 30th birthday. The Guide, which is downloadable from www.dentalhealthweek. com.au, tackles the oral health impacts that can arise from lifestyle issues such as binge drinking and smoking and the more taboo subjects of drug use and oral sex. For some good tips on how to keep your teeth long term, and how to keep those tissues that support the teeth healthy as well, you should also get a copy of the “fact card” titled Oral Health. It’s available from pharmacies around Australia that provide the Pharmaceutical Society’s Self Care health information. The most common cause of oral health problems is plaque. Plaque is a thin, sticky film which builds up on the teeth. It is produced by a combination of saliva, bacteria and food. The bacteria ferment sugars in the food forming acids that erode the tooth enamel. Plaque also damages the gums as well. To completely remove plaque and food from between the teeth we should not only brush twice a day with a soft toothbrush and a fluoride paste, but also floss once a day (rinse thoroughly after flossing) or use interdental brushes. The appropriate flossing technique is detailed on the Oral Health card. A low-fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children aged 18 months to 6 years, and for children under the age of 18 months brushing without a paste is best. Healthy eating makes healthy teeth and gums. Avoid sweet sugary drinks and snacks; and if you do snack between meals, rinse the mouth with water afterwards. Apples are said to keep the doctor away, but probably, along with other fibrous foods like celery and carrots, they could more likely keep the dentist at bay. They won’t actually clean the teeth; but these healthy foods don’t increase the risk of decay like confectionery; and they do stimulate the flow of saliva. Saliva (we normally secrete about 1.5 litres a day) assists speech, taste and swallowing and prepares food for digestion. And a good flow of saliva also helps prevent tooth decay and protects against mouth and gum infections. Saliva production commonly decreases with age; and there are other more preventable factors which reduce the flow of saliva such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine containing drinks (they can be dehydrating), snoring and breathing through the mouth, and also certain medicines. In fact medicines are the most common cause of dry mouth. If you’re suffering from chronic or continual dry mouth, check with your pharmacist to see if one or more medicines could be the cause. Of course, sometimes these medicines are essential, but there are ways to minimise the dryness. Special gels, sprays, toothpastes, gums and mouthwashes are available. For more information on keeping your mouth, teeth and gums fresh and clean and disease free, the Self Care fact cards are a useful source of information. As well as the Oral Health card there is another titled Dry Mouth; both available at one of the 2000 or so Self Care pharmacies around Australia. For the nearest location go to the Pharmaceutical Society website www.psa.org.au and click on “Find a Self Care Pharmacy”.