An im­por­tant health is­sue

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ORAL HEALTH -

THOUGH oral health is an im­por­tant as­pect of over­all well­be­ing, many peo­ple do not know all they need to know about tak­ing care of their teeth and gums.

“You may be good at brush­ing your teeth, but many peo­ple don’t know that they should also brush their gums. If you don’t brush your gums, bac­te­ria will en­ter your gums, caus­ing swelling and even bleed­ing,” says Dr Dhanya Pan­icker, res­i­dent den­tal of­fi­cer at Mahkota Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

One of the most com­mon com­plaints that Dr Pan­icker sees and treats in her clinic at the hos­pi­tal is bleed­ing gums in adult pa­tients.

Most of the time, this con­di­tion is caused by in­ad­e­quate oral hygiene lead­ing to an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of bac­te­ria or build- up of tar­tar ( a form of hard­ened den­tal plaque).

Tar­tar build- up can cause the gums to be­come ir­ri­tated or swollen and in ex­treme cases lead to loss of con­nec­tive tis­sue fi­bres, caus­ing teeth to be­come loose.

Some peo­ple are ge­net­i­cally sus­cep­ti­ble to gum dis­ease, which means that the dis­ease is not solely based on poor hygiene.

Dr Pan­icker ex­plains that meth­ods of treat­ing bleed­ing gums de­pend on the sever­ity of each case.

Most pa­tients will be given thor­ough den­tal scal­ing and clean­ing to re­move the worst of the tar­tar.

In some cases, pa­tients re­quire med­i­ca­tion to stop the bleed­ing or re­duce swelling.

“We also give them de­tailed oral hygiene in­struc­tions on brush­ing and clean­ing tech­niques and give them mouth­wash and tooth­paste to aid their den­tal care prac­tices,” she adds.

With proper oral hygiene, the con­di­tion gen­er­ally im­proves within a few months. Those with hered­i­tary gum dis­ease will most likely need rou­tine fol­low- ups with a gum spe­cial­ist to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion.

In chil­dren, the most com­mon com­plaint is ram­pant de­cay of the teeth, of­ten caused by over­con­sump­tion of sugar com­bined with in­ad­e­quate oral hygiene.

“Some par­ents al­low their chil­dren to go to bed with­out brush­ing their teeth or to fall asleep with food or milk residue still in their mouth. Over time, this causes the teeth to de­cay, which can be painful and may also af­fect their over­all health,” says Dr Pan­icker.

She ad­vises par­ents to en­sure chil­dren have their teeth brushed be­fore bed­time or, in very young chil­dren and tod­dlers, to rinse out the mouth with warm wa­ter to en­sure there is no food or milk residue left overnight.

One of the ma­jor rea­sons Malaysians face th­ese den­tal con­di­tions is due to a lack of aware­ness of proper oral hygiene mea­sures and a pho­bia of den­tists.

Fur­ther­more, ir­reg­u­lar vis­its to the den­tist mean that when they do go in for a pro­ce­dure, it is of­ten com­pli­cated and painful, com­pound­ing their fear of den­tists and con­tribut­ing to a vi­cious cy­cle.

Ideally, you should visit your den­tist ev­ery six months to a year for clean­ing and scal­ing and an over­all check of your oral health.

“Reg­u­lar vis­its mean that you keep your teeth and gums clean and can im­me­di­ately take care of any small prob­lems that arise – such as fill­ing in a cav­ity – be­fore they be­come big prob­lems that cause pain and trou­ble,” says Dr Pan­icker.

Dr Pan­icker also sees pa­tients who re­quire den­tures; th­ese are gen­er­ally peo­ple in their 50s and above.

She ex­plains that many peo­ple who do not take care of their gum health in their younger years find that their gums are not strong enough to grip their teeth as they get older, lead­ing them to re­quire den­tures.

Though the oral health of Malaysians has im­proved over the last 20 years, there is still a long way to go.

“It seems that though most peo­ple know what they should be do­ing to take care of their oral hygiene, many just don’t do it. Peo­ple tend not to think it’s im­por­tant un­til a prob­lem arises,” says Dr Pan­icker.

“Your oral health is as im­por­tant as any other health mat­ter,” she says.

She en­cour­ages par­ents to learn the proper meth­ods of brush­ing and clean­ing teeth and gums and to lead by ex­am­ple to teach their chil­dren to take care of their oral health.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Mahkota Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

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