Make time to see the den­tist

Nelson Mail - - WELL&GOOD -

Pa­cific chil­dren it’s worse with 60 per cent of Maori and 65 per cent of Pa­cific chil­dren suf­fer­ing from tooth de­cay.

NZDA pres­i­dent Su­san Gor­rie sim­ply can’t fathom these num­bers. Asked why we don’t place a higher im­por­tance on our oral health she’s lost for words, ‘‘I’m the wrong per­son to be ask­ing. I sim­ple don’t un­der­stand!’’

But if she was go­ing to haz­ard a guess she says ‘‘peo­ple just don’t make the link be­tween their oral health and gen­eral health’’.

Our cav­a­lier ‘‘she’ll be right’’ at­ti­tude isn’t do­ing us any favours. Gor­rie says the ma­jor­ity of adults usu­ally only use oral health ser­vices when they have a painful prob­lem, rather than vis­it­ing for rou­tine check-ups.

Leav­ing the prob­lem un­til it’s too late has seen 10 per cent of us take time off school or work due to den­tal prob­lems, ac­cord­ing to the New Zealand Health Sur­vey.

While 16 per cent of adults ad­mit­ted that they have ‘‘of­ten’’ or ‘‘very of­ten’’ had neg­a­tive im­pacts due to poor oral health.

‘‘Don’t wait un­til there’s pain. It’s of­ten a late sign that there’s some­thing wrong. Bet­ter to go reg­u­larly and get ad­vice on how to pre­vent the prob­lem... Preven­tion is bet­ter than cure,’’ she says.

NZDA se­nior oral health ed­u­ca­tor Deepa Hughes says those who only visit for a den­tal prob­lem are known to have sig­nif­i­cantly worse oral health than reg­u­lar users.

Apart from hav­ing a stained, yel­low smile we’re less than proud to flash for pho­tos, what is the down­side of our non-com­mit­tal re­la­tion­ship with den­tists?

‘‘By not vis­it­ing reg­u­larly they are risk­ing small prob­lems get­ting worse or ad­vanced to a level where it takes a lot more time, stress and money to get it fixed,’’ Hughes says.

‘‘Both tooth de­cay and gum dis­eases can get sig­nif­i­cantly worse if not treated at early stages. For ex­am­ple, if a sim­ple cav­ity need­ing a fill­ing is left un­treated, it could even­tu­ally lead to need­ing a root canal treat­ment.

‘‘Sim­i­larly, if not treated early, gum dis­ease and gin­givi­tis can progress into more ad­vanced stages where the bone and tis­sue sur­round­ing the teeth start to de­te­ri­o­rate.’’

At the more ex­treme end of the scale he says un­treated den­tal ab­scesses can spread into tis­sue spa­ces and cause sep­ti­caemia or fa­cial swelling which, if se­vere, can lead to air­way ob­struc­tion and po­ten­tially death.

If a root canal or even sep­ti­caemia isn’t mo­ti­va­tion enough to book that ap­point­ment, he says, ‘‘re­mem­ber, if you de­lay den­tal treat­ment it may end up cost­ing you a lot more than if you get your teeth fixed straight away’’.

Clearly our once in a blue moon vis­its aren’t cut­ting it with the ex­perts, so how fre­quently should we be go­ing to the den­tist? At least ev­ery 12 months Hughes says, even if your teeth are ab­so­lutely fine.

Depend­ing on an as­sess­ment of risk this could vary. Some peo­ple may need to visit their den­tist more fre­quently, pos­si­bly ev­ery three to six months, depend­ing on the health of their teeth and gums.

JOHN BISSET

Nearly half of New Zealand adults don’t visit the den­tist reg­u­larly, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Oral Health Sur­vey.

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