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October - November 2006


Health

Oral Care

by Shashi Gossain B.Sc (Hons), MRPS, Member


Oral hygiene is very important for overall health and well-being. It also plays a major role in the transmission of body language on a social level too. You must care for your teeth throughout your life in order for your teeth to be at its best and your breath to be fresh.

Teeth:
Teeth are very responsive to their environment and contain incisors (biting teeth), molars (grind and break down food) and wisdom teeth (no clear purpose). Each tooth consists of enamel (hard, no living cells), dentine and pulp cavity (contains a network of nerves giving teeth its sensitivity).
Plaque is one of the greatest threats to oral health. Plaque is a sticky substance containing millions of bacteria. This forms when sugar in your diet reacts with plaque bacteria to form an acid. This acid then reacts with the calcium in your enamel, forming decay holes. This needs to be filled by your dentist. If your oral hygiene is inadequate, then plaque bacteria multiplies and a condition called gingivitis may occur (inflammation of the gum where it meets the tooth). This condition can be recognised if bleeding occurs when brushing your teeth. If this occurs, it is important to brush your teeth gently twice daily. If this condition persists, it is important to visit a dentist, as this condition can lead to periodintitis (inflammation spreading to the tooth socket, causing loss of the tooth).

Bad breath:
Bad breath is a common problem which often comes from the activity of bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria forms especially on the tongue, therefore a tongue scraper is the best tool to use to combat this condition. It is a disposable U-shaped plastic tool with tiny ridges on the side which is very easy to use and it will help clear away any left-over food and odor-causing bacteria that have settled on your tongue. Starting at the back of your mouth, gently drag the scraper two or three times, rinsing it between each pass. Follow up by drinking a glass of water to rinse out any remaining bacteria in your mouth.

Brushing teeth:
Regular, effective brushing of the teeth is the mainstay of a healthy oral care routine. Once in the morning and once in the evening before going to bed will keep oral enemies at bay. The routine for effective tooth brushing are as follows:
-Tooth brushing should be at least three minutes long.
-Initial brushing should be with small circular movements, with the brush at a 45 degree angle to the teeth
-Teeth should be cleaned vertically, not from left to right (this can damage the gums), to clear away the plaque.
-Take care to brush the inside surfaces as well, which is often forgotten.

Toothbrushes with soft or medium brushes are recommended and it is essential not to share your toothbrush with any other person (viruses can be spread this way). Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months or when the bristles of the brush are getting damaged. Fluoride is an important ingredient which is need in your toothpaste, as it encourages the uptake of calcium to demineralised enamel. Flossing is important for oral health because it removes food matter that accumulates between the gaps in your teeth. If it is left there, it decomposes and causes bad breath. Mouthwash is also an essential part of oral health maintenance. It can be effective against bad breath, stubborn food particles and generally refreshes the mouth. Chewing gum after eating stimulates saliva production which neutralises the acid in the mouth. Ensure that the chewing gum is sugar-free.

Whitening teeth:
For those with discoloured teeth, professional bleaching by a cosmetic dentist is a way to achieve bright white teeth. For mildly discoloured teeth, whitening formulas are often effective (which are non-peroxide whitening systems).

Straightening out teeth:
If your teeth are particularly crooked, orthodontic treatment can help. For teeth that are only marginally crooked, porcelain veneers can be applied to even out the tooth line. Veneers can also be used to fill a gap between the front teeth, to regulate a discoloured tooth, to correct a chipped tooth or create a straighter finish to teeth that require slight re-alignment. Veneers are rarely available on the NHS and are expensive.

Remember your smile is one of your most beautiful natural assets, now you know how to perfect it!
 

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