Cleaning and Prevention
Dentistry is founded on the principle of prevention. All patients are recommended biannual cleanings and examinations. Not only do they help you quash dental problems before they arise, they leave your gums healthier, and your teeth cleaner and whiter. A professional cleaning removes hard plaque that cannot be removed by brushing and flossing alone. It also involves a fluoride treatment and polish to help protect and soothe your teeth and gums. Even if you haven’t had a cleaning in over two years, it’s never too late to treat your teeth.
What are some preventative measures I can take?
Brush with a fluoride toothpaste
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush after each meal
Floss daily before bedtime
Use an oral rinse after flossing
Avoid sugary foods, coffee, and tobacco
As soon as the first tooth has come through, teeth cleaning should commence. At first, this can consist of wiping them over with a damp face washer, gauze or sometimes a clean finger.
Toddlers and Young Children
At the age of 18 months, regular toothbrushing should begin – once after breakfast and once before bed. A children’s toothpaste with a lower dose of fluoride should be applied to the brush in a pea-sized amount. The toothbrush should have a small head and soft bristles. Parents should brush their children’s teeth for them at this age and this should be done in a circular motion, ensuring you do your best to clean all tooth surfaces. Children should be taught to spit out excess toothpaste, however avoid rinsing with water to prevent the quick removal of fluoride’s protective benefits. It is important that children avoid swallowing toothpaste!
As your child gets older, they may wish to start brushing their own teeth. This is fine and a normal part of their development however it is best that they are assisted and supervised until the age of 7-8, as they won’t have developed the manual dexterity to brush their own teeth effectively until this age.
Snacking on sugary foods between meals should be avoided as much as possible, as should soft drink consumption. Be careful with fruit juices – these can often have a lot more sugar than a piece of fresh fruit. It is better to snack on fresh fruit as well as nuts and unsweetened dairy products that are permissible within allergies or intolerances your child may have. Have your child drink water rather than sweetened drinks as much as you can – this is especially important in warmer weather and after playing, where dry mouths and dry teeth are especially vulnerable to acids and sugars! At mealtimes, limit the use of sweetened condiments such as tomato sauce.
From the ages of 8-9, the adult teeth start to come through. This can happen with varying pace and is often a slower process for boys than girls, so don’t panic if your son still has his baby teeth while the girls his age are losing theirs! Your children may switch to adult toothpastes at this time. From this age, children may start to use adult toothpaste, however as previously, children should still be encouraged to spit out excess toothpaste while avoiding rinsing after brushing. Children may brush unsupervised however it is important that they actually brush their teeth!
It is around this time that we can consider whether your child needs orthodontictreatment – sometimes a referral to an orthodontist needs to happen immediately, at other times it may be suitable to simply keep an eye on the situation.
Children and adolescents playing contact sports should have custom mouthguards fitted. It is also important that sports drinks be avoided immediately after exercise as the acidity of such drinks can cause lasting damage to adult teeth - at the very least, re-hydrate the mouth with water before taking on such things.
Dietary advice remains the same however it is important to monitor what your teenage child is consuming. Teenagers can often begin to use money from part-time jobs and newly-found independence to start consuming dentally-risky foods and drinks without you even knowing.
From the age of 12, children may begin flossing between their adult teeth. This can be quite challenging to their abilities. We are happy to assist with flossing techniques and advise you about suitable flossing aids, including modern powered flossing devices available on the market today.
Brush twice a day and floss daily, preferably before your night-time brushing. Flossing aids, piksters and powered flossing devices are available commercially to assist you if manual flossing is found to be difficult. We are happy to advise you as to what products may be most suitable.
Between meals, avoid sugary snacking and keep soft drink and other sweetened beverage consumption to a minimum – where possible drink water and snack on fresh fruit, nuts and dairy products. Water consumption during your work day is important irrespective of whether you work outside or in an air-conditioned office! University and TAFE students should avoid grazing on sugary treats while working on those assignments or studying late into the night! A good rule of thumb is that anything good for your teeth is generally good for your body, and vice versa!
Participants in contact sports should wear mouthguards. Be wary of sports drinks, especially if consumed when dehydrated.
Some medications may cause your mouth to become dry, especially as you get older. This can increase your risk of tooth decay significantly. It is important that you mention any medications to us so we can best advise you about caring for your mouth in such situations.
Many adults like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two – we won’t begrudge you that! However, we strongly advise against binge drinking and consumption of alcohol that exceeds NHMRC guidelines. Be especially careful with mixed alcoholic drinks (eg: rum and coke) – these can be a two-pronged attack on your teeth, the alcohol drying your mouth while the acids and sugars of the added soft drink attack your now-more-vulnerable teeth.
Smoking is highly discouraged – smoking is nothing but destructive to your mouth and teeth. Smoking lowers the oxygen tension in your mouth allowing bad bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease to overrun the good bacteria in your mouth; prevents your gums from healing properly after they’ve been damaged; stains your teeth, sometimes irreversibly; and also increases your risk of oral cancer. We encourage any regular smokers to consider quitting and are happy to support you in doing so.
These are just a few helpful tips in preventing dental problems and the need for costly treatments. We are more than happy to discuss any of this or anything else in the scope of preventative care with you when you present for an appointment, just ask!
In dentistry, as in all branches of healthcare, prevention is BETTER than cure!