Oral health

Posted on 26 September 2013

Poor dental care and oral health can lead to many complications and even affect your general health. Dr Du Plessis van Dyk, a dentist at Mediclinic Emfuleni, answers frequently asked questions

Is tooth decay really one of the most common health conditions in humans worldwide?
Yes, it is indeed.

Are South Africans particularly bad at taking care of their oral health?
Unfortunately, yes. If you take the total population, few are actually taking care of their teeth or visiting their dentist.

Why should we pay more attention to the state of our teeth? What can poor dental care lead to?
A few things. Poor oral health can cause periodontal problems, like gum disease. Bacteria in the mouth can cause gum inflammation, which can lead to the loss of healthy teeth and worse damage. Periodontis (gum disease) can affect your general health, and has been associated with heart disease. It is not only our teeth we should keep an eye on: gum problems, caused from smoking or poor oral health overall, can lead to the loss of otherwise healthy teeth. The first sign of this is bleeding gums.

Should only dentists pay attention to teeth, or should doctors also consider this?
There are certain situations when a doctor will advise a patient to visit a dentist. Most specifically, pregnant women need to take extra care of their teeth. Because of pregnancy hormones, women can develop pregnancy gingivitis (gum inflammation) and also epuli (fibrous gingival growths).

What should we all do regularly to look after our oral health: Is it enough to brush daily, or is regular tongue scraping and mouthwash also advisable?
You must brush your teeth a minimum of twice daily, though I recommend three times a day. And you should also use dental floss once or twice a day. Something that certainly helps in preventing plaque build-up, tooth decay and gingivitis is an antibacterial mouthwash. For those with halitosis (bad breath), I would suggest tongue scraping as in 80% of cases, it results from bacteria that is trapped on the tongue surface. You can buy toothbrushes with tongue scrapers attached, though your dentist can provide a far superior scraper in your consultation.

Are certain foods, or eating habits, more likely to cause plaque, tartar, decay?
The main culprits are sugary and acidic foods. They commonly lead to the bacterial build-up that can causes tooth problems.

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

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