Maintaining a Healthy Mouth

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  • Dental checkups are especially important during pregnancy
  • Children ought to have their first dental visit by their 1st birthday
  • Check with a dental professional to see if your child needs sealants or a fluoride treatment
  • Have regular check-ups – gum disease may not be painful until it’s too late
  • Don’t smoke
  • If you have dentures you still need a regular dental check-up
  • Limit alcohol
  • Protect your face, especially your lips, from excessive sun exposure

Regular check ups are recommended for all people (with or without their natural teeth) depending on what your dentist says you need:  both tooth decay and gum disease may not be painful until it’s too late.

Mothers and Children

An oral (mouth) health risk assessment should be done before a child is one year old to encourage good habits.  Pregnant women are more likely to develop gum disease and decay. They should attend their dentist regularly.

Adolescents are recognised as having unique needs due to:

(i) a potentially high decay rate; (ii) increased risk for injury and periodontal disease; (iii) a tendency to eat non-nutritious food;

(iv) an increased desire and awareness of their appearance;

(v) difficulty of combined orthodontic and restorative care (e.g. congenitally missing teeth);

(vi) fear of dentistry;

(vii) starting smoking;

(viii) pregnancy;

(ix) eating disorders; and

(x) unique social and psychological needs.

For older adults, good oral health is a requirement for good nutrition and can help maintain good general health. Both oral and systemic diseases can greatly affect appetite, the ability to eat, and diet choices, putting overall health and well-being at risk.

coatingPit and fissure sealantscan help prevent decay in the permanent teeth of high risk children. These are tooth colour plastic films that are placed in the grooves of the back teeth (molars and premolars) by a dental professional.  These grooves can be filled with bacteria that the toothbrush cannot reach and so are more prone to decay.  The best time to place sealants are when the teeth are fully erupted.

In addition, fluoride therapies (e.g. fluoride mouth rinses, varnishes, gels and foams) help to protect teeth against decay and also provide additional protection against acid attacks on the tooth enamel.  Fluoride supplements, in the form of drops or tablets, are sometimes appropriate depending on the area you live and the dentist can advise.

smokingSmoking has been identified as one of the most important causes of avoidable death and disease. It is linked with oral diseases such as dental decay, gum diseases, gum recession, soft tissue lesions and mouth cancer.  Tobacco use, and especially smoking, increases the occurrence and seriousness of periodontal disease (gum disease when the bone holding the teeth disappears), and that smoking 20 cigarettes or more a day increases the risk of developing mouth cancer sixfold. Chewing tobacco and using smokeless tobacco likewise worsens the risk of developing mouth cancer.

Motivated individuals can be assisted by advice from health professionals to quit smoking. See Smoking section

Mouth (Oral) and throat cancers include cancers of the lips, tongue, throat, and mouth. Mouth cancer is a lifestyle related cancer, with tobacco being the main risk. Other risk factors include excessive drinking of alcohol and sun exposure (for cancer of the lip). Indeed tobacco and alcohol, working together, make the situation worse.  Cutting down on smoking and drinking and eating more fruit and vegetables will reduce the risk of mouth cancer and precancer. Regular mouth examinations, particularly as people age, are important for early detection of mouth cancers.

The damaging effects of ultraviolet light (UVL) on the skin (including the lips and mouth) and the importance of photoprotective sunscreen and other sun-protective measures are well documented.

Putting on a high factor sunscreen, safe levels of sun exposure and wearing protective clothing, should be taught and supervised in schools. Playing before 10am and after 3pm will reduce the UVL as the levels are maximum in the middle of the day.

thumb-suckingThumb sucking is a normal activity between the ages of 2 – 4 years. If it continues when their permanent teeth erupt, (about 6- 7) this can cause the teeth to grow out of line. This can affect your child’s appearance and ability to speak or bite properly. Damage to the permanent teeth that are sticking forward is more likely to result. If the habit continues into this age group, ask your dental professional for advice.

Last updated: March 25, 2014

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