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Consensus Statement on Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks are no longer a looming public health crisis, but a very real one. By working together, and acting now, we can prevent not only oral health damage, but obesity - a leading risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

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YOUR ORAL HEALTH : ADULTS

Common Problems

Gum Disease

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an inflammatory disease caused by accumulation of bacteria (dental plaque) on the teeth. Dental plaque is a soft, sticky and initially invisible film of bacteria that forms on teeth. If not removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria in dental plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, and is most common in adults. Most often it is unnoticed as it is not painful. Your gums may become red, swollen and bleed while cleaning.  Gingivitis can be treated and reversed by professional cleaning and effective home care. If left untreated gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. 

 

Periodontitis is the destructive form of gum disease and it is not reversible. However it can be treated and stabilised. As the bone and soft tissues supporting the teeth are lost due to this disease, a gum pocket forms around the tooth. This pocket becomes infected, which destroys more supporting bone and soft tissue. Eventually, the tooth becomes loose and falls out or it may need to be removed.

You can prevent gum disease by brushing twice daily, flossing once a day and visiting your dentist regularly.

Click here to know more about Gum Disease.

Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is a common complaint, especially in the winter. Sometimes this is a relatively easy problem to solve. Studies show that one in four people suffer from sensitive teeth, however, this is greater in the 25-45 age groups and in women. People most likely to suffer from this marginal tooth sensitivity are those who over-enthusiastically brush their teeth, consume more than usual amounts of wine or citrus drinks, have had treatment for gum disease or who have special medical problems - like bulimia.
 
People whose teeth are sensitive feel pain when they eat or drink things which are very cold (most usually), hot or sweet and when brushing. The classic example is eating ice cream, but simply being out in the cold weather breathing on a frosty morning can be enough to set off the problem. Typically pain from sensitivity is sudden, sharp, and stabbing but subsides very quickly. If left untreated, the pain of sensitivity can lead to poor oral hygiene - it can become quite painful for the sufferer to brush their teeth so they stop doing a thorough job, which only makes the sensitivity problem worse. The problem area is usually near the gum margin where the tooth dentine or "nerve" may be exposed because of a receding gumline. Their problem usually is the tooth margin - just below the enamel and where the 'nerve' is most exposed. Normally it is covered up.
 
Dentists can recommend desensitising toothpastes as a good way to deal with the problem. Dentists also advise people to use the right type of toothbrush, especially as a lot of tooth sensitivity comes from over-brushing with a hard brush. Soft brushes are recommended but even with a soft brush a careful non-scrubbing technique is recommended.

If you are experiencing continued problems with tooth sensitivity, it is probably a good idea to visit your dentist. No-one needs to suffer from this problem and there is often a simple solution.

Erosion

Erosion is the loss of the surface of the tooth - especially enamel -that is caused by acid attack. This is different from bacterial acid attack that we call tooth decay. Enamel is the hard outer surface of the tooth seen when we smile and it protects the sensitive dentine underneath. Erosion of the enamel can lead to exposure of the dentine, which may lead to pain and sensitivity with cold foods and drinks.

Erosion is  a slow process that people generally do not become aware of until significant enamel is already lost. Erosion often shows up as hollows on the top surface of the molar teeth or the teeth seem to become smaller or thinner as the enamel erodes away. As the enamel wears away exposing the underlying dentine the teeth may appear a darker yellow colour -the colour of the dentine- and sensitivity to hot, cold or acidic foods and drinks may become noticeable.

How to prevent dental erosion?

  • Limit the number of times each day you eat and drink acid foods and drinks - this reduces the number of acid attacaks on your teeth
  • Don't hold your drinks in the mouth or swish the drinks around your mouth 
  • Finish your meals with cheese or a milk drink as this will help to neutralize the dietary acids
  • If you eat or drink anything acidic, wait for about one hour before brushing your teeth. Brushing straight after acidic foods and drinks may cause even more enamel damage. 

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth or Xerostomia is a condition where the mouth becomes very dry due to reduced saliva flow. It is caused by certain medical conditions and is also a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, diuretics, antidepressants and others.  Problems associated with dry mouth are difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, problems with speaking and a burning sensation in the mouth.

People suffering from dry mouth are more susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath and soft tissue irritation for denture wearers.

Your dentist can help prevent problems associated with dry mouth by recommending appropriate methods or treatments to restore moisture in your mouth, or by discussing your medications with your doctor to allow a change if that is possible.

Tooth Whitening

If you wish to have a brighter smile, then tooth whitening may be an option for you. Ask your dentist for help as they can provide more effective tooth-whitening treatments than the ‘do-it-yourself' kits available at pharmacies. Before having your teeth whitened, your dentist will check to make sure your teeth are healthy and suitable for such treatment. In some cases treatment may be difficult or ineffective, for example with staining caused during tooth formation by certain antibiotics. Tooth whitening may make your old fillings or crowns look comparatively darker after treatment, so it is very important to discuss these issues with your dentist.  

Care after Oral Surgery

You can speed up your mouth's recovery after oral surgery by following these steps:

On the day of surgery

  • Avoid: hot drinks, hot or hard food, alcohol, vigorous physical effort, playing with the wound, and rinsing your mouth.
  • Drink plenty of cold or warm fluid, and eat soft food.
  • Avoid smoking as this delays healing.
  • Use the prescribed tablets for pain relief. It is recommended that you start this before the local anaesthesia wears off.
  • Slight oozing of blood is normal. If significant bleeding occurs, place a gauze or cotton pad over the bleeding site and apply pressure by biting down firmly for 15-30 minutes. This may need to be repeated.
  • If bleeding is excessive and uncontrolled by pressure, contact your dentist.
  • To minimise swelling, an ice pack (small bag of frozen peas wrapped in a cloth) may be held on the side of the face. Apply 10-15 minutes every hour on the day of surgery.

 On the day after surgery

  • It is essential to keep all wounds clean
  • Brush ypour teeth, including those around the wound. Food remnants and plaque delay healing.
  • Rinse your mouth gently 6-8 times a day with very warm, salty water (one quarter teaspoon of salt in a glass of water). Very vigorous rinsing in the first 24 hours should be avoided as this will disturb the blood clot.
  • Chlorhexidine mouthwash will help reduce the risk of infection.

It is normal to have some bleeding, swelling, discomfort and tightness of jaw muscles. However, if symptoms become severe, contact your dentist immediately.