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The Dental Team

Dentists are responsible for helping you take care of your oral health. They have extensive knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat wide range of problems that affect your teeth and mouth. Although they are trained initially for five years at a university they continue to keep brushing up on their skills throughout their careers

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YOUR ORAL HEALTH : TEENS

Common Problems

Crooked Teeth

Never underestimate the value of a beautiful smile. Your smile is one of the most important reflections of your individual personality. It allows you to assert emotions of happiness and joy. It communicates affection and expresses your cheerful feelings. Unfortunately there are many people who, because of crooked teeth or misaligned jaws, face a lifetime of feeling unattractive, suppressing the natural urge to smile. Crowded or crooked teeth are also difficult to clean and maintain. This may contribute to conditions that cause tooth decay, gum disease and eventual tooth loss. These problems can be avoided by straightening the teeth through orthodontic treatment.

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 suitable to be treated. 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 darker after treatment, so it is very important to be checked and advised of this.

Mouthguard

Mouthguards are a "plastic" appliance, clear or coloured, worn over the upper teeth. They shield the teeth in an impact situation by providing a cushion which gives protection when the jaws are driven hard together. The New Zealand Dental Association recommends a good mouthguard should be of sufficient thickness in the correct areas, resilient, well retained, comfortable, and should not interfere with speaking and breathing.

The NZDA recommends the following:

  • always wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports
  • a properly fitted, custom made mouthguard offers the best protection
  • ask your dentist about the best mouthguard for YOU
  • REMEMBER a broken tooth is damaged for LIFE  

Knocked Out Teeth

When accidents happen, teeth can sometimes be knocked out completely. Sometimes, they can be put back in by a dentist. Simply follow these injury management tips to reduce the likelihood of any long-term damage.

First make sure that the injured person does not show any signs of head injury, unconsciousness, nausea, persistent headaches, or any other warning signs of a serious injury. Once this is ruled out, see a dentist as quickly as possible. The sooner the tooth or teeth is replanted in its socket, the greater the chance of retaining it for life.

Steps to follow:

  1. Find the tooth and hold it by the smooth white part that is usually visible in the mouth -the crown and NOT the root
  2. Do not scrub or rinse the tooth in anything except water or milk
  3. If the tooth is clean, hold it by the crown, and making sure it's the right way round, gently push it into its socket
  4. If it is dirty rinse it in milk, or for not more than a second or two in cold water, and gently push it back into its socket
  5. Hold the tooth in place by biting on a piece of cloth and go to a dentist immediately

If you are not comfortable putting the tooth back in:

  1. Do not let the tooth become dry and don't place it in disinfectant
  2. Either place it in a cup of milk or if milk is not available, keep it in the mouth between the cheeks and gums
  3. Go to the dentist immediately

Please remember this advice is only for managing knocked-out permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is knocked out, do not try to put it back in its socket, but seek immediate advice and treatment from a dentist. 

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 attacks 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. 

Oral Piercing

Many who consider oral piercing do not realise the side effects that could occur to them. Health problems can arise from the procedure and the long term use of the jewellery. The wound created by piercing can increase your risk of oral infections, bleeding, and can even increase your risk for the transmission of certain diseases. There is also a chance that the oral bacteria can enter the blood stream through the wound created during the procedure and can increase the risk for developing endocarditis in people who have underlying heart problems. 

 Also people with oral piercings - especially tongue piercings - have greater risk of developing gum disease than others without oral piercings.  They can lead to tooth wear and chipping of the teeth. They can damage old fillings and can cause difficulty eating and speaking clearly.

Express yourself with a healthy smile and not by the jewellery in your mouth.

Smoking

Smoking is bad for your health including oral health. It is easy to see the effects of smoking on your teeth.  
 
Smoking can cause 

  • Tooth staining
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Reduced sense of taste and smell
  • Accumulation of calculus (tartar)
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth loss
  • In severe cases oral cancer

Smoking reduces blood flow to the gums, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients that allow gums to stay healthy, and leaving them vulnerable to bacterial infection. Smokers also exhibit delayed healing after dental procedures. Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers and gum disease is the most common causes of tooth loss in adults.
 
Smoking can also increase your risk of developing 

  • Mouth and throat cancer
  • Lung cancer  
  • Mouth sores or lesion that do not heal
  • Heart disease and/or stroke
  • Chronic bronchitis

It is good not to start smoking in the first instance.  But if you are, then consider quitting. For support and more information on quitting please click on the links below

Quitting Smoking (PDF)

Smoking Cessation