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5 things you didn’t know were affecting your oral health

As a dental implant surgeon, I often see patients at the end stages of tooth loss. While I love the ability to get a patient back on track with their health by doing full-mouth reconstructions, implants, etc., I do believe that as doctors, treatment should be only a small fraction of what we do. 

All mindful medicine should focus on prevention as the foundation of health, not treatment. Prevention saves money, time, pain and it puts the patient back in control of their own health and life.

To have a truly healthy smile, you must have a healthy lifestyle – they go hand-in-hand. Whole body wellness is dental health. And a bright, healthy smile has a huge psychological benefit as well. 

So, here are five things you didn’t know that were affecting your oral health and how to avoid them.

1. Frequent sugar consumption

Caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, are the biggest dietary-related disease affecting people of all ages. Caries are caused by sugar in the diet. Prevention of decay is paramount. Minimising sugar intake and frequency are proven ways to prevent decay. If you feel like having a dessert, have it as an occasional, one-off treat, but try to replace other sugars in your diet with stevia or other non-sugar sweetened alternatives. Watch out for hidden sugars in non-sweet foods, like those found in pre-packaged sauces, condiments, bread and savoury biscuits.

Remember, it’s not just the amount of sugar you eat – even a little sugar many times throughout the day in sneaky foods causes caries. A can of Coke in one sitting will do less damage than the same can of Coke sipped in small doses over the course of a day.

2. Dietary acids

Here are some other hidden dietary disease-causing culprits: juices, smoothies, citrus fruit, soft drinks…food acids. Food acids, even the kinds in ‘healthy’ food, are troublesome. Acids erode tooth enamel, resulting in mild to severe tooth wear. Just like with decay, frequency and the extent of exposure to acidic foods will determine the severity of erosion.

How can you enjoy the occasional tangy treat? Limit your indulgence to once or twice a day. Don’t sip on acidic drinks or snack on acidic treats throughout the day, even small amounts spread over time cause erosion. 

Rinse your mouth out with water after eating or drinking acidic foods. And – this one might sound counter-intuitive – but don’t brush your teeth right after having something sweet or acidic! Your enamel needs time to remineralise after sugary or acidic meals. Wait at least an hour to brush after meals or drinks.

3. Gum disease and oral hygiene

Have you been shown how to brush and floss your teeth correctly? Using correct technique is the only way to prevent and treat gum disease. Tooth loss is the end result of periodontal (gum) disease, and unfortunately is way too common in our ageing population. So common, in fact, we think of tooth loss as a ‘natural’ part of ageing. It’s not!

You can keep a healthy smile for life. Gum disease is prevented at home with good dental hygiene and technique, not by dentists! Good oral hygiene habits are paramount at any stage of life but become particularly important as we mature. Please ask your dentist or hygienist how to maintain your periodontal health so that you can keep your teeth for life.

4. Poor oral health could contribute to heart disease

Periodontitis (gum disease) is also linked with coronary heart disease. According to studies published in the American Heart Journal, if you’re a male with periodontitis, you are 70 per cent more likely to get coronary heart disease than a male with no periodontal disease. 

Furthermore, treating the periodontal disease with good oral hygiene improves the health of your heart. These statistics are staggering and show that oral health is connected to whole-body health. Periodontitis is connected with one of the leading causes of death in the world.

Now, there is no better reason to keep your gums in tip-top condition!

5. Not enough teeth to eat with and uncomfortable dentures 

Loose dentures and missing teeth both affect our ability to eat, and eating well is a key to longevity. If you’ve experienced tooth loss, there are great solutions available these days to replace missing teeth.

Implants serve as a replacement for natural teeth. They are the next best thing we have to teeth. People who have their teeth and dentures replaced with implants report that they can eat anything they like: apples, carrots –they can even crunch on nuts. Dental technology has come a long way and the results are truly life-changing.

Dr Helen Voronina is an implant dentist and owner of Melbourne based practice, Dr Helen’s Dental & Implant Studio.

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