Preventive dental information

Facts on preventive dentistry:

  • Dental decay and gum disease account for most of the dental disease requiring treatment by dentists and hygienists throughout the world.
  • BOTH of these diseases are entirely preventable
  • There is a need for far more preventive dental advice and information

This is the first in a series of articles written to help young adults understand dental diseases and the preventive actions they can take to minimise their experience of tooth decay and gum disease at little or no additional cost to themselves.

Dental decay is a major and continuing problem in young people

Many young adults sadly suffer from dental decay.  The most common factors that contribute to decay in young people are:

  • The inadequate control of dental plaque bacteria
  • The consumption of sugar in fizzy drinks including Coke-Cola and high energy drinks
  • Regular snacking on refined carbohydrates or sugar containing snacks
  • Processed foods containing sugar as a preservative
  • drinking insufficient water and becoming “low-grade” dehydrated

Many young people attend our practice suffering from pain, infection and swelling, requiring urgent treatment. These causes will be explained in more detail in the articles that follow.

It is a sad fact of life that many young adults, many of whom are in part-time education and working part-time, have very little spare money and live on processed foods and sugar-containing “high energy drinks”.  Their diet and lack of dental knowledge puts them at risk of suffering dental decay but due to their financial constraints they are often not in a position to afford regular dental checks or treatment.  Therefore dental decay is allowed to progress until it causes symptoms, including pain.  By that stage often teeth cannot be saved and emergency treatment may be required due to advanced infection.

What are the causes of dental decay?

There are many reasons why people suffer extensive dental disease.  In Australia many people face the problem of inaccessibility of dental care and general healthcare in many rural locations.  A significant part of our population lives in remote areas with vast distances between them and dentists, therapists and dental hygienists.  This means they are unlikely to receive much preventive dental advice.

There are four factors that have to be present for dental decay to occur:

  • There must be dental plaque (bacteria) on the teeth
  • There must be sugars present to feed the bacteria (from the diet), and the resulting acid produced by the fermentation of these sugars must remain in contact with the tooth.
  • The tooth surface enamel is strong but can be dissolved leading to dental decay while the dentine of the tooth root is far softer and more conducive to acid attack. If a patient has gum recession exposing the root surface to the mouth, root decay is a real danger and often progresses much faster than decay of the crown of the tooth.
  • Acid must remain on the tooth for adequate time to attack and demineralise or dissolve the enamel or dentine leading to cavity formation.

To prevent decay, it is only necessary to block one of these factors.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a gel-like, protein matrix derived from the salivary protein. With this matrix are millions of living bacteria capable of fermenting sugars and producing toxic waste products. The plaque grows on all surfaces in the mouth at an alarming rate, each bacteria dividing into two bacteria every 20-30 minutes.

Who is responsible for removing plaque?

The daily removal of dental plaque should be a daily routine performed every morning and every evening by every individual.  However, plaque is extremely sticky being a protein material, and usually after tooth brushing, plaque remains in many of the more difficult-to-clean areas of the mouth.  These areas include the spaces between the teeth and under the edge of the gum margin.  To be effective in removing plaque, people need to know exactly what they are aiming to achieve.

It is not easy to disrupt plaque from the tooth surfaces. This is why an effective brushing technique is so important and due to the difficulty in achieving good cleaning, adequate time is also necessary to achieve effective plaque removal at all surfaces of all teeth. In a study of young adults, over 90% of those people observed brushed their teeth for less than 2 minutes. This is too short a time to clean all the teeth effectively.

Floss can help reduce decay between teeth where it often begins

The longer acids remain against the enamel surface of the tooth, the more damage occurs to that enamel and the more quickly the decay becomes established. One area where dental decay often starts in many people is between the teeth. This is the reason why so many dentists advocate the use of dental floss between the teeth.

Floss is pulled tight, and carefully passed through the contact point between the teeth. The contact point is that tiny area of the tooth where it touches the tooth next to it. Often plaque builds up around the contact point, especially just underneath it and hence this area is especially prone to the development of dental decay.

Once the floss is through the contact point, it is then passed just below the gum margin and then the floss is pulled tight against the tooth surface to be cleaned.  Once tight against the tooth, the floss is moved up the tooth surface and back through the contact point.  This action allows the floss to “skim” off the plaque from the tooth surface.  This flossing should be done for all the tooth surfaces between the teeth because most dental decay begins just under the contact point, particularly in adolescents and young adults.

Thank you for reading part 1 we will be posting part 2 of our preventive dentistry blogs soon. If you would like any more information, please don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at NQ Surgical Dentistry today on (07) 4725 1656 or call in to see us at 183 Kings Rd, Pimlico QLD 4812

For more information: Dental Hygiene Therapy

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