How often should I have a dental checkup?
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that most children and adults visit their dentist every 6 months for their regular cleaning and examination. People who are at greater risk of developing oral disease such as diabetics, smokers and those with gum disease may need to visit their dentist more frequently.
By regularly attending the dentist for check-ups, your gums and teeth will not only remain healthy but also any problems will be detected early and managed before they become more serious and costly.
When should I start taking my child to the dentist?
At about 18 months, take your child to the dentist for a check-up and so that they may become accustomed to regular dental visits.
What causes decay?
Decay occurs when plaque combines with the sugars of the foods that we eat. This combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel. The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing twice a day and flossing daily. Eating healthy foods and avoiding snacks and drinks that are high in sugar are also ways to prevent decay.
Should I have amalgam filling replaced?
Amalgam fillings are replaced by dentists for a variety of reasons such as recurring decay, fracture and aesthetics. If a satisfactory filling is replaced for other reasons, such as the effects of mercury, you may create problems that would otherwise have not occurred such as further weakening of the tooth or sensitivity.
The ADA policy remains, on the basis of the research available, that the use of amalgam fillings produces no harmful effects on the patient.
What is a bridge?
A bridge is an appliance permanently fixed in the mouth to replace missing teeth. It uses remaining teeth to support the new artificial tooth or teeth.
A conventional fixed bridge consists of crowns that are fixed to the teeth on either side of the missing teeth and false teeth rigidly attached to these crowns.
An enamel bonded bridge uses a metal or porcelain framework, to which the artificial teeth are attached, and then resin bonded to supporting teeth.
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal or endodontic treatment is a process whereby inflamed or dead pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth, enabling a tooth that was causing pain to be retained.
Dental pulp is the soft tissue in the canal that runs through the centre of a tooth. Once a tooth is fully formed it can function normally without its pulp and be kept indefinitely.
After removing the pulp, the root canals are cleaned, sterilised and shaped to a form that can be completely sealed with a filling material to prevent further infection. The treatment can take several appointments, depending on how complex the tooth is, and how long the infection takes to clear.
Subsequently a crown or complex restoration to restore or protect the tooth may be a necessary recommendation, as a tooth after undergoing root canal treatment may be more likely to fracture.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant can be thought of as an artificial tooth root that is submerged into the jawbone. When dental work such as a crown, fixed bridge or a full set of dentures is added, one or more missing teeth can be replaced. A dental implant is fabricated from a very strong, biocompatible material placed in a simple procedure that, generally, is as convenient as a tooth extraction. After an initial healing period, during which the implant is buried in bone and left undisturbed under gum tissue, it is uncovered and connected to a small metal post that secures and supports the artificial tooth.
What are fissure sealants?
Dental sealants are a clear and protective coating that is applied to the biting surface of the back teeth. The sealants are a very effective way of preventing tooth decay by shielding against bacteria and plaque. They should ideally be placed in the adult molar teeth soon after they present themselves in the mouth.
What causes bad breath?
Up to 85% of people with persistent bad breath have a dental condition that is to blame. Examples of such conditions are gum disease, cavities, poor oral hygiene, oral cancer and dry mouth. If bad breath is the result of a dental problem, a mouthwash will only mask the odour and not cure it.
Regularly attending the dentist for routine check-up and cleans, brushing your teeth and tongue twice daily and flossing daily can significantly reduce and even eliminate bad breath.
How often can I whiten/bleach my teeth?
Depending on the method and strength of the bleach, teeth can be whitened every 6-12 months. It is important to check with your dentist what frequency your teeth can be bleached and if other preventive measures can be implemented in your lifestyle to reduce stains on your enamel.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is the clenching or grinding of the teeth typically during sleep. The effects of bruxism are not felt by the teeth alone. The force of clenching causes stressful pressure on the muscles, tissue and jaw. This results in jaw pain, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems. A night splint is often recommended to alleviate the clenching or grinding.
What is the difference between dental mouthguards and generic mouthguards?
- The custom fitted mouthguard is available from your dentist. This mouthguard is constructed directly from a mould taken of your teeth in the dental surgery and fits tightly and comfortably over your teeth. This type of mouthguard is the type recommended by the dental profession and is the most effective in preventing injuries to the teeth and jaws.
- The "do it yourself" mouthguard, available at many pharmacies are usually poorly fitting and uncomfortable to wear. Dentists do not recommend these as they offer little protection to the teeth and jaws.
Does smoking affect my teeth, gums or mouth?
Yes. Most people are becoming aware that smoking poses a problem to general health. It contributes to heart disease, stroke, and to a third of all cancer deaths, to name just a few conditions.
What is less well known is the effect it has in the mouth. The main damage is to the gums and mucosa, or lining of the mouth. Smokers develop more oral cancers than non-smokers (about five times more) and invariably suffer some degree of gum or, periodontal disease.
Other than staining, smoking does not affect the teeth. However, it also has a profound effect on the saliva, promoting the formation of the thicker ‘mucous’ form of saliva at the expense of the thinner watery ‘serous’ saliva. There is a reduction in the acid-buffering capacity of their saliva.
What do experts say about safety and effectiveness of water flouridation?
"Fluoridation of drinking water remains the most effective and socially equitable means of achieving community-wide exposure to the caries prevention effects of fluoride".
National Health and Medical Research Council, 2007
"The benefits of fluoride for the prevention and control of dental caries have been known to the scientific and public health community for more than 60 years. Regrettably, particularly people living in developing countries and disadvantaged communities are deprived of fluoride for dental health".
World Health Organization, 2007
"...universal access to fluoride for dental health is a part of the basic human right to life".
World Health Organization, 2006
"Fluoridation of drinking water...one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century".
Centers for Disease Control, 2000
"There's now solid scientific evidence that fluoride added to drinking water helps to protect your teeth from decay. The claims of those who oppose fluoridation are often based on outdated information, questionable research and selectively picking studies that support their case. There's no convincing evidence for harmful effects from fluoride at the levels used in our water supply".
Australian Consumers Association (Choice magazine), 2007
Water fluoridation is endorsed by the following Australian health and scientific authorities:
- National Health and Medical Research Council
- Australian Dental Association
- Australian Medical Association
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
- Royal Australasian College of Physicians
- Australian Academy of Science
- Public Health Association of Australia
- Alzheimer's Australia
- Arthritis Australia
- Australian Cancer Council
- Osteoporosis Australia
- Diabetes Australia
- Kidney Health Australia
- All Australian state and territory Departments of Health