National Oral Health Month: Pay Extra Attention to Dental Health
September is National Oral Health Month, a time to pay extra attention to your dental routine, particularly as two of the world’s most common health problems affect the mouth – cavities and gum disease.
Teeth are one of the few body parts that can’t repair themselves and are meant to last a lifetime, so teaching your child proper oral care at a young age is an investment in his or her future health.
Take extra care by following these easy oral health tips:
- Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel making it more resistant to decay. Brushing should start as soon as teeth erupt as they are most vulnerable to decay at this stage and can be strengthen with fluoride exposure/application.
- Use dental floss or interdental brushes to clean between your teeth and remove food particles that get caught.
- If you use mouthwash don’t use it directly after brushing as it will rinse away the fluoride from the toothpaste.
- Quit smoking to help reduce the chances of tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss and mouth cancer.
- Change your toothbrush every two to three months or sooner if it becomes worn, as it will not clean the teeth properly.
- A balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals and fresh fruit and vegetables can help prevent gum disease.
- Avoid snacking – try to only have sugary foods and drinks at mealtimes, reducing the time your teeth come under attack.
- Visit your dentist regularly – your dentist will detect and prevent any problem before it becomes hazardous for you.
Prevention is always better than cure. Good oral hygiene habits will keep away most of the dental problems and is integral to overall health and well-being. Gum diseases have been associated with other conditions and diseases such as respiratory, cardiovascular, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes and breast cancer.
Dr Soraya Yasin-Harnekar, Head of the Dental Clinic at Red Cross war Memorial Children’s Hospital and University of Western Cape (UWC) Oral Health Centres, said: “Parents do not understand the relationship between oral hygiene and other health conditions. They also underestimate the importance of looking after children’s milk teeth. Caring for the child’s teeth is hard work but it is the only way to ensure a healthy mouth. Parents sometimes think that because children have milk teeth they are dispensable, but the bad habits children learn in early life affect them later and then their permanent teeth have similar problems.”
- An estimated 90% of South Africans experience gum disease at some point. It ranks second only to the common cold in terms of prevalence.
- A child’s primary teeth, called ‘baby teeth’, are as important as permanent teeth. Primary teeth help children chew and speak and hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are developing under the gums; and are important for the proper growth of the face and jaw.
- Dental caries is the most common oral disease in children under five years of age, and although preventable, still affects many children.
- By the time children are six years old, many of them have experienced some form of tooth decay.
- Sugars are the main cause of tooth decay (holes in your teeth).
- According to the World Dental Foundation, oral diseases affect 3.9 million people worldwide, with between 60% and 90% of children globally suffering from tooth decay.
Principal Communications Officer: Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
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