Learn how to protect your teeth this Oral Health Month
This month we celebrate National Oral Health Month which highlights the importance of maintaining good oral health throughout one’s life. In the Western Cape there have been over 1 million tooth extractions from 2013 to 2015. Approximately 300 000 of the 1 391 386 teeth that have been extracted in the past 3 years belonged to children under the age of 5. In the Overberg 51 099 teeth were extracted between April 2015 and March 2016 at public health facilities. A lack of proper oral health during the developmental years of a child's life can create a range of challenges later in life as milk teeth not only help the child to bite and chew, but also maintain the space needed for permanent teeth to develop later on. Milk teeth also aids in speech development and the physical appearance of a child.
The Western Cape Government Health offers a wide variety of oral health services to community members across the province, which include oral health preventative programmes which educates learners about the importance of good oral hygiene practices. The oral health preventive programmes comprise of education on oral health, brushing programmes at schools and the fissure sealant programme which are all aimed at protecting and preserving our teeth.
Other oral health services offered by the Western Cape Government Health include:
- Oral examinations
- Scale and polish (cleaning teeth and gums)
- Treatment of pain and sepsis (draining of abscess, antibiotic prescription, etc.)
- Dental X-rays (bitewings) as aid to diagnosis
- Basic fillings (one to four surfaces)
- Prevention (education, brushing, fissure sealants, fluoride)
As with all health matters, good oral health cannot solely be achieved by the Western Cape Government Health. It needs each community member and parent to take responsibility for their own and their children’s oral health.
What parents can do to preserve their children’s teeth:
- Breastfeed instead of bottle feed
- If you choose to bottle feed ensure that:
- You remove the bottle from your baby’s mouth when your baby is asleep.
- Refrain from giving babies bottle feeding drinks that contain sweet tea, sugar water, fruit juice or cool drinks to limit the teeth’s exposure to sugar.
- Wipe your baby’s mouth and gums with a clean damp cloth daily.
- Start brushing your baby’s teeth with a small toothbrush twice daily as soon as the first tooth appears.
- Brush your child’s teeth until they are capable of doing so themselves (approximately 6 – 7 years old), thereafter the child can brush their own teeth under supervision
- Babies should be taken to the dentist/dental clinic as soon as the first tooth appears.
- As the first permanent teeth, the molars, start to grow around the age of 5 to 6, parents need to ensure the health of these teeth as permanent teeth are meant to last a lifetime.
Permanent teeth can be protected by:
- Visiting the dentist at least once a year.
- Having a balanced diet which limits sugary foods and drinks.
- Always using toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Brushing twice a day and regular flossing of the teeth.
- Rinsing the mouth after each meal
For more information on the oral health services available in your community please contact your nearest clinic. Good oral health is everyone’s responsibility.