The importance of good oral health
In observance of World Oral Health month which is highlighted annually in September, the importance of good oral health and hygiene at home is vital to ensure that your gums stay healthy, smile stays bright and your teeth stay white.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created delays for many families requiring dental services at all Western Cape Government Health facilities. Currently, dental healthcare is limited to emergency and urgent dental problems from severe dental pain, injury to the mouth, complications from previous dental treatment or swelling of dental/ facial areas.
A quick trip to the dentist to resolve a pesky dental problem might have been an easy task pre-COVID-19, but during the pandemic, dentists had to immediately scale down on services to slow the spread of the virus, and since teeth don't get better on their own, the problem and pain increase requiring emergency dental care.
“The mouth is the opening to the body and pathogens find their way in via the mouth and COVID-19 is no exception,” says Mansoor Mohamed, Dentist at Hanover Park Community Day Centre.
“Maintaining oral health is an important factor in overall health especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Western Cape Government Health’s Golden Hygiene standards of mask-wearing, social distancing, hand washing and sanitising, we should also pay extra attention to the health of our mouths,” says Mansoor.
“As a dentist, I always encourage good oral health education by sharing and reiterating the importance of practising the top five oral health pledges which can assist in alleviating and avoiding dental complications in the future,” says Mohamed.
Pledge 1: Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste
This is by far the most effective pledge you can make to improve your oral health. Brushing twice a day not only makes sure you are brushing off plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums, but the fluoride in toothpaste means that your teeth stay protected throughout the day.
For children up to three years old, use a smear of toothpaste with fluoride and after three years old we recommend using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. We recommence that parents supervise the dental care of their children until the age of seven. The best time to brush is at night before you go to bed.
Pledge 2: Cut down on sugary foods and drinks and snack healthier
Drink plenty of water and cut down on how much and how often you have sugary foods and drinks. Keep sugar consumption to mealtimes. This will reduce the time your teeth are under acid attack. For many, the secret to tackling snacking is not to cut it out altogether but to simply snack healthier. This means that instead reaching for the biscuit jar when you feel peckish, you chose a handful of nuts or some cheese instead. These snacks are much more tooth-friendly, they are non-acidic, low in sugar and will still give you the energy boost you need.
Pledge 3: Clean between your teeth
You might think it unnecessary, but whilst brushing your teeth is vital, your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere. Floss or interdental brushes get between your teeth. By leaving these areas untouched, they can become a breeding ground for plaque which can cause both tooth decay and gum disease. You may even consider using a mouth rinse to remove plaque from between your teeth.
Pledge 4: Visiting the dentist
Maintaining regular visits to your dental team will always be important. During this period of uncertainty, it is best to always check before any appointments that you have by phoning ahead. Be prepared for your appointment to either be delayed or cancelled. This is for the safety of both staff and patients. Emergency dental treatment is still available, but other, more routine procedures may be postponed for the foreseeable future until more dental services are phased again.
Pledge 5: Keeping good personal hygiene
One of the most important things to remember, is that doing these things and being as hygienic as possible doesn’t just help protect you, but it also protects those around you.
- Change your toothbrush regularly
- Sharing is not caring: Never share a toothbrush
- Clean and disinfect your bathroom regularly
For better oral health, hygiene and well-being, it is important we all take these measures to protect ourselves and each other. Contact your nearest healthcare facility or attend your emergency centre for any urgent dental services or emergency dental procedures such as, but not limited to, severe dental pain which cannot be controlled with pain medication, facial or oral trauma, after an extraction when bleeding cannot be controlled, mouth infection or abscess. Overall to save yourself a trip to the dentist, practice good oral health for a happy family and healthy mouth.