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Taking care of your teeth

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By Dr Dipu Mathew: Basic dental care involves brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, seeing your dentist for regular check-ups and cleaning, and eating a mouth-healthy diet, which means foods high in whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products.
Why is basic dental care important?

* To prevent tooth decay.
* To prevent gum (periodontal) disease, which can damage gum tissue and the bones that support teeth, and in the long term can lead to the loss of teeth.
* To shorten time with the dentist and dental hygienist, and make the trip more pleasant.
* To help prevent bad breath. Brushing and flossing rid your mouth of the bacteria that cause bad breath.
* Basic dental care helps keep teeth white by preventing staining from food, drinks, and tobacco.
* To improve overall health.
* To make it possible for your teeth to last a lifetime.
Are there ways to avoid dental problems?
m Keeping your teeth and gums healthy requires good nutrition and regular brushing and flossing. Brush your teeth twice a day — in the morning and before bed — and floss once a day. This removes plaque, which can lead to damaged teeth, gums, and surrounding bone. Replace your toothbrush when it begins to show wear, or every three months, whichever comes first. It is also very important to change toothbrushes after you’ve had a cold, since the bristles can collect germs that can lead to re-infection.
m Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities. Ask your dentist if you need a mouthwash that contains fluoride or one with ingredients that fight plaque.
m Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar. Sugar helps plaque grow.
m Avoid using tobacco products, which can cause gum disease and oral cancer.
m Practice tongue cleaning. You can use a tongue cleaner or a soft-bristle toothbrush, stroking in a back-to-front direction. Tongue cleaning is particularly important for people who smoke or whose tongues are coated or deeply grooved.
m Schedule regular trips to the dentist based on how often you need exams and cleaning.
Common dental problems and how to avoid them
m Bad breath: Medically called halitosis, bad breath can result from poor dental health habits and may be a sign of other health problems. Bad breath can also be made worse by the types of foods you eat and other unhealthy lifestyle habits. Smoking or chewing tobacco-based products, gum disease and dry mouth can also cause bad breath. Other diseases that can cause halitosis are respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, diabetes, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems.
m Gum disease: Gum disease is typically caused by three factors: bad oral hygiene, smoking and genetic susceptibility. Gum disease sufferers don’t often show symptoms until their 30s and 40s, though teenagers can often have gingivitis, which is the milder form of the disease.
* Periodontitis is the more severe form of gum disease and can put you at greater risk for heart attack or stroke. How? Bacteria can be inhaled or enter your blood through the gums, eventually affecting your heart and lungs.
Symptoms of gum disease include constant bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums and loose or sensitive teeth. The treatment often includes a deep cleaning or scraping tartar from below the gum line, prescription antibiotics, mouthwashes or gels and surgery.
* Tooth sensitivity: There can be many causes. Chief among them are exposed root surfaces. If the gums recede just a little bit — 1 or 2mm — the root of the tooth can become permanently exposed. The root surface is extremely porous and can allow fluids and air to indirectly stimulate the nerve in the centre of the tooth. Other possible causes include exposure to heat or cold, sensitivity to acidity or cracked teeth. The bottomline: if your teeth are causing you real pain, you should go to your dentist to figure out what’s going on.
* Cavities: Another problem caused by bacteria in the mouth being left alone and given time to cause damage. The bacteria feast on sugar and starch remnants left on and between our teeth. After they eat these carbohydrates, they secrete an acid waste product. This acid dissolves the tooth enamel. The bacteria then move in and live in the spaces left behind in the teeth, and are more difficult to reach through brushing and flossing.
The key to prevention? Good oral hygiene is your best bet and parents should be particularly mindful, as cavities most often occur in kids. Once a cavity has formed, a dentist can use a crown, filling or — if necessary — a root canal to treat the problem.
* Wisdom teeth: Ever wonder why some people have to get their wisdom teeth removed, while others don’t? If you have enough space in your jaw for them, they’ll come in nicely and you can keep them forever. But for some people, there isn’t enough room, which means they’ll only come in, or “erupt” only partially. This could be problematic because it can lead to infection: Bacteria are able to enter the soft tissue around the partially-erupted tooth and reside deep in the gums where the tooth is stuck. Eventually, they will develop an infection in the jaw bone around the wisdom tooth, or in many cases a cyst will form around the impacted wisdom tooth.
* Teeth grinding: Teeth grinding or Bruxism, is very common in adults and is very destructive to the teeth — causing them to become short and blunt, and sometimes resulting in jaw problems. The most common causes are misaligned teeth and stress. Orthodontic or restorative dentistry can correct alignment, and the dentist can fabricate a custom plastic guard for people to wear while they sleep to protect their teeth from the destructive force our jaws can produce.
* Toothache: Deep cavity, injury, infection are the common cause. Dentist will analyse the cause and will give the treatment options accordingly, such as fillings, root canal treatment or extractions.
* Discoloured/Yellow teeth: Often caused by the foods and beverages we consume. Some major culprits are red wine and coffee. Smoking is the most common cause. Some teeth just come in with a yellowish undertone to them, naturally.
A wide variety of cosmetic options are available to deal with this, including whitening and veneers.
(The author is a dental surgeon at Aster clinic, C-Ring Road.)

Read full article from Gulf times




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