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Health Checks – your teeth

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Dentists are necessary for the health as well as the ill-health of the teeth and gums and you should visit your dentist every six months. He practices preventive as well as curative dentistry and can attack and treat tooth decay long before it gets to the stage where radical dentistry is needed. Your dentist can also advise on and recommend specialist treatment for teeth. Cosmetic dentistry may become necessary later on even if your early teeth were good.

Tooth decay

There is unequivocal evidence to show that the type of diet we eat affects the health of our gums and teeth, and that dental decay is caused in the main by sweet, sugary foods containing sucrose. Such foods include most refined foods and sweet drinks, sweets, chocolates and ice creams. If you want to have healthy teeth, restrict sugar-containing foods and drinks to meal-times and brush your teeth afterwards.

Flouride in all its forms protects the teeth against decay. The reduction in dental decay in the last decade has been spectacular. This seems largely attributable to the use of fluoride toothpaste which became widely available in the early 1970’s. If you would like to give your children the best possible dental future it is necessary in most areas to supplement the diet with fluoride drops or tablets. It is important to remember one point: if the supplement is forgotten the one day, and it can easily happen, the dose should not be doubled the next day. At twice the optimum circulating fluoride levels, there is a risk of “mottling” of the teeth – that is the production of small white patches in the developing enamel which are permanent.  These do not damage the tooth functionally, but are unattractive.


The arch villain of gum disease is plaque. Plaque is a thin film that forms over the teeth and is made up of bacteria and soft material which is formed from the saliva and the bacterial cells themselves. The formation of plauque is encouraged by eating or drinking sweet, starchy foods, particularly sweet snacks between meals.  Plaque starts off as a rather soft, sticky substance but if not removed, may eventually become rock hard due to the incorporation of calcium.

Inside it, bacteria thrive and multiply, producing acid which corrodes the outer protective enamel of the teeth. The plaque is usually deposited around the lower parts of the teeth, at the gum margins. When it becomes hard and gritty it irritates the gums and they become soft and swollen. Pockets may form within which bacteria flourish and the gum margins may become chronically infected

The best possible way of preventing plaque formation is attention to diet and careful regular frequent brushing and flossing.

The Correct Way to Floss Your Teeth

  • Break off about 45cms floss and wind most if it around one of your middle fingers.
  • Wind the rest around the same finger of the opposite hand.
  • Use your thumbs and forefingers with 2,5 cms of floss between them to guide the floss between your teeth.
  • Holding the floss tightly, use a gentle sawing motion to insert the floss between your teeth. Never “snap” the floss into your gums.
  • When the floss reaches the gum line curve it into a C shape against one tooth and gently slide it into the space between gum and tooth until you feel resistance.
  • While holding the floss tightly against the tooth, move the floss away from the gum by scraping the floss up and down against the side of the tooth.
  • Repeat this method on the adjacent tooth
  • Repeat this method on all your teeth.

Dental care for children with special needs

Although all children need regular dental care and attention, for children with special needs it is particularly important.

  • Children with chronic illness who have to take syrupy medicines regularly may be at special risk from dental decay.
  • For children with heart problems it is vital to keep the mouth clean and healthy to avoid the risk of bacteria from dental treatment.
  • Gum disease can be a particular problem with children with Down’s Syndrome (they may also have heart problems).
  • Children with epilepsy may sometimes bump their teeth when falling, and so should be regularly checked by the dentist. Some medicines given to control epilepsy may cause overgrowth of the gums, leading to inflammation and bleeding unless the mouth is kept clean and the teeth well-brushed.

When brushing the teeth of children who need special help, it is best to stand or sit behind the child. If sitting, the child’s head can rest on the carer’s lap or a chair with a head support may be used to support the child’s head. If a child has uncontrolled movements or is uncooperative, help from another person may be needed for brushing.