World Oral Health Day is celebrated on 20 March every year. The day was first declared by FDI in 2007 and first officially celebrated in 2013. It is dedicated to raising global awareness on the prevention and control of oral diseases. It is an international day to promote good oral health for everyone and empower individuals to maintain a healthy mouth at all ages.
What can go wrong?
Tooth decay can be painful and lead to fillings, crowns or inlays. If tooth decay is not treated, the nerve of the tooth can become infected and die, causing an abscess. This may then need root canal treatment or even for the tooth to be removed. It is very important that you keep up a good routine at home to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Gum disease is common and, if left untreated, may lead to bone loss around the teeth. In some cases, it may lead to loose teeth and teeth being lost. Gum disease is preventable. It can be treated and kept under control with regular cleaning sessions and check-ups, preventing further problems. If teeth are lost, it may be necessary to fill the gaps with bridges, dentures or implants.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth.
How can plaque cause decay?
When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth. After constant acid attack, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.
How can plaque cause gum disease?
If plaque is not removed by brushing, it can harden into something called ‘calculus’ – another name for it is ‘tartar’. As calculus forms near the gumline, the plaque underneath releases harmful poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed.
The gums start to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed, and healthy teeth can become loose and fall out. Severe gum disease can lead to teeth falling out and needing to be replaced.
How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?
Your smile depends on simple dental care habits, such as brushing and flossing. But are you using the right techniques? Follow these steps to protect your oral health.
- Brush your teeth twice a day. When you brush, don’t rush. Take time to do a thorough job.
- Use the proper equipment. Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably.
- Practice good technique. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle — aiming the bristles toward the area where your tooth meets your gum.
- Keep your equipment clean. Always rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing. Don’t routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers, which can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast.
- Know when to replace your toothbrush. Change toothbrush every three to four months — or sooner if the bristles become irregular or frayed.
Flossing for oral health
You can’t reach the tight spaces between your teeth and under the gumline with a toothbrush. That’s why daily flossing is important.
Other oral health care tips
In addition to daily brushing and flossing, consider using mouthwash containing fluoride to promote oral health.
Also, resist the temptation to use toothpicks or other objects that could injure your gums and let in bacteria.
When to see the dentist
To prevent gum disease and other oral health problems, schedule regular dental cleanings and exams. In the meantime, contact your dentist if you notice any signs or symptoms that could suggest oral health problems, such as:
- Red, tender or swollen gums
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
- Gums that begin pulling away from your teeth
- Loose permanent teeth
- Changes in the way your top and bottom teeth align with each other
- Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold
- Persistent bad breath or an unusual taste in your mouth
- Changes in the way your dentures or partial dentures fit
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mouth ulcers or sores that don’t heal
Remember, early detection and treatment of problems with your gums, teeth and mouth can help ensure a lifetime of good oral health.
Good dental health begins with you. By following these simple tips you can keep your mouth clean and healthy:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, using fluoride toothpaste.
- Spit toothpaste out after brushing and do not rinse.
- Use a toothbrush with a small- to medium-sized head.
- Use a toothbrush with soft to medium, multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles.
- Consider using a power toothbrush.
- Use small, circular movements to clean your teeth.
- Change your toothbrush regularly, and at least every 3 months.
- Clean between your teeth every day using interdental brushes or dental floss.
- Have sugary drinks and foods less often.
- Visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.