Dental sealants have been described as the ‘biggest advance in preventative dentistry since fluoride'. The sealant fills the deep pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of teeth where plaque-causing bacteria hide so that they have no chance of causing decay. Back teeth in particular are more susceptible, and depending on how deep the pits and grooves are, these areas can be difficult to clean with a tooth brush – no matter how hard you try.
Application of the dental sealant is a simple painless procedure and absolutely no “drilling” is required. The sealant is hardened with a fibre-optic light and forms a protective coating over the tooth. Sealants are most effective if applied as soon as practical after the eruption of the teeth and early application ensures the pits and grooves are protected before the decay process begins. They cause no obstruction to flossing and do not inhibit the normal development of the teeth in any way.
Dental sealants play an important role in the prevention of tooth decay. However because they can only be applied to the chewing surfaces and not in between teeth, it is still most important to maintain an effective oral hygiene program of brushing at least twice and flossing once every day, together with regular visits to your dentist for check-ups.
Fluoride is important for everyone, both children and adults. It is estimated that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 20-40%. Fluoride, a mineral naturally occurring in water, plays an essential protective role.
- When ingested it is incorporated into the structure of the developing teeth, and it prevents the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving tooth enamel.
- It also helps to repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay becomes visible.
Unfortunately people continue to be misinformed about fluoride and fluoridation. Fluoride is like any nutrient; it is safe and effective when used appropriately. In areas where fluoridated water is not available dietary fluoride supplements can be taken in the form of tablets. In Singapore the water is optimally fluoridated.
Topical fluorides including toothpastes, mouth rinses and professionally applied fluoride by your dentist will strengthen teeth already present in the mouth making them more decay resistant. Fluoride applied by your dentist is stronger and hence will last longer. The recommended frequency of applications is every six months. If you are particularly susceptible to decay, the frequency should be increased.
It is important to note that effective prevention of dental decay requires a proper mix of both forms of fluoride (topical and ingested). Too much ingested fluoride during tooth development in young children can cause white spots or staining of the tooth enamel due to fluorosis. Do not let your children eat toothpaste!
Be aware that the majority of bottled waters on the market do not contain optimal levels of fluoride. Individuals who drink bottled water as their primary source of water could be missing the decay preventative effects of fluoridated water. Similarly, some types of home water treatment systems can reduce the fluoride content in the water supplied. If concerned you should seek advice from your dentist about your own specific fluoride needs.
Gingivitis, a common problem, is inflammation of the gums which may lead to bleeding when brushing or flossing. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection caused by plaque (a thick and sticky film of bacteria that builds up on the teeth) and tartar build-up around the roots of the teeth. And may eventually this can lead to loss of the bone structure that supports them. If teeth have not been cleaned thoroughly or often enough, gum disease is the invariable result.
Signs of periodontal disease:
• Red, swollen, tender, painful or bleeding gums
• Gums that have shrunk from the teeth
• Persistent bad breath
• A bad taste in the mouth
• Abscesses between teeth and gums
• The fit of denture has changed and/or
• Loose teeth; drifting apart of teeth with gaps appearing between teeth.
It is significant that periodontitis is a major cause of tooth loss in people older than 30! Your dentist will check for any change in the size, shape, appearance and texture of the gums which may indicate disease.
Women are particularly vulnerable to oral health problems during pregnancy. Tender gums that are aggravated by hormone changes are more likely to harbour plaque-causing bacteria, which can further damage the gums, causing gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis will lead to infection and inflammation of the tissues around the teeth (periodontitis). This in turn can result in damage to the bone supporting the teeth. In addition, research has shown a link between gum disease and an increased risk of preterm delivery (by up to 7 times), as well as an increased risk of gestational diabetes.
There is also evidence that mothers transmit bacteria from their teeth to their infants, hence they can infect their young children with caries (decay batercia) without even realising it.
This may sound alarmist, but it is so important that expectant mothers take as much care of their oral health as they do their general health.
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Some people only come to the dentist when they have toothache. Tooth ache is often a symptom of advanced tooth decay, but sometimes it can be a symptom of other oral health problems. Good oral health is best maintained by cleaning your teeth at least twice and flossing at least once every day. Regular cleanings and check-ups with your dentist should also be an essential part of your oral maintenance program. Not only does your dentist clean your teeth to remove plaque and stain build-up, your dentist also checks for cavities, evaluates your jaw alignment, applies fluoride, checks durability of previous fillings and restorations, and evaluates the health of your gums.
Not many people realise some dental problems don't actually have painful symptoms initially, no if you do have a toothache your problem could be well advanced.
People also don't realise that a number of diseases and some medical conditions are evident in the mouth even when not specifically related to the mouth. For this reason early identification of these problems are possible during your regular dental check up. For example, your dentist is able to identify some cancers or dietary problems.