About dental health
Keeping your mouth and teeth clean and healthy can help prevent common dental problems, like gum disease and tooth decay. Gum disease and tooth decay can affect people of all ages, including young children, whose teeth have softer and thinner enamel.
There is evidence to suggest a correlation between poor dental health and cardiovascular disease, possibly due to bacteria travelling through the bloodstream, and other links between poor dental health and diabetes, dementia and oral cancer.
Medicare doesn’t routinely cover the cost of dental services, and adults without dental insurance are around three times more likely to suffer complete tooth loss than those with dental insurance.
In 2014-2015, less than half (47%) of all Australians had consulted a dentist in the past 12 months. However, adults and children who visit the dentist more often for check-ups are, not surprisingly, less likely to need fillings.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that sticks to the surface of your teeth.
The bacteria in plaque turn sugar in food and drinks into acidic toxins that attack the enamel on your teeth. If you don’t remove plaque, after time it will break down the enamel on your teeth and create holes or cavities.
Plaque near your gumline and between your teeth can harden if not removed and irritate your gums. When plaque has hardened into calculus or tartar, it can only be removed by a dental professional. In serious cases, gum disease can lead to periodontitis, which weakens the bone below teeth and can cause them to fall out.
Acidic food and drink also have the potential to cause erosion, and it’s not just vinegar or citrus fruits. Fruit juice, sugar-free drinks, kombucha and chewable Vitamin C can all be acidic and, if consumed to excess, can gradually wear away the enamel protecting your teeth.
It can take an hour for your body to produce enough saliva to wash away the acid from your teeth after you’ve consumed acidic food or drink, but don’t immediately brush your teeth. Acid can soften the top layer of enamel and you don’t want to strip it. Drink a glass of water instead.
Signs of gum disease
Mild gum disease (gingivitis) causes redness and inflammation of your gums, it can also cause bad breath and spongy gums. It’s not usually painful but an early indicator of gingivitis is if your gums bleed when you brush your teeth. If you notice this, brush regularly and thoroughly twice a day to remove all signs of plaque.
Regular brushing and regular dental check-ups are essential to prevent gum disease. See your dentist if you experience bleeding from the gums that doesn’t stop after a few days.
It’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day, using small circular movements, with a small to medium sized toothbrush head that can reach into the back of your mouth. Choose soft or medium bristles. Children should use even smaller brushes.
Electric toothbrushes are effective at removing plaque, and those with oscillating heads have been found to be the most effective.
Whatever brush you use, change it every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles start to fray.
Cleaning between teeth
Cleaning between your teeth is important to dislodge any trapped particles of food in areas that your toothbrush can’t reach. You can do this using an interdental brush (available in various sizes) or by flossing. You can also try an oral irrigator (water jet). A fluoride mouthwash can also help to reduce plaque but it’s not a substitute for flossing or cleaning between your teeth.
Oral health and diabetes
People with diabetes have a greater risk of oral health problems. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can lead to bacterial growth which increases the risk of oral infections. Medications for diabetes can also cause dry mouth. The most common problems include:
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Mouth ulcers
- Dry mouth
CBHS Better Living programs can offer expert guidance and advice to help you cope with some of the health challenges of diabetes.
Oral health and other diseases
Regular dental check-ups can help identify oral cancers that might otherwise be missed. Early detection of cancer is one of the factors that can improve survival rates.
Smoking can reduce the blood flow to your teeth and gums and contribute to teeth loss. It can also increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
There are also several studies that show a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease. People with chronic periodontitis had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Patients with dementia can also be susceptible to dental problems, partly because some medications can reduce saliva, which makes teeth more likely to decay.
Oral health during pregnancy
Pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Periodontal disease may also be a factor in premature birth.
Vomiting caused by nausea has the potential to increase the risk of tooth decay during pregnancy. Repeated vomiting can bring strong stomach acid into contact with tooth enamel. High levels of hormones can also increase blood flow to gums and may cause inflammation and bleeding.
After you suffer a bout of vomiting, rinse your mouth with water and avoid brushing your teeth directly afterwards as you could increase the effect of erosion on the surface of your teeth.
It’s safe to visit a dentist and receive dental treatment while you’re pregnant.
How to avoid tooth decay and gum disease
Taking good care of your teeth can reduce your risk of experiencing dental problems.
- Cut down on sugary food and drink, including concentrated fruit juices, soft drinks, sports drinks and alcohol.
- Limit the frequency that you consume acidic food or drink.
- Brush teeth twice a day for two minutes.
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Clean between teeth every day for two minutes.
- Drink plenty of water between meals.
- Quit smoking.
- See your dentist for a check-up every six months.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to oral health. If you have CBHS Extras or packaged cover, you can avoid out-of-pocket expenses by choosing a dentist from the CBHS Dental Choice Network.
Health and wellbeing
programs & support
You Belong to More with CBHS Hospital cover:
- Greater choice over your health options including who treats you
- Get care at home with Hospital Substitute Treatment program
- Free health and wellbeing programs to support your health challenges
Live your healthiest, happiest life with CBHS Extras:
- Benefits for proactive health checks e.g. bone density tests, eye screenings
- Keep up your care with telehealth and digital options
- Save on dental and optical with CBHS Choice Network providers