Teeth: prevent downward spiral with proper dental care

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With the right care, both at home and at the dentist, your teeth should last until the day you die. Parents should teach their children how to brush their teeth regularly and correctly from a young age.

They should set a good example so that children don’t fall into the habit of irregular brushing. Looking after baby teeth is important as they maintain the space needed for the eruption of the permanent teeth into the dental arch.

Read: Brush up on oral health

Taking good care of baby teeth with plaque control and fluoride treatment keeps them healthy, avoiding the need for tooth restoration. Treating young patients in a dental chair can be problematic and may require general anaesthesia. 

In adults, effective plaque control involves regular brushing, flossing and professional care. This prevents a) dental decay and b) periodontal disease which are the two main preventable causes of adult tooth loss. Tooth loss due to accidental injury can of course not be prevented.   

Read: Oral health linked to dementia risk 

Implant dentistry to replace teeth that are missing or unrestorable has become very popular, but shouldn’t in fact be necessary if teeth are looked after properly. A good dentist will restore (not fill) a decayed tooth with the appropriate restorative material.

A restored tooth should last for many years unless there is an iatrogenic (caused by the dentist) problem, which can happen if a cavity is not treated correctly the first time. When a tooth has to be repaired repeatedly, it starts a downward spiral and the tooth’s chances of survival become severely limited.    

Repeated restoration leads to increasing loss of structure, and eventually the root canal system may become compromised. Root treatment may then become necessary, which is only effective 75% of the time. If an abscess develops or the tooth fractures, an implant replacement is required – something which could have been prevented with the right treatment. 

Read more: 

Six dental myths debunked 

It's never to early to start looking after your child's teeth  

Oral health affects the whole body 

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