By: Philips Oral Health

Oral diseases, such as tooth decay and gum disease are preventable, yet more than half of the world’s population (3.5 billion people) suffer from untreated oral diseases. Even more worrying, is that untreated oral diseases have increased by 40% since 1990, with no improvement over the last 28 years and, the indirect costs due to oral diseases worldwide amounts to more than US $140 billion yearly, which corresponds to economic losses within the range of the 10 most frequent global causes of death – making oral health awareness critically important.

It’s time to Act

Celebrated each year on 20 March, World Oral Health Day (WOHD) is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health – demonstrating the importance about good oral hygiene and motivating people to take charge and action when it comes to their oral health.  In South Africa, it is frightening to note that 50% of people consider the state of their teeth and gums to be no better than average – pointing to the wider challenge of a citizenry that does not always take as much care of its teeth as it should. Consider some of the facts:

  • Oral diseases share some common modifiable risk factors with other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and some cancers;
  • Globally, approximately 30% of people aged 65–74 years have no natural teeth;
  • Oral conditions are the fourth most expensive health conditions to treat 

However, through proper self-care and regular dental check-ups, together with managing risk factors, good oral healthcare is attainable.

Good oral habits

Visiting your friendly neighbourhood dentist every six months helps towards keeping plaque, tartar, and cavities in check. Your dentist will also be able to pick up whether you have any bad habits such as biting your nails, grinding your teeth, or clenching your jaw. Of course, the dentist will also be able to see if you drink too much coffee and red wine, or smoke too much. Which might be good or bad news for some – but minor tweaks to a lifestyle can make a world of difference to your teeth.

It also goes without saying that brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a week should be standard practice to keep those teeth (and gums) as healthy as possible. Equally important is the toothbrush you choose. There are so many options available so look for one that suits you – ideally, an electric toothbrush which removes 7 x more plaque than a manual toothbrush. Also remember, the longer you use your trusty sidekick, the less effective it becomes. Do not wait until the bristles are frayed before getting a new one. Health professionals advise you to replace your toothbrush or electric brush-head every three to four months. Some additional tips for good oral hygiene include:

  • Watching what you eat and drink and taking calcium and vitamin D. These help with bone density, strengthening and keeping your teeth healthy.
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day for approximately two minutes at a time, and if possible after every meal. Once after breakfast and once before you go to bed.
  • Flossing once a day. Flossing isn’t there to replace brushing your teeth. Rather, it’s a complimentary method to achieving optimal dental hygiene by reaching those difficult areas that a normal toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Using alcohol free mouth wash, which can be used from the age of 6. This is a good option to flush out any bacteria where the toothbrush cannot reach. It can also help maintain strong teeth and a pleasant-smelling breath.

Oral hygiene is not only about having fresh breath and a bright smile – it’s also directly linked to your health. So, this Oral Health Day – don’t forget to say Ahh and don’t pass on the opportunity to keep those pearlies looking healthy.

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