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Tips for good dental health and care

Tips for good dental health and care

Taking care of your teeth and attending regular check-ups will help ensure good oral health, but what should you do if you have a sudden emergency or a nagging toothache.

Here we look at how to prevent and treat some of the more common problems that might affect your dental and oral health.

Be prepared!

Prevention is KEY.

Your teeth can be for life if you look after them! Going along to see your dentist for a regular check-up will ensure any potential problems are dealt with before you experience discomfort.

If you have current dental pain, make an urgent appointment with your dentist to prevent it becoming a dental emergency. Infection in teeth (pulpitis) is extremely painful, as is an infection at the roots of the teeth (periapical abscess). Antibiotics will need to be prescribed if this occurs, and the offending tooth cleaned and root filled if possible, once the infection has been treated.

Dental Emergency?

If your teeth and gums are in good health and you have good dental hygiene, you are unlikely to have a dental emergency to contend with!

Smoothing a chipped tooth, re-cementing a crown that is not causing pain and placement of a filling to repair a tooth are NOT dental emergencies. Typically, such problems can be dealt with during your dentist's regular surgery hours.

Remember dental practices have limited opening hours during holiday periods when costs to be treated are likely to be higher so try and check out-of-hours dental emergency cover ahead of holiday times such as Christmas and Easter - your family practice will have details of this available.

Chipped, Cracked or Fractured Teeth (ouch!)

It may seem really obvious but DO NOT attempt to open something with your teeth!  Stores sell implements designed exactly for tasks such as cracking nuts and opening wine bottles, and will be cheaper than restoring your damaged teeth!

Tissue Injury and Facial Pain

No-one can predict a trip or a fall. Basic health and safety, especially in the home, is always important. Tuck away trailing leads, clean up spills and deal with those ‘must do’ minor repairs before they become a hazard.

In the event of a trip or a fall, there may be damage to teeth, soft tissues and bleeding from the mouth. Minor bleeding can be treated with pressure - apply firm pressure for up to ten minutes using a clean pad (kitchen roll works well). Any significant cuts will need immediate medical attention.

Lost Tooth

If a tooth is completely knocked out (avulsed), place the tooth in a cup of milk (or the patient’s own saliva) and seek medical attention.

It is important that this emergency is dealt with immediately, as there is a good chance that the tooth can be re-implanted. Soft tissue injuries such as a cut lip may need medical attention if extensive. A&E departments have access to a dental practitioner, and there will be a locum dentist on duty in your area - call 111 for further advice.

Lost Crown

Crowns may become dislodged, particularly when chewing sticky foods like toffee! Keep the crown in a safe place until you are able to visit your dentist - it can be re-cemented at reasonable cost. There are Temporary Crown repair kits sold by pharmacies - always follow the instructions carefully.

If the crown is swallowed it will do no harm, and will be processed by the body in the usual way.

Any crown suspected of being inhaled is likely to enter the right lung - seek treatment at A&E. X-rays will be taken to identify its position and treatment provided.

Lost Filling

As with crowns, fillings may be lost due to eating sticky or brittle foods. Depending on the tooth affected, this may cause soreness. To prevent trauma to the soft tissues, particularly the tongue, attend your dental surgery as soon as possible for a replacement filling. There are Temporary Filling repair kits available to buy from pharmacies - always follow the instructions carefully.

Loose Teeth

It is unlikely for a tooth to become suddenly loose, except when children are naturally shedding their baby teeth. This is a natural event and nothing to worry about!

Adult teeth which become loose need to be checked by a dentist as soon as possible and X-rays taken to determine the cause.

Ulcers and Burns

Some people are more susceptible to mouth ulcers than others, and the ulcers can be exacerbated by food triggers e.g. spicy foods. These will heal fairly quickly, but if they persist for more than two weeks it is important to see your dentist.

Burns to the inside of the mouth are common - check temperature of hot drinks for children and elderly people.  

The mouth is very fast-healing and discomfort should not last long.  Drinking some chilled water or chilled or frozen yoghurt will help.

Facial pain can have many causes, but generally can be treated with over-the-counter analgaesics (pain killers).  Always take advice from the pharmacy especially when on other routine medications.

Any persistent facial pain/neuralgia should be reported to your dentist or GP.  

How food and drink can affect your teeth

Teeth-friendly food:

Nuts abound in all sorts of treats, and the good news is- they are good for us!
Peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans etc. all contain fibre and essential vitamins and minerals. But remember to make sure not to give any food containing nuts to anyone suffering from nut allergies.

Cheese is a popular choice for the shopping basket, with delicacies varying from superb cheddars to matured Stilton.  Cheese is rich in calcium, and assists in restoring neutral pH in the mouth.  This can help balance the damaging effects of acids (e.g. wine, fruit, and sweet snacks).

Vegetables are great cooked or raw.  A raw vegetable such as carrot sticks with hummus is a deliciously nutritious snack and contains Vitamin A which is vitally important in the body and strengthens tooth enamel.

And those to have in moderation:

Cakes, biscuits, sweets and refined carbohydrates

Sugar and refined carbohydrates create acids. Bacteria in the mouth feed on these acids, and the waste products they produce dissolve the enamel on the teeth. Frequent snacking on these foods, will cause the tooth enamel to come under acid attack. So try to eat sweet snacks after meals, as the pH value will revert to normal by way of natural saliva production. This in turn will cleanse the teeth naturally - chewing sugar free gum is also a good way to finish a meal.

Sweets

Eat toffee and nougat with caution - these have been known to cause damage to teeth.

Fizzy drinks

Fizzies are full of sugar, and the solution isn’t to have diet or low calorie versions - these are still carbonated and also cause tooth erosion.

Limit the amount of fizzy drinks, and try to have them after meals. 
Always wait a couple of hours before brushing your teeth to avoid damaging tooth enamel further.

Drinking through a straw will limit exposure to the tooth enamel, and looks sophisticated too!

Wine

White wine can be quite acidic, and just like fizzy drinks can cause erosion of the tooth enamel.

Try to drink wine as part of your meals as this will limit the amount of time the acids are able to attack your teeth.

Red wine can increase the risk of tooth staining, so follow the previous advice and limit to meal times and leave an hour or two before brushing your teeth.

 

And finally………

Remember, busy lives and juggling the life/work balance shouldn’t mean forgetting to brush your teeth last thing at night. Removing all the food and debris from your teeth and gums will help ensure a healthy mouth, a winning smile and hopefully a trouble-free year ahead for your teeth!

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