When was your last dental checkup?
The entire nation just had theirs, and the results are troubling. Tooth decay is now the most common chronic disease in the country, with the majority of it being entirely preventable.
March 2018 saw the release of the Australian Dental Association's Oral Health Tracker. The program is designed to track and improve the oral health of our country as a whole, and it seems we have plenty of room for improvement. But everyone knows the basics of dental care, right? Brush twice a day, limit sugar consumption, visit the dentist for regular checkups.
The survey results reveal a different picture:
- Only half of Australian adults brush their teeth twice a day.
- 1/3 of people are still eating too much sugar.
- Only 89% of our communities have access to fluoridated drinking water.
- Nearly half of adults haven't had a checkup in the last 12 months.
- 1/4 of us are walking around with untreated tooth decay in our mouths.
- Only 10% of the adult population has never experienced tooth decay.
It's time for an attitude shift. Tooth decay is not inevitable, or part of the ageing process. It is a lifestyle disease, entirely within your power to prevent, (with the exception of rare cases of developmental problems). "Weak teeth" are far more uncommon than most people realise, and the cause of decay is plain and simple:
- Poor oral hygiene, be it lack of brushing/flossing or incorrect technique.
- Too much sugar.
- Inadequate fluoride exposure.
- Waiting for pain to occur before visiting the dentist.
I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE: I am one of the 49% who brush less than twice a day. Most days I brush just once, but I do brush every day. How could a dentist possibly get away with that and not have a mouth full of fillings?
- I have exceptionally good brushing technique, (you'd hope so!). When I'm done, there's minimal plaque left behind. I also floss most days.
- I limit my sugar consumption. Most of my daily drinking is tap water and I take no sugar in my coffee. I try to limit sugary snacks and drinks to meal times.
- I have always lived in an area with a fluoridated water supply, and I have always used fluoridated toothpaste.
- I have a comprehensive dental checkup, including x-rays when recommended, and a professional clean at least every 12 months.
It's all about he cumulative effect of the multitude of factors that go into creating a mouth that harbours decay. So maybe you brush twice a day, but you drink 4 coffees with 2 teaspoons of sugar every time. Maybe you go to your dentist for regular checkups, but floss only twice a year. Maybe you're a great brusher and flosser, but have been using a "natural" toothpaste without the protection of fluoride in it.
Australia, it's time we all take a look at what we're doing to take care of our own mouths, as individuals and as a country. Being honest with yourself about your diet and oral hygiene habits is the first step, for a healthier mouth and body overall.