Dental health is an important part of our general well-being as poor oral hygiene can lead to infections in the mouth and elsewhere in the body. This is especially important in patients with diabetes and heart disease, or prior to receiving treatment for cancer. Regular 6-monthly check-ups are needed to ensure that decayed teeth are filled early and bacteria deposits around the gums removed.
Home care is important from early childhood as soon as the milk teeth erupt and visits to the dentist should start at around age 3. Fissure sealants should be applied on permanent teeth which erupt around age 6 to prevent decay. Fluoride application is also important in countries without fluoridation of water supply.
Jaw growth and teeth development should be assessed around age 9 and braces, if required are used to straighten teeth. For most children, braces are started around age 12, though if there are problems with jaw development, it should be started earlier. It usually takes around 2 years.
Decayed teeth should be filled using tooth coloured fillings made from composites or porcelain instead of metal. You will need regular checks to ensure they remain intact.
The last permanent teeth, termed “wisdom teeth” erupt between ages 18-21. If there is insufficient space, they will need to be surgically removed under sedation or general anesthesia to avoid having infection or decay.
Gum disease is common when we grow older but can be prevented through good oral hygiene including brushing and flossing between teeth after meals and regular check-ups and cleaning at the dentist.
In addition, teeth tend to chip and wear down with age due to tooth grinding. This can be controlled using mouth guards and protected or repaired using crowns.
However, in spite of best efforts, teeth may sometimes still need to be extracted as a result of severe dental disease or accidents. But rest assured as dentures, bridges or implants can be used to replace missing teeth to allow proper chewing, speech and a pleasing smile.
The procedures are fairly painless and the discomfort controlled using local anesthesia. For patients who are fearful, intra-venous sedation administered by a specialist anesthetist allows for comfortable and pain-free treatment.