Recent research indicates that your teeth and gums can be an indicator of your general health and help to flag potential problems. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why regular dental checks and oral hygiene are important.
About 44 percent of adults have an annual dental check, but more than 40 percent of Australian households earning less than $30,000 a year avoid or delay a visit to the dentist because of cost, according to the 2015 Oral health and dental care in Australia report issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The number of people with untreated tooth decay ranges from 23.5 percent in major cities to 37.6 percent in remote Australia. Gum disease – inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth, caused by bacterial infection – affects more than a third of people living in distant regional parts of the country.
“If somebody visits their dentist regularly but they have a high level of gum disease, you have to wonder if something is contributing to their poor oral health,” says Dr. Peter Alldritt, Chairman of the Oral Health Committee at the Australian Dental Association.
A 2011 report by Dental Health Services Victoria found poor dental health is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and dementia. A 2004 Belgian study showed a strong correlation between heart and gum disease, with 91 percent of patients diagnosed with cardiovascular problems also suffering from gum disease.
“One theory is that bacteria from the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and set up inflammation elsewhere in the blood vessels in the cardiovascular system,” Dr. Alldritt explains. “The other theory is that heart disease and gum disease have common risk factors – like stress, smoking, and poor diet – so we see a link,” he adds.
5 steps for good oral health
- Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste and clean in between your teeth with floss or small brushes daily
- Drink fluoridated tap water – a 2014 National Health and Medical Research Council report showed a 26 to 44 percent decrease in tooth decay in people who drank fluoridated water
- Wear a mouthguard when playing sport as dental injuries can cause pain and loss of teeth
- Don’t smoke as it contributes to gum disease and oral cancer
- Minimize sugar in your diet. Sugars help bacteria turn into acids that cause decay. If you eat or drink something sugary or acidic, rinse your mouth with water afterward