Oral Hygiene Services

As they say, prevention is better than cure. We want to help you keep your natural teeth for life.

Through regular oral hygiene cleans and assessments we can effectively treat, manage and maintain your oral health, which in turn supports your overall health.

What does an oral hygienist do?

A dental hygienist’s role involves treating, managing and maintaining your overall oral health. Their main focus is on preventative dentistry, which is the practice of caring for your teeth and gums to keep them healthy. This helps to avoid or lower your risk of future dental problems and other health complications.

At your oral hygiene appointments, our dental hygienists will provide a number of services including:

  • Completing a full dental assessment, to note your current dental condition and detect any potential problems.
  • Completing periodontal charting, to measure the health of the gum and bone levels surrounding each tooth.
  • Performing professional teeth cleans. This involves scaling and polishing to remove plaque and calculus from the tooth surfaces, including between the teeth and below the gumline.
  • Fluoride application
  • Preventing and treating gum inflammation (gingivitis).
  • Assessing, and if necessary managing, gum disease (periodontitis)
  • Oral cancer screening (in conjunction with your dentist)
  • Saliva testing
  • Preventative treatments such as fissure sealants
  • Oral health education and dental product education (including how to brush and floss your teeth properly at home).
  • Advising if you should be using any specialty dental products (such as high-fluoride toothpaste, or antiseptic mouthwash) depending on your personal medical and oral condition(s).
  • Advising on lifestyle and medical factors that may negatively affect the health of your mouth.
  • Diagnosing any problems, or potential problems, in their early stages.
  • Creating a personalised oral hygiene plan for you, which will include routine dental check-ups and a custom home-care procedure.

Maintaining good dental hygiene can greatly reduce your risk of developing cavities (tooth decay), gum disease, enamel erosion, periodontitis, and other dental problems. This equates to less dental visits, less invasive treatment, and less cost.

Tooth decay and gum disease are the two most common causes of tooth loss in adults, and they are both preventable with routine dental care and a good at-home oral hygiene routine.

Oral health and overall health

Your oral health and overall health are connected.

Poor oral hygiene can not only lead to dental decay and gum disease, but studies are showing that poor oral health is significantly associated with other chronic systemic diseases1.

Your mouth contains a balance of both good and harmful bacteria. Regular brushing, flossing and professional cleans help to reduce and remove the harmful bacteria. On the contrary, poor oral hygiene can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Poor oral hygiene also leads to inflamed and bleeding gums, which can allow the harmful bacteria to enter into your bloodstream and affect other parts of your body.

Some conditions that may be linked to poor oral health include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Stroke


  • Kidney disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer

Regular oral examinations have also become increasingly recognised as a window into the general health of the body. Research shows that a number of systemic conditions have oral manifestations (symptoms)2 meaning your dentist may be able to detect the early signs of a disease, for example oral cancer and diabetes.

Oral health and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you are already at an increased risk of developing gum disease. However research has suggested that chronic gum disease may also make diabetes more difficult to control. The infection may cause insulin resistance, which disrupts blood sugar control3.

References

  1. Dental health services Victoria: Links between oral health and general health – the case for action (2011).
  2. Oral Manifestations of Systemic Disease – Medical University of South Carolina – Am Fam Physician (2010).
  3. Periodontitis and Insulin Resistance: Casual or Causal Relationship? – Diabetes & Metabolism Journal – (2012).

Clean teeth

During an oral hygiene appointment you will receive a professional teeth clean.

Your dental hygienist will remove plaque (dental biofilm) and calculus (tartar) from the surface of your teeth and around the gum line. They will also polish your teeth to remove surface staining and produce a smooth and shiny finish.

Ensuring that your mouth is free from dental plaque and calculus is the best way to prevent tooth decay and other dental problems.

Guided Biofilm Therapy

To remove plaque (dental biofilm) we use our AIRFLOW® ONE machine to perform Guided Biofilm Therapy.

Guided Biofilm Therapy is the latest technique in preventative dental care, which removes dental plaque more effectively and more comfortably than traditional cleaning methods. It greatly reduces the need to use traditional ultrasonic (electric) or hand (manual) instruments during teeth cleaning treatments, and it reduces direct contact with dental instruments.

This technology is also the “gold standard” in maintenance for patients with dental implants, or patients who are undergoing orthodontic treatment (wearing braces/brackets).

Guided Biofilm Therapy involves applying a harmless dye to the teeth to physically stain the bacteria, which will then be effectively removed with the advanced AIRFLOW® ONE handpiece.

To read more about the AIRFLOW® ONE and Guided Biofilm Therapy, please click here.

Why are dental cleans so important?

More than 500 species of bacteria have been detected in the human mouth. Within these species there are a mix of good bacteria, neutral bacteria, and harmful bacteria.

Harmful bacteria feed on sugars (complex carbohydrates) in the food you eat to product dental plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky, colourless film that forms on the surface of your teeth and can give you that “fuzzy/furry” feeling.

If plaque is not thoroughly removed by brushing and flossing it will accumulate. When plaque accumulates, it mineralises (hardens) and turns into calculus (tartar). Calculus also traps stains on your teeth and is often a brown or yellow colour.

Calculus is so strongly bonded to the teeth that the only way to remove it is using special dental tools. You will not be able to remove it yourself at home.

If not removed from the teeth, calculus can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and periodontitis.

Fresh breath

Good oral hygiene is important for fresh breath.

During your appointment the dental hygienist will perform a range of services to help you prevent, eliminate or treat bad breath.

These include:

  • Professional teeth cleaning to remove plaque, calculus and impacted food that harbour bacteria.
  • Assess all surfaces of your teeth and gums for cavities (tooth decay), faulty (leaking or broken) restorations and gum disease.
  • Assess your medical conditions and medications (if any).
  • Discuss any relevant lifestyle factors.
  • Provide you with a personalised at-home oral hygiene routine.

Bad Breath

What is bad breath?

Bad breath (also called ‘halitosis’) is characterised by a persistent, unpleasant odour emanating from the mouth.

It has many causes, however it is most commonly caused by poor oral hygiene. Other causes include medical conditions, medications, illness and lifestyle choices.

Preventing bad breath

The best way to prevent bad breath is to brush your teeth, floss, and clean your tongue daily, in conjunction with attending regular oral hygiene appointments.

At your oral hygiene appointments we not only provide preventative care (through professional cleans), but we also assess any potential underlying causes of bad breath so they can be treated. We may even refer you to your GP or specialist for further diagnosis if required.

Oral health tips to avoid bad breath

  • Brush your teeth (properly) at least twice daily.
  • Floss at least once daily (to remove plaque and food trapped between your teeth).
  • If you wear dentures, ensure they are thoroughly cleaned daily.
  • Clean your tongue either by brushing with your toothbrush or using a tongue scraper.
  • Drink plenty of water through the day to keep your mouth hydrated. This can prevent a dry mouth, which causes your body to slow down the production of saliva to conserve water.
  • Drink water after consuming food and drinks especially if they are sugary/sticky. This can help remove some of the residue from your teeth that bacteria would otherwise feed on and cause plaque.
  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Avoid food or habits that cause a diuretic affect (such as alcohol and tobacco), which can create a dry mouth environment.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to increase the flow of saliva.

Poor oral hygiene

Dental plaque is a biofilm (mass) of bacteria that grows on surfaces within the mouth daily. If plaque is not adequately removed it can build up, meaning an overgrowth of bad bacteria. These bacteria are living organisms that generate gases (volatile sulphur compounds or ‘VSC’) that create an unpleasant odour.

Food that gets trapped between your teeth and is not removed also contributes to bad breath as it rots, as well as feeding the bad bacteria in your mouth.

Cavities (tooth decay) and faulty (leaking or broken) restorations can also cause bad breath as they may trap food and bacteria in your mouth.

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth is also a common symptom of gum disease, which is an infection caused by a build-up of hardened plaque (calculus) on the teeth.

Other causes

Sometimes you can experience bad breath even if your mouth is clean and healthy. In these cases, medical conditions, medications, illnesses or lifestyle choices (or a combination of these) may be causing your symptoms. These can include:

Medications

Some medications can have a side-effect of bad breath by either causing a dry mouth, or releasing chemicals into the breath when they break down in the body. Medications commonly associated with bad breath include angina medication, high blood pressure medication, antihistamines, antidepressants and antipsychotic agents.

Dry mouth

Dry mouth (xerostomia) can be caused by medication, alcohol, stress, breathing with your mouth open or a medical condition. It may be transient (such as when you wake up in the morning after sleeping) or chronic.

Dry mouth occurs when the flow of saliva decreases, which can cause bad breath. Saliva is a natural cleanser for your mouth. It inhibits the growth of bacteria that contribute to bad breath by cleansing the mouth and removing particles that may cause odour.

Medical conditions

As well as dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia), other medical conditions that can affect the breath include diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases and liver or kidney problems.

Illnesses

Infections in the throat, nose or lungs (such as bronchitis, sinusitis and tonsillitis) as well as a cold or flu that causes post-nasal discharge.

Smoking

Tobacco products cause bad breath both from the chemicals released when burned/inhaled, and because they can dehydrate the mouth and produce dry mouth symptoms.

Smoking also causes staining, loss of taste, irritates the gums and is a common cause of gum disease.

Chronic bad breath

Chronic bad breath can be a sign that something is not right. If you are suffering from persistent bad breath, schedule an appointment with your dentist or health professional.

Healthy gums

How we keep your gums healthy

During your appointments we provide both preventative care and thorough assessment for gum disease.

This includes:

  • Performing a professional clean to remove any plaque build-up on your teeth and keep your gums healthy.
  • Performing a full dental assessment (periodontal charting) of your gum health and bone levels around each tooth.
  • Discussing any relevant lifestyle factors or medications that could be contributing factors.

Preventing and treating gum disease so you can keep your natural teeth is one of our main priorities.

Gum disease is a serious condition and is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. It is entirely preventable with good oral hygiene, however once you have gum disease in its more advanced stages it is generally not reversible (however it can be managed).

Early intervention

Attending your routine oral hygiene appointments is important so we can identify gum disease in its early stages, giving us the best chance to treat and reverse it.

Gum disease can progress slowly over time without the patient knowing they even have it (especially if you smoke). Patients may only become aware that something might be wrong when the disease has already progressed to more advanced stages.

Types of gum disease

Symptoms of gum disease include inflamed, bleeding or painful gums, bad breath, loose teeth, tooth loss and bone loss.

Gum disease in its early stages is called gingivitis, which is a gum infection that causes gum inflammation. At this stage gum disease is treatable and reversible.

If Gingivitis is not treated it can progress to Periodontal Disease which is an advanced form of gum disease that also affects the bone and ligaments surrounding the teeth. Periodontitis is generally not reversible however it can be actively managed through a comprehensive oral hygiene routine including regular visits to your dental hygienist.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is caused by the accumulation of dental plaque on and between the tooth surfaces, and along the gumline. If plaque is not thoroughly removed it will harden into calculus (tartar).

This build-up of plaque and calculus contains bacteria that cause an infection in the gums called gingivitis. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums which can include redness, swelling and irritation. A common sign of gingivitis is bleeding gums, or seeing blood in the sink when you spit out after brushing.

It is important for smokers to note that bleeding gums are often masked due to the poor blood supply to the gums.

Gingivitis is reversible and preventable through routine hygiene appointments and good at-home hygiene care.

If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis (periodontal disease).

Gingivitis

 

 

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and supporting structures (periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone) surrounding the teeth.

The gums pull away from the teeth, opening up pockets and exposing the roots of the teeth. These pockets are filled with plaque and calculus (tartar) and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

The body’s natural response to infection, and toxins from the bacteria, cause the connective tissues and bone around the teeth to be destroyed.

Advanced periodontal disease leads to sensitive teeth, loose teeth, and the appearance of elongated teeth.

Periodontitis is a serious condition that can cause tooth loss if it is left unmanaged.

 

 

 

Preventative treatment

Preventative dental treatments are used to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

This lowers your risk of dental problems and helps you keep your natural teeth for life.

Preventative treatment is important for adults to prevent decay, gum disease and tooth loss.

Preventative treatment is important for children so we can ensure their adult teeth grow strong and healthy, and are well cared for so they will last a lifetime.

We use a number of treatments to keep your teeth in great shape:

Fissure sealants

Fissure sealants are a protective layer of resin applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth (molars), to help prevent tooth decay.

Fissures are the grooves that occur on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Sometimes these fissures are too deep and may be difficult to clean with a toothbrush. This can lead to food, plaque and bacteria becoming trapped in the fissures and causing cavities.

Fissure sealants are made from tooth-coloured resin which flows into the deep grooves to fill them.

The sealant will act as a barrier to bacteria and food debris, and will make the tooth surface smoother and therefore easier to clean.

The application of sealants does not require any drilling or local anaesthetic, and multiple sealants can be applied in one appointment.

Fissure Sealants

 

Plaque disclosing

Plaque can be difficult to see with the naked eye due to its light colouring when it first develops.

Plaque disclosing involves applying a vegetable-based dye to the teeth to stain plaque lingering on the teeth. This will allow you to clearly see the areas where plaque is not being correctly removed.

We use an advanced ‘Tri Plaque’ gel which shows different stages of plaque damage.

The use of plaque disclosing helps you be more aware of problem areas when brushing and allows us to help you with your toothbrushing technique.

These results are also recorded and progress is tracked throughout subsequent appointments.

Saliva testing

Saliva is the body’s natural defence system for the teeth and mouth. It is particularly important for protecting the outer tooth surface (enamel) from decay by neutralising acids caused by bacterial plaque.

In specific cases where there may be unexplained decay, a simple saliva test is used to identify, measure and assess saliva condition. This can help us manage your oral health effectively and tailor treatments and products to suit you.

Some salivary functions include:

  • Neutralising acids
  • Flushing food and bacteria from the mouth
  • Acting as a lubricant
  • Providing remineralisation to the tooth surface (enamel)

Fluoride application

Fluoride is a natural mineral found in the environment, including in food and water. It helps to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay, by making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque and sugars.

Topical fluoride applications can be carried out at your regular hygiene appointments. This is done with a concentrated fluoride gel, which is placed in a foam tray and sits over the teeth for 1 minute.

Lifestyle factors

Your lifestyle choices have an impact (both good and bad) on the health of your teeth and mouth.

This can include the foods you eat, whether you smoke, your alcohol consumption, if you have tongue or lip piercings, how much stress you are under, and any medication you take (both prescribed and non-prescribed).

During your appointment, your hygienist will discuss your personal circumstances with you and if there are any relevant factors that may negatively impact on your oral health. They will also provide you with personal, comprehensive nutritional and dietary advice.

Diet and tooth decay

Everything you eat and drink can have a major effect on the health of your teeth and gums, particularly whether you develop tooth decay, which is a preventable disease.

Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (which break down to starch and then sugar), feed the bacteria in your mouth which in turn produce acids that can attack the outer layer of your tooth (the enamel). This does not only mean processed foods; it also includes foods high in natural sugars and starches. This is known as an ‘acid attack’ and results in the demineralisation of your enamel and can cause tooth decay.

Saliva provides a natural defence mechanism to help prevent tooth decay, by neutralising the acids produced by bacteria through a process called remineralisation. Saliva also helps to wash away some of the sugar and food particles in your mouth. This ‘attack and recovery’ process occurs every time you eat and drink. However, if you frequently consume sugary food and drinks, saliva may not have time to remineralise the teeth properly after each ‘attack’.

Therefore the greater risk is the frequency in which these foods are consumed, rather than the quantity they are consumed in. By limiting snacking throughout the day, you can reduce the occurrences of ‘acid attacks’.

Drinking water throughout the day, including after meals, can also help reduce your risk of tooth decay in a number of ways. Water helps keep your mouth hydrated which can prevent a dry mouth. It also helps wash away leftover food (and sugar) residue from your teeth, as well as diluting the acids produced by bacteria in your mouth. If your local water also contains fluoride you are even helping to strengthen your teeth at the same time.

Chewing sugar-free gum, especially after meals, can also help reduce your risk of tooth decay as it stimulates the salivary glands to produce more saliva, with helps neutralise decay-causing acid attacks.

Smoking

It is well known that smoking has many negative impacts on both your overall health and your dental health.

Smoking most noticeably causes staining and discolouration of the teeth (caused by the nicotine and tar in cigarettes). It also causes bad breath, both from the chemicals released when burned/inhaled, and because they can dehydrate the mouth and produce dry mouth symptoms.

However, more seriously smoking can cause loss of taste, a decreased blood flow to the gums, bone shrinkage, an imbalance in your saliva, gum irritation, gum disease and oral cancer.

Alcohol

Frequent and prolonged consumption of alcohol can have a range of negative impacts on your overall health, but did you know it can also contribute to tooth decay?

The sugar and acidity in alcohol, especially if you mix alcohol with sugary soft drinks, cause acid attacks on your enamel when the bacteria in your mouth feed on them.

Alcohol is also a diuretic which can cause a dry mouth, preventing saliva from being able to properly remineralise your teeth from the acid attacks, and wash away the sugars from your mouth.

Compounding these issues is the fact that many people come home from a night out and go straight to bed, forgetting to brush their teeth first. This leaves your mouth unprotected from acid attacks all night.

To help reduce your risk of tooth decay if you are consuming alcohol, drink water between drinks throughout the night to help remove the sugars from your teeth and keep your mouth hydrated (which can help prevent a dry mouth), make sure you brush your teeth before you go to sleep to remove any accumulated plaque, and continue to drink plenty of water the next day after you wake up.

Oral cancer screening

Your dentist and dental hygienist will perform a comprehensive oral mucosal examination (oral cancer check) during your appointments, to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth.

This is an important aspect of your preventative care appointments, as often the first signs of mouth cancer are detected by a dental professional.

The goal of oral cancer screening is to identify any symptoms early, when there is a greater chance for a cure.

Oral cancer screening comprises of both a visual and physical examination of the oral region and connected areas.

The visual examination includes looking at your face, neck, lips, gums, the inside of your cheeks, your tongue, and the roof and floor of your mouth.

The physical examination includes feeling around the head, cheeks, jaw, under your chin and in your mouth for any unusual nodules or textures, and to assess movement. You may be asked if you feel any discomfort in certain areas.

It’s important to note that oral cancer screening is a precautionary service, it’s not diagnostic. Oral cancer can only be accurately diagnosed with a biopsy (when a sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope).

However, we can identify any suspicious-looking areas or growths. If we see anything that causes us concern, we will refer you to a medical practitioner/specialist to have it further evaluated (and to perform a biopsy if required).

Pregnancy and oral health

Pregnancy can lead to dental problems in some women.

Just like the rest of your body, your teeth, gums and mouth are affected by hormonal changes during pregnancy. Your increased hormones can cause a dry mouth, oral ‘pregnancy tumours’ (pyogenic granulomas), and can affect your body’s natural response to dental plaque (the layer of biofilm that builds up on your teeth daily) which can lead to, or exacerbate, gum disease. Morning sickness and sweet cravings can also contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay.

The health of you and your baby are intrinsically linked during pregnancy.

Your dental health has an impact on your overall health, which in turn has an influence on the health of your baby. If you neglect your oral health during pregnancy, and symptoms of hormonal changes, it can be harmful to your baby’s health1.

It’s therefore important that you maintain a good dental health routine throughout pregnancy (as well as before pregnancy, and after pregnancy). You should also be assured that oral health maintenance and dental care is both effective and safe throughout pregnancy2.

Maintaining your oral health

Visiting a dentist and dental hygienist regularly during pregnancy is highly recommended both for your own wellbeing and for that of your unborn child.

Hormonal changes will make your gums more susceptible to inflammation and infection, so regular check-ups and professional cleans are important, in conjunction with a good at-home routine which should include brushing at least twice per day and flossing once per day.

Your dental professionals can also assess for and advise you on other pregnancy-related conditions including tooth decay and dry mouth syndrome, so they can be managed effectively during your pregnancy.

Changes in your oral health

Increased hormones during pregnancy can make some women more susceptible to gum problems, and can also cause dry mouth symptoms. The gum problems that occur are not due to increased plaque, but are a result of your body’s increased response and sensitivity to the bacteria found in plaque due to the increased hormone levels.

Gum disease:

Some women develop ‘pregnancy gingivitis’ which causes gum inflammation. Symptoms include swollen, sensitive gums which may be prone to bleeding, especially during brushing and flossing. The gums may also turn a red colour (instead of pink).

It’s important that you don’t stop your normal at-home hygiene care (brushing and flossing) due to sensitivity and bleeding. If you are having difficulty with the symptoms, speak to your dental professional who can provide supportive treatment.

Whilst pregnancy gingivitis is usually temporary and should resolve itself after your baby is born, it’s important not to ignore the condition.

Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which is an advanced form of gum disease that also affects the bone and ligaments surrounding the teeth.

Some women may already be suffering from undiagnosed or untreated periodontal disease when they fall pregnant. Gum disease may not display any obvious symptoms until it has progressed to more advanced stages when the teeth start to become loose. It can therefore progress slowly without you being aware, or you may not realise the severity of the condition and seek early treatment.

Pregnancy may exacerbate the severity of existing periodontal disease3. Research has indicated that women suffering from periodontal disease may be at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including pre-term labour and low birth weight4.

Pregnancy tumours:

You may also develop what are known as ‘pregnancy tumours’ (pyogenic granulomas) which are red, lumpy lesions that appear along the gumline and between the teeth. They may bleed easily however are otherwise quite harmless, and they usually go away once your baby is born. However if they become difficult to manage your dental professional can provide treatment options.

Dry Mouth:

You might also be affected by dry mouth (xerostomia). Dry mouth syndrome reduces the amount of saliva you produce which can contribute to bad breath and, more seriously, tooth decay.

Saliva is your body’s natural defence mechanism to help prevent tooth decay. When you consume foods rich in fermentable carbohydrates (sugars or starches), bacteria in dental plaque feed on them and produce acids that ‘attack’ your tooth enamel (outer layer of your teeth). Saliva helps to neutralise these acids in a process called remineralisation, and also helps to cleanse the mouth of food particles that can contribute to acid production (from dental plaque) and odours (bad breath).

If you are suffering from the effects of dry mouth syndrome, your dental professional can provide treatments to lessen the symptoms.

Protecting your baby’s health

If gum disease becomes severe, the infection can affect your unborn baby’s development. Research has indicated that women suffering from periodontal disease can be at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including premature birth and delivering a low birth weight baby5. There may also be other long-term health risks for a child born prematurely or of low birth weight6.

The theory is that oral bacteria release toxins, which reach the placenta through the mother’s bloodstream, and interfere with the growth and development of the unborn baby. Oral infection also causes the mother to produce labour-triggering substances too quickly, potentially causing premature labour and birth7.

After the baby is born, decay-causing bacteria can be transferred from parents to the child, which can increase their likelihood of suffering from early childhood caries (tooth decay in the baby teeth)8. This can be transferred through behaviours such as kissing on the lips and sharing utensils such as spoons9. Therefore it is important that both parents continue maintain good dental hygiene even after the baby is born.

Be careful of morning sickness

Whilst morning sickness is beyond your control, it’s important that you know vomit is extremely acidic and can cause damage to your teeth known as enamel erosion. Enamel erosion is when the outer layer of your teeth is attacked and gradually dissolved by acid. This can weaken your teeth, making them more prone to sensitivity, and can eventually lead to cavities (holes) in the tooth surface.

To reduce the risk of damage to your teeth after vomiting, firstly refrain from brushing your teeth for at least one hour. The acid will have temporarily softened your tooth enamel and the action of brushing too soon can actually cause further damage and strip away the enamel.

What you can do instead of brushing your teeth straight away, to reduce the risk of enamel erosion, is:

  • Immediately rinse your mouth out with either water, an alcohol-free mouthwash, or a solution of ¼ teaspoon baking soda mixed into 1 cup warm water.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow to help neutralise and wash away acid.
  • Eat acid-neutralising foods such as milk, cheese or yoghurt.
  • Smear a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste on your teeth to give you additional protection and improve the taste in your mouth.

Cravings

It’s common for pregnant women to suffer from some unusual or frequent cravings. If you are craving sweet foods, it’s important to be mindful that a regular desire for sugary foods may increase your risk of tooth decay.

To help prevent tooth decay, try to mix in some healthier, low sugar options such as berries with natural or Greek yoghurt.

You can also drink water after consuming sugary foods (swishing it around your mouth) to help remove some of the sugary particles left on your teeth, and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow to help remineralise your teeth.

It is also better to have a larger portion of sweet foods in the one sitting, rather than snacking on smaller amounts of sweet food constantly throughout the day. This will limit your exposure to ‘acid attacks’ on your teeth.

Pre-pregnancy planning

You are less likely to suffer from pregnancy gingivitis and other dental problems during pregnancy if your teeth and mouth are in good oral condition before falling pregnant. This includes your regular at-home routine of brushing and flossing, and routine dental visits.

If you are planning on falling pregnant, and you have not been for a check-up in the last 6 months, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist and oral hygienist for a comprehensive clean and exam. This will start you off on the right track to keep a good oral hygiene routine throughout pregnancy and beyond.

References

  1. Australian Dental Association: Pregnancy – Separating fact from fiction (2016)
  2. Frontiers in Immunology: Role of Maternal Periodontitis in Preterm Birth (2017)
  3. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: Dental Considerations in Pregnancy – A Critical Review on the Oral Care (2013)
  4. American Academy of Periodontology: Expectant Mothers’ Periodontal Health Vital to Health of her Baby.
  5. Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine: Periodontitis – A risk for delivery of premature labor and low-birth-weight infants (2010)
  6. Vaccine (Elsevier Sponsored Document): Low birth weight: Case definition & guidelines for data collection, analysis, and presentation of maternal immunization safety data (2017)
  7. Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine: Periodontitis – A risk for delivery of premature labor and low-birth-weight infants (2010)
  8. Frontiers in Pediatrics: Early Childhood Caries – Prevalence, Risk Factors and Prevention (2017)
  9. BMC Oral Health: Oral health behaviors and bacterial transmission from mother to child: an explorative study (2015)

Children’s preventative care

Nurturing your child’s teeth during each stage of development is an important factor in their overall health.

Did you know that dental caries (tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease in children? It is about five times more common than asthma1. In New South Wales, 40% of children aged 5-6 years have evidence of dental decay, and yet the disease is mostly preventable2.

Preventative care and early intervention are the focus of our children’s dental services.

At your child’s dental appointments we assist you in keeping their teeth and gums clean and healthy. This includes providing professional cleaning, education on oral hygiene and diet, and evaluation of their dental condition to identify if they require any preventative or supplementary treatments. We discuss age-related topics and can answer any of your questions or concerns regarding their oral care and development.

We also continually assess their dental development as they grow, to ensure the primary and secondary teeth develop correctly, and so we are able to provide early intervention if any problems arise.

Children should have an initial dental check-up by their first birthday.

Children’s dental appointments will not only include an exam and assessment, but our team will go out of our way to ensure they have a positive experience in our practice, and they will leave with a goody bag for their achievement. We provide a children’s play area, we conduct tours of the practice so they are comfortable in the setting, we give ‘rides’ on the dental chair, we have TV’s in the waiting room and surgeries with kids’ channels, and we allow them to interact with safe dental equipment.

We also bulk bill the Medicare Child Dental Benefits Schedule. Eligible children receive up to $1000 of dental treatment over each two-year period for a range of services including examinations, cleanings and fillings.

During the appointment

Early childhood examinations will assess:

  • Current dental condition (including if there is any tooth decay).
  • Hereditary problems, for example malformed or missing teeth.
  • The need for preventative supplements, such as fluoride or fissure sealants.
  • Para-functional habits such as finger sucking and tongue thrusting.
  • The developing growth relation between the jaws, the tooth size to jaw size relationship, and the need for any orthopaedic appliance therapy.
  • The correct growth and development of the dentition and if there is any need for appliances to correct dental malalignment (such as braces).

We will also discuss, and provide advice on, topics including:

  • Hygiene techniques and instructions (e.g. brushing).
  • The risk of dental decay and how to prevent it.
  • Age-related information, such as teething and para-functional habits (e.g. thumb sucking).
  • Brushing techniques.
  • Bite (how your child’s teeth come together).
  • Nutritional advice.

Early Education

We will assist you in teaching your child how to take care of their smile.

Early education on the importance of looking after their teeth can help children develop good oral hygiene habits for life.

Behaviours learnt while children are young (such as brushing, flossing, and the importance of diet and routine dental visits) can help ensure they have healthy teeth into adulthood and beyond. It can also mean less dental treatment and less dental cost over their lifetime.

Smile development

Beginning routine check-ups when children are young allows us to monitor the development of their dentition as they grow. Diagnosing and rectifying any developmental or hereditary problems early is an important aspect of children’s dentistry.

This can include problems such as tongue ties, cross bites, and crowded or missing teeth.

Early intervention can result in less invasive procedures when your child is older.

Dental misalignment (for example crowded teeth) goes beyond cosmetics. Misaligned teeth can be harder to clean, make it difficult to chew some foods, cause abnormal wear on tooth surfaces, affect speech development, and cause muscle tension and pain.

Some of our services include laser surgery, orthodontics (braces), and orthopaedics (functional appliances).

Preventing dental anxiety

Beginning dental visits at a young age provides early exposure to the dental environment, which can help prevent dental phobias later in life.

We actively encourage the early involvement of children in the dental environment, and we are happy for them to accompany parents or siblings to their appointments as well. Our friendly team are also happy to mind young children for parents during their own appointments.

We go out of our way to make the dental visit experience as positive for your child as possible. For toddlers onwards dental visits include interactive experiences and building trust, such as practising opening their mouths wide and helping us count their teeth (after they guess how many they have). Children are praised throughout the appointments for their listening skills and ability to follow instructions.

For parents, you should refrain from using dental visits as a threat or deterrent for bad behaviour (such as not brushing teeth) whenever possible.

The importance of baby (primary) teeth

It’s a misconception that baby (primary) teeth aren’t as important as adult (permanent) teeth. Even though they eventually fall out, they are still extremely important for your child’s developing oral health and overall wellbeing.

Baby teeth are important because they:

  • Play a vital role in the proper alignment and spacing of adult (permanent) teeth. Baby teeth hold space in the jawbone to guide adult teeth into the correct position, and on a straight angle, when they erupt. When a baby tooth is lost too early, adult teeth can drift into the empty space when they erupt which can cause crowding and/or crooked teeth.
  • Assist in stimulating the normal development of the facial structure (bones and muscles).
  • Assist in the development of correct speech and pronunciation.
  • Ensure your child receives adequate nutrition (by being able to chew a variety of foods effectively).
  • Ensure your child is digesting food properly (by being able to break food down into small enough pieces).

Tooth decay is the main reason that children lose their baby teeth too early.

Caring for your child’s teeth

Dental health will be an ongoing process throughout your child’s life, so you should begin the practices of brushing and flossing when they are young so they come to think of it as a normal habit each day.

Babies:

  • Use a damp washcloth to clean your baby’s gums daily by gently rubbing them.
  • As soon as the first tooth erupts, begin brushing them daily. Use a soft, child-sized toothbrush with only water. This can be easier if your baby is laying on your lap or on a bed. Gently brush each tooth and massage the gum using a soft, circular motion.
  • Do not use toothpaste.
  • Visit a dentist before your child’s first birthday.

Toddlers:

  • Brush your toddler’s teeth twice daily with a soft, child-size toothbrush. This can be easier if your baby is laying on your lap or on a bed. Gently brush each tooth and massage the gum using a soft, circular motion. Parents should be doing the brushing (not the child).
  • From around 18 months of age you can begin brushing with a child-strength fluoride toothpaste. Only use a pea-sized amount on the toothbrush. Ensure the toothpaste is specifically for children. Young children should not use adult-strength fluoride toothpaste as they tend to swallow rather than spit out excess toothpaste.
  • Once teeth start erupting adjacent to each other, floss the teeth that touch each other daily.
  • Try and make brushing a fun and positive experience. For example, you can play a song, use an appropriate smartphone app, or use a timer to remember to brush for the recommended two minutes. You can also find a toothbrush or toothpaste with a beloved TV character on it.

Children (less than 6 years):

  • Continue brushing the teeth twice daily with a soft, child-sized toothbrush. Parents should be doing the brushing (not the child) to ensure the process is effective.
  • Continue to use child-strength fluoride toothpaste, in a pea-sized amount.
  • After brushing, have your child spit out the excess toothpaste (not swallow it), but don’t rinse their mouth with water. This keeps the teeth protected longer.
  • Parents should floss their child’s teeth daily.

Children (over 6 years):

  • Continue assisting your child with brushing and flossing their teeth until they are around 8 or 9 years of age. Even then it’s a good idea to continue supervising them when they brush and floss.
  • Use adult-strength fluoride toothpaste.
  • After brushing, have your child spit out the excess toothpaste (not swallow it), but don’t rinse their mouth with water. This keeps the teeth protected longer.

Tooth decay in children

The enamel of baby (primary) teeth is less densely mineralised than the enamel of adult (permanent) teeth, making them more susceptible to tooth decay. Tooth decay is the main reason that children lose their baby teeth too early, and it is largely preventable by good oral hygiene practices and a healthy diet. The development of tooth decay in the baby teeth can also further increase your child’s risk of developing tooth decay in their adult teeth3.

Brushing and flossing your child’s teeth daily is important to prevent them from getting tooth decay. However, managing their diet, especially their snacking habits and how much sugar they consume, is also an important factor in helping to prevent tooth decay.

Tooth decay occurs when foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (which break down to starch and then sugar) are consumed. Bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and in turn produce acids that attack the outer layer of the teeth (the enamel). This does not only mean processed foods like lollies and soft drinks, it also includes foods high in natural sugars and starches. This is known as an ‘acid attack’ and results in the demineralisation of your enamel and can cause tooth decay.

Saliva provides a natural defence mechanism to help prevent tooth decay, by neutralising the acids produced by bacteria through a process called remineralisation. Saliva also helps to wash away some of the sugar and food particles in your mouth. This ‘attack and recovery’ process occurs every time you eat and drink. However, if you frequently consume sugary food and drinks, saliva may not have time to remineralise the teeth properly after each ‘attack’.

So, tooth decay is caused by how frequently your child snacks, as well as how long their teeth are exposed to sugars.

We are not saying to never give your child sweet treats, however you should limit their consumption of sugary foods and foods high in refined carbohydrates.

If you do give your child a sugary snack, it’s best to do so as ‘dessert’ immediately following a meal. This is because there is usually increased amounts of saliva in the mouth around mealtime, making it easier to wash food away from the teeth. You should also offer your child water to drink afterwards to further help wash sugary particles away from the teeth.

The frequency of snacking is also far more important than the quantity consumed. If you are going to give your child sugary foods or drink, your child is better off consuming them in one sitting, rather than snacking on them continuously throughout the day. Time between meals allows saliva to wash away food particles that bacteria would otherwise feast on, and remineralise the teeth. Frequent snacking on the other hand, provides a constant sugary food source to feed the bacteria. This can lead to plaque, which can cause tooth decay.

Some of the worst sugary snack choices are hard lollies such as lollipops and sticky substances such as caramels, as they are sucked over a long period time or stick to the teeth easily. This causes sugar to linger on the teeth longer, rather than being washed away.

Be on the lookout for tooth decay

You can easily check your child’s teeth for tooth decay by lifting their top and bottom lips so you can see their teeth. Look for white patches, which are the warning signs for tooth decay, and can usually be reversed if caught early. Grey, brown or black spots indicate more serious decay. If you notice any potential signs of tooth decay, or you are otherwise concerned, contact your dentist who can provide a thorough examination.

Preventing tooth decay in babies

Even babies can develop tooth decay, especially if bottles and dummies are used incorrectly.

You should never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but cool, boiled water. This includes milk, formula, fruit juice, cordial or soft drink. Even natural sugars found in milk and formula can be harmful when they cling to a child’s teeth for a long period of time. The flow of saliva also decreases during sleep which otherwise usually helps to wash away sugars.

The teats of bottles and dummies should never be dipped into sweet syrups such as honey.

Children should also be encouraged to use cups instead of bottles by the time they approach 12 months of age. When a child sips from a cup, the liquid moves past the teeth quickly and does less harm. In comparison, when a bottle is sucked slowly the liquid tends to linger in the mouth for longer.

Healthy snacking for children

To develop strong teeth (and for their overall growth and wellbeing) your child requires a healthy, balanced diet containing minimal high-sugar and high-refined carbohydrate foods.

We aren’t saying to never give your child sweet treats, however you should keep their consumption of sugary foods to a minimum, and choose healthier snack options the majority of the time. This will also help your child get used to eating a healthy diet, which can positively affect their food choices as they grow older.

Also, reduce the frequency that sugary foods are consumed in, and try and ensure they are eaten within an appropriate timeframe. Remember, it’s better for sugary foods to be consumed promptly in the one sitting rather than multiple times per day, or over a prolonged period of time.

Healthy snack tips:

  • Snacks are meals in between main meals, so they should be light and low in sugar.
  • Fresh is best. Dried or packaged foods are generally higher in sugar than their fresh alternatives (for example grapes versus sultanas).
  • When choosing snacks, be aware of how much sugar is in them. Always read the label: if sugar is listed in the top three ingredients it’s usually not a good choice.
  • Limit fruit to two servings per day. Fruit is healthy, however it still contains natural sugars.
  • Avoid snack foods that linger on the teeth, for example sticky or chewy foods, which make it difficult for saliva to wash the sugars away.
  • Avoid snack foods that are consumed over a long period of time, such as lollipops and hard candies, causing the teeth to be bathed in sugars.
  • Give your child water with every meal to help wash away lingering food and keep the mouth hydrated.

Healthy snack examples:

  • Plain water is the best choice. If you start your child drinking water early, and limit the options of alternative sugary drinks, they are more likely to enjoy drinking it.
  • Low-sugar yoghurt (read the label as many can be filled with sugar! Generally Greek or natural yoghurt is a good choice).
  • Fruits.
  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables (such as apples and carrots), as their texture helps to clean teeth as they are eaten.
  • Vegetables cut into sticks (such as carrots, celery, cucumber, capsicum and green beans) on their own, or with dip. However, read the packaging on the dip if you aren’t going to make it at home. Vegetable or hummus-based dips are generally a good choice.
  • Wholegrain crackers, or rice/corn ‘cakes/thins’ with dip or a spread such as natural nut butter.
  • Hard cheeses (such as cheddar).
  • Lean meats (can be rolled up with cheese and cucumber).
  • Plain popcorn (when they are old enough).
  • Nuts and seeds (when they are old enough).

References

  1. Public Health Reports: Oral Health – The Silent Epidemic (2010)
  2. NSW Health: Early Childhood Oral Health Guidelines for Child Health Professionals, 3rd Edition (2014)
  3. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry: Do the more caries in early primary dentition indicate the more caries in permanent dentition? Results of a 5-years follow-up study in rural-district (2012)

 
This information is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It should not be taken as personal, professional advice; nor treatment or diagnosis. Always seek professional advice from an appropriately qualified medical practitioner.