Good dental health makes you smile

While the importance of maintaining good dental health is widely known and understood, modern lifestyle and eating habits are antithetical to that concept.

Apart from eating habits, the need to brush teeth after every meal is not understood by most people in the modern society; improper and irregular brushing leads to dental problems at an early age. Besides, dental problems can harm health in general.

It could also harm your financial status, for dental care is not cheap.

The need to consult a good dentist at regular intervals cannot be over-emphasised.

The following should be read as guidelines only and not taken as medical or dental advice. Please consult your dentist or general practitioner for individual needs.


The branch of dentistry that specialises in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities is known as Orthodontics.

Prominent and unsightly teeth can cause considerable personal embarrassment and affect a person’s personality and self-esteem. Crowded or crooked teeth are also difficult to clean and maintain. This may contribute to conditions that cause tooth decay, gum disease and eventual tooth loss.

Simple problems are treated with removable ‘plates’.

The more complex malocclusions are always treated with fixed appliances or ‘braces.’ In more severe cases, a combination of orthodontics and jaw surgery may be required.

Treatment can be started the moment a child’s teeth start coming through, but it is more often deferred until the permanent teeth are in place and the jaws more fully developed. Late teenagers, even adults, can still have orthodontic treatment and hence it is never too late to seek treatment.

Because of the length of time and the number of visits involved, orthodontic treatment can be expensive.

Sensitive teeth

Sensitive teeth are a common complaint, mainly in the winter.

Sometimes this is a relatively easy problem to solve.

Studies show that one in four people suffer from sensitive teeth; however, this is greater in the 25-45 age group and in women.

People most likely to suffer from this marginal tooth sensitivity are those who over- enthusiastically brush their teeth, consume more than usual amounts of wine or citrus drinks, have had treatment for gum disease or who have special medical problems like bulimia.

People consuming very cold, hot and sweet items may feel pain while brushing their teeth. The classic example is eating ice cream, but simply being out in the cold weather breathing on a frosty morning can be enough to set off the problem.

Typically, pain from sensitivity is sudden, sharp, and stabbing but subsides very quickly. If left untreated, the pain of sensitivity can lead to poor oral hygiene; it can become quite painful for the sufferers to brush their teeth so they stop doing a thorough job, which would make the sensitivity problem worse.

Their problem usually is the tooth margin, just below the enamel, where the nerve is most exposed. Normally it is covered up.

Dentists can recommend desensitising toothpastes as a good way to deal with the problem. Dentists also advise people to use the right type of toothbrush, especially as a lot of teeth sensitivity comes from over-brushing with a hard brush. Soft brushes are recommended.

If you are experiencing continued problems with tooth sensitivity, it is probably a good idea to visit your dentist. No one needs to suffer from this problem when there is often a simple solution.

Silver Fillings

Dental amalgam is a blend of metals such as silver, copper and tin. Mercury binds these metals together, providing a strong, hard, durable ‘silver’ filling for your teeth. Dental amalgam is less expensive than other materials.

If you have amalgam fillings, mercury vapour may be released when you chew vigorously or grind your teeth. The amount of vapour released from fillings is extremely small. There is no valid scientific evidence that associates this tiny amount of mercury vapour with any health problems.

The mercury used in fillings is safe for most people. Authorities such as the British Dental Association, US Public Health Service, the FDI World Dental Federation and the World Health Organisation state that amalgam has been used for more than 150 years in millions of patients and no controlled studies have shown adverse health effects, except for rare cases of mercury allergy.

Stories of overnight cures from serious diseases have never been supported by sound scientific evaluation. If you are concerned about your amalgam fillings, your dentist would be happy to discuss the benefits and risks of replacing them.


Composite fillings are tooth-coloured and can be used for front and back teeth.

Large composite fillings generally do not last as long as amalgam, but this should be weighed up against their excellent appearance and any concerns you may have about mercury release. Composites are effective if they are not very wide, and only involved one or two surfaces of the tooth.

Gold or porcelain inlays and overlays are very effective filling materials due to their strength and long-term durability.

They are more expensive than other materials.

Source: The New Zealand Dental Association.

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