Why preventive dental is so important
A baby boy born in Australia today has a life expectancy of just over 80 years. And girls born today will outlive the boys by around four years.
That’s a lot of hot dinners that you’ll need a well-functioning set of teeth to munch through. And given you’ve only got one adult set of 32 teeth, it’s worth taking care of them.
Good dental health begins early – even before baby teeth have cut the gum. Babies should only have breastmilk (or formula) and tap water to drink. And at around 8 months of age, it’s recommended they make the transition to a cup rather than bottle – and definitely not put to bed with a bottle. That’s because a bottle gives the teeth prolonged exposure to the natural sugar in milk, which can cause decay.
Healthy baby teeth lay the foundation for the longevity and health of adult teeth. From about 18 months of age, children should – with the help of Mum or Dad – be brushing their teeth with a small amount of low-fluoride toothpaste.
Dentists recommend the first check-up with the dentist at around 2 years of age. The dentist will check for any signs of decay and will reinforce the importance of preventive dental care.
Sadly, dentists are seeing an alarming increase in the number of very young children with multiple cavities. Sophie Beaumont from the Royal Dental Hospital in Melbourne says, “it’s not uncommon to remove 12 or 14 rotten baby teeth in one go”.
That’s a terrible thing for any child to go through. More than 1000 children were put under general anaesthetic at the hospital last year to have decayed teeth removed – and 178 of them were three or younger.
Fizzy soft drinks, juices and a high sugar diet are the main contributors to such large scale decay.
Instilling a tooth-friendly diet of food and drink that’s low in sugar is fundamental to good dental health.
And forming good habits at an early age will establish a healthy respect for dental care and hygiene. A child who grows up familiar with regular dental check-ups is more likely to maintain dental hygiene and preventive dental care as an adult.
That includes twice-daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, daily flossing, wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard when playing contact sport, and six-monthly check-ups with the dentist.
The check-up is vital because only the dentist can clean the nooks and crannies that brushing can’t reach. Preventive check-ups will also monitor mouth and jaw changes – such as the eruption of wisdom teeth – that might need attention.
Depending on family income, some children aged 2–17 are eligible for certain Medicare-funded preventive dental treatment under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule. While Medicare does not pay a benefit towards adult dental care, almost every private health insurer offers extras cover with benefits for preventive dental treatment.
At a Defence Health network dentist, you can also save at least 15% on the cost of any treatment required. And most Defence Health members receive unlimited preventive and general dental benefits (within item limits) and a free custom-fitted mouthguard each year for their kids.
So there really is no excuse to neglect your pearly-whites. Remember, you need them to go the distance. So take care of your teeth.