Take charge of your oral health
Oral health can be maintained by being aware of your risk factors and taking action to prevent disease. Major risk factors include an unhealthy diet that is high in sugar, tobacco use, the harmful use of alcohol and poor oral hygiene. The good news is that by controlling these risk factors you can also help avoid other health conditions, such as heart and respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes.
Most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages. Maintaining good oral health has a positive impact on your general health, well-being and quality of life.
Tobacco is one of the greatest public health challenges the world faces today. It is the leading cause of preventable death in the world.
Tobacco in any form, smoking or smokeless, is unsafe. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide. Other tobacco products include waterpipe tobacco, various smokeless tobacco products, cigars, cigarillos, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, bidis and kreteks.
Tobacco use puts your mouth at an increased risk of gum disease and oral cancer. It also causes teeth staining, bad breath, premature tooth loss, and loss of taste and smell.
There are different forms of dietary sugars, which include sugars and free sugars. Free sugars are the main problem. These are sugars that are added to foods and drinks or are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. It does not include sugars that are naturally present in whole fruits, vegetables and milk.
Confectionery, cakes, biscuits, sweetened cereals, sweet desserts and jams/preserves are common sources of free sugars as well as sugary drinks, e.g. soda, fruit juices, energy and sports drinks. Sugars and acids weaken tooth enamel increasing the risk of tooth decay.
What can you do?
- Eat a well-balanced diet that is low in sugar and high in fruit and vegetables.
- Adults should have no more than six teaspoons of sugar daily; for children it’s three.
- Beware of sugars added to foods and drinks by manufacturers.
- Pay close attention to how much sugar you are adding when preparing your own meals.
- Avoid ‘empty calories’. Sugary drinks, such as soda, juice, energy and sports drinks, are a main source of empty calories, which contain high levels of energy and no nutritional value.
- Do not eat sugary snacks and treats in-between meals. Having sugar throughout the day increases the risk of developing tooth decay.
- Favour water as your main drink.
- Consuming sugary drinks regularly (almost one can a day) is not only bad for your mouth, it increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Harmful use of alcohol is strongly linked with an increased risk of several cancers, including cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus. Furthermore, the acid and high sugar content of most alcoholic drinks can erode your teeth, leading to tooth decay.
Poor oral hygiene has long term consequences on the mouth, mind, and body. Tooth decay can cause discomfort, pain and social isolation. Untreated gum infection can eventually result in tooth loss and increase the risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, as well as other serious illnesses. Brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste makes them more resistant to acids that cause tooth decay.
A good oral hygiene routine, combined with regular visits to the dentist, is key to helping prevent oral conditions.
Read Practice good oral hygiene to learn more about how to protect your mouth.
Use protective equipment, such as a mouth guard, when doing contact sports and travelling on bicycles and motorcycles to reduce the risk of injuries.
Read Oro-dental trauma to learn more about how to protect your mouth.