Why is dental health important?

What is dental health?
Why is dental health important for general health and well being?
Why and how are dental caries formed?
What factors affect the development of dental caries?
What is Flouride?
How can I help prevent dental caries?

Dental Health

Dental health refers to all aspects of the health and functioning of our mouth, especially the teeth and gums. Apart from working properly to enable us to eat, speak, laugh and look nice, teeth and gums should be free from infection, which can cause dental caries, inflammation of gums, tooth loss and bad breath.

Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, is the most common disorder affecting the teeth. The main factors controlling the risk of dental caries are oral hygiene, exposure to fluoride and a moderate frequency of consumption of sugary foods.

Teeth are also affected by “tooth wear” or erosion. This condition is a normal part of aging where tooth enamel is lost due to exposure from acids other than those produced by plaque.

Attrition and abrasion are other forms of tooth wear. Attrition occurs when teeth are eroded by tooth-to-tooth contact such as teeth grinding or bruxism. Abrasion is caused by external mechanical factors such as incorrect tooth brushing.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease is caused by infection and inflammation of the gingiva (gum), and the tissue and bone that attach our
teeth to our jaw bones. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.


Importance of Dental Health

The health of our teeth and mouth are linked to our overall health and wellbeing in a number of ways. The ability to chew and swallow our food is
essential for obtaining the nutrients we need for good health. Apart from the impact on nutritional status, poor dental health can also adversely affect speech and self-esteem.


Dental Caries

Dental caries, the most common disorder affecting the teeth, is an infectious disease where acids produced by bacteria dissolve the teeth.
These bacteria are cariogenic, which means decay-causing. They initiate a sticky film, known as dental plaque, on the surface of the tooth. Bacteria in
dental plaque use sugars to form acids. These sugars comes from foods and drinks in our diets. The acids formed dissolve minerals such as calcium
and phosphate from the tooth. This is called demineralization. But tooth decay is not inevitable. Saliva clears food debris from the mouth, neutralizes acids produced from plaque and provides calcium and phosphate to the teeth in a process called remineralization. Tooth decay only occurs when the process of demineralization exceeds remineralization over a period of time.


Dental Caries Factors

Susceptibility to dental caries varies between individuals and between different teeth within one person’s mouth. The shape of the jaw and oral
cavity, tooth structure and the quantity and quality of saliva are all important in determining why some teeth are simply more susceptible to decay than others. For example, some teeth may have pits, small cracks or fissures that allow bacteria and acids to infiltrate more easily. In some cases, the
structure of the jaw/dentition renders teeth more difficult to clean or floss.

The type and number of caries-causing bacteria present in the mouth is also relevant. All bacteria can turn carbohydrates into acids but certain families of bacteria such as Streptococci and Lactobacilli are more powerful acid producers. The presence of this type of bacteria in plaque increases the risk of decay. Some people have higher levels of decay-causing bacteria than others due to neglected or inappropriate oral hygiene.



Fluoride inhibits demineralization, encourages remineralization and increases the hardness of the tooth enamel making it less susceptible to
caries. Fluoride can be supplied systemically through fluoridated community drinking water, other fluoridated beverages or by supplementation. Alternatively it can be provided topically direct to the tooth surface via toothpaste, mouth rinses, gels and varnishes.

Tooth brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is thought to be the most important factor in the observed decline in dental caries in many countries.
Brushing and flossing helps concomitantly to the fluoride application to remove bacteria from the mouth and reduce the risk of both caries and periodontal disease.

The regular application of fluoride varnishes by your dental practitioners is an established caries preventive measure. This practice is especially suitable for children at high risk of dental caries.


Prevent Dental Caries

In recent years there has been a reduction in the incidence of dental caries. An increase in oral hygiene including regular brushing and flossing to remove plaque and the use of fluoridated toothpaste, combined with regular dental check-ups, is thought to be responsible for the improvement.

Good oral hygiene and the use of fluoride are now considered the main factors responsible for preventing tooth decay and promoting good oral health. The following advice is also important for keeping teeth caries-free.

  • Start dental care early, brush baby’s teeth with toothpaste as soon as they appear in the mouth. Do not habitually allow infants to fall asleep while
  • drinking from a bottle of milk, formula, juice or sweetened drink. These sweet liquids pool around the baby’s teeth for long periods of time and can lead to “baby bottle tooth decay”.
  • Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. And if possible, clean between the teeth with dental floss once a day. Do not eat after cleaning teeth at bedtime as salivary flow decreases as we sleep.
  • Do not nibble food or sip drinks continuously. Allow time between eating occasions for saliva to neutralize acids and repair the teeth.
  • Regular dental check-ups can help detect and monitor potential problems. Regular plaque control and removal by your dentist can help diminish theincidence of dental caries.
  • Good dental health is the responsibility of individuals, however dental professionals play an essential role in monitoring dental health and treating or preventing any problems. Access to good dental care, including regular check-ups is vital. Visit the dentist about every 6 months for a check-up.

How can I help prevent dental caries ?