Many lifestyle and behavioural factors can affect your oral health like smoking, poor diet, not brushing or flossing and not having regular dental check-ups to name a few.
“Bad oral health can impact greatly on the quality of life. People with poor oral health may not be able to sleep, eat, talk properly, may feel embarrassed and a have a sense of social isolation,” says Director of the Adelaide University Indigenous Oral Health Unit Lisa Jamieson.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders unfortunately are more likely to suffer from poor oral health due to many factors.
“On pretty much every oral health indicator we have Aboriginal Australians who are worse off in regards to dental health than non-Aboriginal Australians,” she says.
“Social determinants play a large role and by social determinants I mean health, income, occupation, education, and even policies and assimilation that have happened historically, have all impacted on the general health and wellbeing of many Aboriginal Australians and unfortunately oral health is just another manifestation of that.”
The good news is that many forms of dental disease are completely avoidable when you take proper care of your teeth.
“Water fluoridation is a great way for everyone to access a way to prevent dental decay. How this works is that the enamel layer of our teeth is made up of a large component of fluoride, so when we drink fluoride in our drinking water it adds to the fluoride we already have to make our teeth stronger,” she says.
Regular brushing and flossing is also a must. When you don’t brush, plaque combines with sugars and starches; this produces an acid that attacks enamel, a substance that protects our teeth, and in turn this may result in tooth decay.
A build-up of plaque can also irritate the gums and lead to gum disease. Irritated gums can become red, swollen and tender causing gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. If diagnosed in its early stages it can be reversed and treated.
Gum disease has been linked to heart attack, stroke, diabetes and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
The foods we eat also play a large role in the healthiness of our teeth.
“Refined sugar is what we really want to stay away from, such as lollies and soft drinks,” she says.
You should focus on eating healthy foods including cheeses, chicken or other meats, nuts, and milk. These foods protect tooth enamel by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed to sustain minerals in our teeth.
“I think it’s becoming an increasing priority for Aboriginal people to include oral health in their day to day lives,” says Lisa