Today, more than ever, we’re faced with shocking statistics regarding the state of oral health in the UK. For the fourth year in a row the number of children who are having their teeth removed due to decay has risen. Since 2014 the figures have risen by 3% with over 33,000 children under 10 undergoing tooth removal. What’s more, over 30% of children in England did not see an NHS dentist between 2012 and 2014. Each year, since 2012 the figures of tooth extraction in children have been rising;
- 2014-15 – 33,781 removals
- 2013-14 – 32,741 removals
- 2012-13 – 31,275 removals
- 2011-12 – 30,761 removals
Tooth loss due to decay may lead to a lifetime of low self-esteem, but can also impact a person’s ability to speak coherently and eat easily. If children are not being taught correct oral health from a young age, in what way will this impact the future of restorative dentistry?
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay happens when oral bacteria produce acids that gradually soften the enamel, leading to cavities in the teeth. The main cause of tooth decay is sugar, due to the fact it accelerates the production of acid by the oral bacteria. Not only does the sugar in the food and drink we consume fuel this acid, but the acid in these foodstuffs themselves wears away the protective enamel on the tooth’s surface making them further susceptible to decay.
Tooth decay is linked closely with gum disease, which can lead to total tooth loss, and is found in 15–20% of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults. Severe tooth loss can limit speech and the ability to eat and those who lose teeth may be required to opt for dental implants in order to reconstruct the mouth. Today, 74% of all adults have had at least one tooth extracted.
How else does modern life affect our oral health?
It’s not just the sugar and acid we consume in our daily lives that are causing decay, our teeth are also suffering from extrinsic staining due to our lifestyles, which in top of acidic diets includes smoking, drinking coffee and consuming wines. Often, low self-esteems can stem from a poor image of one’s self, and in the media rich society we live in it can be hard for people who suffer from perceived imperfections to feel confident. This affects women today especially:
- Each year, women write more than 5 million negative tweets
- Four out of every five negative beauty tweets from women were about themselves.
- Women are 50% more likely to say something negative, rather than positive, about themselves on social media.
How are we dealing with these dental issues?
Cosmetic dentistry has been on the rise in recent years with financial experts advising us that the 100 largest dental firms in the UK have increased their turnover by almost one quarter in four years. The treatments that can be undertaken to deal with these types of aesthetical and medical dental problems are varied and include:
Dental implants first rose to prevalence in the 1960s and have remained popular since. This is because of their intrinsic differences to dentures which can slip around the mouth causing the wearer to be uncomfortable and the gum line feeling irritated.
Dental implants are different to traditional dentures as they are permanently affixed to the jawbone using a titanium “root” with fuses to the bone. On the end of this root, a false tooth is bonded; these false teeth are made in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes meaning that no matter the appearance of your teeth you will find a bespoke implant that resembles your natural set of teeth.
Once the dental implants are in place, you will be able to eat and speak as you once did and enjoy a wholly natural looking result.
Dental veneers are wafer-thin shells of tooth-coloured material designed to cover the front surface of teeth to improve their appearance. One of the main reasons people choose to have veneers fitted is because of excessive wear of the enamel on the teeth leading to discoloration. This can be worn away due to a number of reasons, and not just diet alone:
- Excessive fizzy and soft drink consumption, especially coffee and Coca-Cola
- Dry mouth or low salivary flow
- A diet high in sugar and starches
- Acid reflux disease and gastrointestinal problems
- Certain medications ( aspirin, antihistamines)
- Inherited genetics
Veneers make your teeth appear strong, healthy and uniformed. Before the veneer is fitted, the existing enamel is worn away under a local anaesthetic to avoid discomfort.
Typically it can take multiple visits from your first consultation until you have your veneers fitted. This is because each set is bespoke created by an external dental technician; however, modern cosmetic dental practices are discovering this can be frustrating for patients and now employ their own in-house laboratories which mean dental impressions do not have to be sent away. Veneers are a great long term result that strengthen your teeth and improve their appearance if damaged by a modern diet and other external factors.
Prevent tooth decay
It’s been estimated that around 90% of tooth decays can be prevented by ensuring teeth and gums are kept in optimum health, What’s more tooth decay often does not show any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage, so it is vital preventative methods are undertaken in order to avoid its likelihood.
In order to avoid your teeth from suffering decay you should:
- Use fluoride toothpaste when brushing, this prevents plaque build-up which leads to decay
- Regularly replace your toothbrush, you should do this every three months
- Use floss and mouthwash, 42% of people currently only use a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Change your diet in order to reduce your sugar and acid intake.
- Visit your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning twice a year.
Suzanne Vallance, from Scotland, is a representative of The Berkeley Clinic, an award-winning cosmetic dental practice in Glasgow. Her goal is to provide patients with information on oral health care and restorative dental options.