Dental Care: Brushing Up On The Basics
Health Today Malaysia|March 2019

This World Oral Health Day, let us all remind ourselves to keep our teeth and gums healthy and looking good.

Hannah May-lee Wong

World Oral Health Day falls on March 20th every year. The global awareness day highlights the importance of keeping good oral hygiene and reminds us that oral health comprises a big part of every individual’s wellbeing. Yearly, the World Dental Federation (FDI) focuses on a specific theme and this year, it’s “Say Ahh: Act on Mouth Health”. The campaign aims to encourage everyone to walk the talk, and actively take measures to improve their oral health.

Anyone remember the Academy Award-winning movie Cast Away (2000) starring Tom Hanks? It talks about a FedEx employee who was on-board a plane that crashed into the sea. Although he survived, he was “cast away” to an uninhabited island. Before he got on the ill-fated plane, he was suffering a bad toothache and kept putting off going to the dentist to get it checked. As a result, he was left on an island with no dentist and was forced to extract his tooth himself (ouch!). Let’s not be that character. We don’t have to wait for a toothache to pay our dentists a visit. Beyond that, we should also diligently care for our teeth and encourage our children to do the same.

This World Oral Health Day, Health Today chats with friendly local dentist, Dr Lau Lake Koon, as he graciously answers a series of frequently asked questions:

WE’RE CURIOUS TO KNOW, HOW WOULD YOU AS A DENTIST DEFINE GOOD ORAL HEALTH?

The human mouth, just like the gut and other parts of the body, contains good and bad bacteria. A balance of these good and bad bacteria maintains healthy functioning of the body. Good oral health to me is defined by maintaining an optimum number of good bacteria against bad bacteria in the mouth. This can only be attained through practicing good oral hygiene, having a healthy diet and having a healthy body.

Your dentist, through your regular check-ups, should be able to identify any dental issues that may exist, treat them and educate you on how to care for your teeth. That said, it is important that you as a patient consistently practice good oral hygiene and carry out whatever that was prescribed to you by your dentist. Frequent visits to the dentist will catch existing problems in the early stages. This is a good thing because as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

WE OFTEN HEAR DENTAL EXPERTS TELLING US WE DON’T BRUSH OUR TEETH LONG ENOUGH FOR US TO GET A GOOD CLEAN. HOW LONG SHOULD WE BRUSH OUR TEETH FOR, AND HOW OFTEN?

Brushing your teeth, the proper way for approximately two minutes each time should be enough to keep the teeth clean. There are many ways of brushing your teeth and your dentist will show you what’s best for you. Generally, I recommend brushing with the modified Bass technique, which includes brushing under the gumline with the toothbrush at a 45-degree tilt.1 That said, I rarely advise my patients to brush for longer. In fact, the more common problems I see daily arise from:

1. Not flossing

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