Are you taking care of your smile?

National Smile month is from 16 May to 16 June, and gives us all and opportunity to understand why oral health is such an important part of our overall health.
man smiling showing his teeth

Maintaining good oral health habits at home reduces our risks of oral disease such as cavities, gum disease, tooth sensitivity and bad breath. Many of these are largely preventable when we address the common factors such as smoking, poor diet, high sugar intake and alcohol misuse.

During the pandemic, access to dental services was reduced leaving many children, families, adults, and older adults at risk of poor oral health. Prolonged untreated oral disease can lead to pain, days lost from work and school, sleepless nights and can reduce a person’s quality of life.

Now that things are returning more to normal, it’s important to get those check-ups booked in at the dentist and keep on top of your oral health care. We should all visit a dentist regularly (every six months, or as often as recommended by your dentist). To find a local dentist call 0300 311 22 33 or visit the NHS website.

It is recommended that parents and carers support good oral health habits in children from the earliest age. Children and that they see a dentist once their first tooth comes through and by the age of one, so children can get used to the experience. This is an opportunity to check teeth for decay, gums, and general mouth health. For helpful tips on keeping children’s teeth healthy, please visit the Slough Oral Health webpage.

Cleaning at the gum level is especially important for those who have experienced tooth loss due to gum disease. Those wearing dentures must pay particular attention to their oral hygiene. Vulnerable adults (and children) with reduced dexterity and mental capacity may require additional support with toothbrushing. NICE guidelines advise carers at home and care staff within a care home to consider:

  • providing daily oral care for full or partial dentures (such as brushing, removing food debris, and removing dentures overnight)
  • using their choice of cleaning products for dentures if possible
  • using their choice of toothbrush, either manual or powered
  • daily use of mouth care products prescribed by dental clinicians (for example, this may include a high fluoride toothpaste or a prescribed mouthwash or rinse).

For the rest of us, healthy eating and general good oral hygiene are the most important actions we can take, as well as regular dentist visits. Teeth frequently exposed to sugar is the main cause for dental decay. The best way to reduce this is to ensure consumption of sugary drinks and foods is kept to a minimum. This can be achieved by eating a healthy balanced diet to support healthy teeth.

It is important to clean all tooth surfaces and gum line twice a day. Using a fluoride-containing toothpaste helps to prevent dental caries. Creating an early habit of toothbrushing is important. Children should be supervised to brush their teeth for the first 8-9 years with encouraged prompting and motivation from parents.

The Slough Healthy Smiles project run by Oxford Health which has been running since 2018 continues to aim to coordinate, facilitate, support and provide a range of evidence-based interventions to improve oral health and reduce oral health inequalities in Slough by working particularly with early years and primary school aged children and vulnerable adults. This includes improving oral health promotion and collaborating with partners to improve patient awareness of NHS dental services available.

Councillor Natasa Pantelic, lead member for social care and public health, said: “Over the pandemic access to dentists wasn’t easy and it’s important now to book that check-up that may be overdue. We continue to spread important messages through our public health team and partners of regular brushing, reducing sugary foods and starting little ones off early at the dentist. We are so pleased of the positive impact that our Slough Healthy Smiles project continues to make on our residents’ oral health, particularly on our youngest residents and those who are more elderly or vulnerable.”

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