This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Aussies Failing Basic Oral Hygeine

Australians Are Neglecting Dental Health
Dentist reaches into patients mouth.
Peter Dennen via Getty Images
Dentist reaches into patients mouth.

Dental hygiene is something most of us have had drummed into us from an early age. But it seems Australians have become slack when it comes to the notion of brushing your teeth after every meal. Instead, according to research by the Australian Dental Association, one in three of us are neglecting to brush our teeth twice a day.

It's been a long time since TV viewers were treated to a simple advertising campaign spruiking the importance of choosing a good toothbrush -- who remembers Doctor Rob in the Oral B ads from the 1980s?

The Dental Association's research also highlights how Australia’s poor dental habits are having a trickle-down effect on children, with over 50 per cent of six-year-old kids experiencing tooth decay in baby teeth. Up to half of 12 year olds have experienced decay in their permanent teeth.

Doctor David Dunn, principle dentist at Sydney’s Macquarie Street Centre, told the Huffington Post Australia 30 per cent of all Australian adults have a form of untreated tooth decay and one in six people can’t remember the last time they visited the dentist.

"There are many social issues that lead to people neglecting their dental health. Of course people are spending time on their phones in bed and perhaps being lazy and not getting up to clean their teeth, but it's more a case of diet. Our diet these days are high in carbohydrates, sugary soft drinks and fast food. People are time poor, often both parents are working and they don't want to cook when they come home so they get fast food," Dr Dunn said.

"Another reason is cost and time. Sadly, many people only visit the dentist when they have pain. But pain is such a late symptom, whether it's dental decay or periodontal disease which is the gums and bones supporting our teeth. Many dental diseases have no pain which is why preventative care is very important. But it seems many people are not making dental health a priority."

Dr Dunn said parents aren't helping kids by giving them sweet treats as rewards and then not encouraging them to clean their teeth.

"If you go to a kids' sporting event, it's common to see them with bags of chips and energy drinks. It's considered a reward. Also with kids' birthday parties and the kids are handed a large bag of lollies as a gift. If you're going to give your kids sweet treats then make sure they are cleaning their teeth at least twice a day or they will end up with tooth decay -- it's as simple as that."

Dr Dunn’s tips

1. Nutrition is key what you put in your mouth will directly affect the health of your teeth and gums. Your mouth is full of bacteria (plaque) that thrive on starches and sugars found in food. To protect your enamel against decay, be sure to opt for foods low in sugar and starch.

2. Using a straw while drinking soft drinks, fruit juices or coffee will transfer the eroding chemicals past your teeth and decrease the risk of staining. Don’t forget to rinse your mouth once you’ve finished your beverage to ensure there’s no lingering bacteria.

3. Floss regularly. Because of its fiddly nature, only 5 per cent of the population regularly floss. However, flossing is hugely important for reducing your risk of tooth decay or gum disease as a large majority of plaque and build up occurs in-between the teeth. Make sure you add flossing to your daily routine.

4. Make sure your toothbrush is right for you. A hard toothbrush will cause abrasion to your enamel making your teeth appear more yellow in colour, whilst a worn or too soft toothbrush will fail to remove adequate residue and plaque.

5. Visit your dentist. Although it may be a hassle, dropping in to your dentist regularly is crucial in order to maintain your oral health. Your teeth will thank you in the long run.

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