Health and Beauty - Bright Smiles

Bright smiles 

As Dolly Parton once said, “If you see someone without a smile today, give them yours.” The trouble is many people hide their teeth; even a standard check-up at the dentist can be out of reach for a large number of Kiwis due to the high cost of treatment. Otago University’s Faculty of Dentistry does offer a 25% discount for current community services card holders if they are treated by an undergraduate student. Their website states that the vast majority of the 60’000 plus treatments they provide annually are for members of the public. However, they can only see people by appointment and not walk-in. 

Poor oral health can result in deprived sleep, ongoing pain, possible hospital admission or many days off work. New Zealand has a very high level of sugar consumption. Sugary drinks should be eliminated completely but keep a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables as the natural sugars found in these foods are fine. A six-monthly or annual visit to the dentist, whilst expensive, can prevent more costly procedures further down the track. 

Toothful advice 

Charlotte Metcalfe, Practice Manager at Project Dental Ltd, says that these check-ups and X- rays are vital for finding signs of tooth decay and gum disease. “The first signs of gum disease are bleeding, swollen or tender gums and bad breath. If these symptoms persist, even with regular brushing and flossing, see your dentist, oral health therapist or hygienist. Everyone has differing needs,” continues Charlotte, “so your dentist may recommend alternative time intervals between routine appointments.” 

Charlotte’s expert advice includes the following: brush twice a day using a soft or medium, small-headed toothbrush, or a rechargeable electric toothbrush. Make sure you brush your gumline too! Circular or flicking motions are best and avoid over-scrubbing. Clean in between your teeth every day with interdental brushes or dental floss. This may make your gums bleed at first, but the more you do it, the less they will bleed. Limiting or cutting out nicotine can also reduce the risk of gum disease. 

A new model 

Dental clinics in seven cities and towns, including Dunedin, have joined a programme which provides a dental examination, X-rays and one hygiene treatment annually on a subscription-based payment model. It is believed to be a first for New Zealand and is designed to reduce the regional variation in costs to access oral care. Maykon Dias, spokesperson for EasyDental, says a key focus of the new programme will be on education and decay prevention and to support this, patients will have access to videos, tutorials and studies through their online dashboard. Dias says under the prevention package, patients pay a fixed monthly amount to access two to four preventative dental visits during a 12-month period, with an average cost of $1.35 per day. Businesses can also opt into the programme with a points-based contribution system, with every point accumulated by the employee equal to $1 which can be redeemed whenever needed. 

Whiter than white 

Teeth whitening is popular. It can help with self-confidence, especially as the smile is often the first thing someone will notice about you. In-practice whitening can achieve results faster than anything carried out at home. However, it is advised that a dentist examines your teeth and gums first to see if they are suitable for whitening. If you have confidence in smiling, you may discover just how contagious it can be. -Gill Towle