American actress, model and singer Marilyn Monroe once said, “Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing, and there’s so much to smile about.” Along with laughter, smiling even has numerous health benefits, from reducing blood pressure and pain to decreasing depression and boosting the immune system.
Unfortunately, due to poor dental and oral care, not everyone feels comfortable smiling. There are a variety of reasons some individuals avoid this type of care, one of which is experiencing dental anxiety or dentophobia, which refers to the extreme fear of going to the dentist.
Another common cause is cost. According to a report by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), more than 50 percent of Australians without dental care health insurance are postponing or skipping treatment because of the cost, and one-quarter of the 12.3 million people who have dental insurance have delayed or avoided the dentist because of the out-of-pocket fees. When it comes to dealing with dental care, having a private dental insurance plan is your best option to deal with unexpected dental costs.
Other common barriers to dental care consist of low socioeconomic status; a lack of professional training regarding current evidence-based oral health guidelines; deficient continuity of care due to inadequate interdisciplinary collaboration; low oral health literacy; and patient perceptions and misconceptions about preventive dental care.
Common Dental Problems
Whatever the reason(s) for forgoing dental care, about dinophobia one in five Australians don’t get the recommended level of oral healthcare. In fact, oral conditions are the second most common cause of acute potentially preventable hospitalizations.
A lack of routine dental care isn’t only a problem for the Land Down Under. Globally, oral diseases affect an estimated 3.5 billion people, with more than 530 million children suffering from dental caries of primary teeth. Dental caries refers to the development of cavities (small holes) in the teeth that compromise the health and structure of the tooth.
Poor oral health has the potential to result in more than dental caries. The most common oral diseases affect the teeth and gums. Tooth decay occurs when germs in plaque turn the sugars found in food and drinks into acid, which attacks the teeth and sometimes makes a hole in the tooth. Dental decay is the second most costly diet-related disease in Australia.
Periodontal disease, which affects the gums, happens when germs in the plaque infect the gums, causing them to become red and puffy and to bleed easily (gingivitis). In severe cases of periodontal disease, the infection can spread to the supporting bone around the teeth.
In addition to tooth decay and gum disease, the most common dental problems are halitosis (bad breath), oral cancer, mouth sores, tooth sensitivity, toothaches and dental emergencies. Poor oral health also has been linked to some diseases and conditions, including endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy and birth complications and pneumonia. A correlation has been found between periodontal diseases to stroke, diabetes, dementia, respiratory diseases and mortality.
Impact of a Lack of Oral Care
A lack of dental care isn’t the only determinant in poor oral health. Other factors include:
- Consumption of sugar, tobacco and alcohol
- A lack of fluoridation in some water supplies
- Access and availability of services
- Affordability of private dental care
- Long waiting periods for public dental care
Poor dental care doesn’t only affect individuals physically; it also can lead to mental health issues. A report from Families USA and Mental Health America (MHA) stated that there is emerging evidence of a direct connection between poor oral health and negative impacts to mental health and cognitive issues, especially with respect to co-occurring depression and dementia. The report also described how oral pain can exacerbate factors that may lead to substance use and addiction or impede substance use recovery.
Other social and psychological areas of life can be impacted by a lack of oral care. Even speech can be negatively affected by poor dental health, thereby causing significant social anxiety.
Recommendations for Routine Dental Care
The good news about these oral health conditions is that they’re largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages. The key is regular dental care, including preventive services.
The United States National Institute on Aging recommends cleaning your teeth and gums every day by:
- Gently brushing your teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. Replacing your toothbrush every three-to-four months.
- Using small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes.
- Brushing carefully and gently along your gum line.
- Lightly brushing your tongue or using a tongue scraper to help keep your mouth clean.
- Cleaning between your teeth with dental floss, pre-threaded flossers, a water flosser or a similar product to remove plaque and leftover food that a toothbrush can’t reach.
- Rinsing after you floss.
Similarly, you can help prevent gum disease by
- Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Flossing regularly.
- Visiting your dentist routinely for a checkup and cleaning, telling him or her about any medical conditions you have and medications you take.
- Eating a well-balanced diet.
- Quitting smoking.
AirSmile makes it easy for Australians to access quality dental care. Our app enables you to compare dentists and receive instant quotes on existing treatment proposals. By booking your dental appointment online and uploading any pertinent medical records, you provide your selected dental professional with the resources needed to provide high-quality care. No more surprise dental bills or lack of price transparency!
Learn how AirSmile works, and get access to the AirSmile dentist network to compare providers and get instant quotes on the dental care you need.