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Most of us take the health of our teeth for granted – we talk, chew food and smile without a second thought. But oral diseases, and the tooth loss that often occurs as a result of them, can severely impact your overall health and wellbeing and can cost a lot of money to treat.

This section tells you all you need to know to prevent tooth decay and plaque, from brushing and flossing to going to regular check-ups with your dentist. Because many of us are at least a little intimidated by the thought of going to the dentist, the following pages also contain information about common dental procedures. Knowing more about these procedures can help control your nervousness and make your next experience at the dentist go more smoothly.

For those who suffer from dental phobia, this section also provides tips you can try to help ease the fear.

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There are simple ways to keep teeth strong and healthy from childhood to old age. Here's how to keep your mouth and teeth healthy:

  • Brush twice a day and floss daily: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , tooth brushing and flossing will reduce dental plaque and can also prevent gum disease.
  • Use fluoride: Drink fluoridated water and use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens enamel making teeth less likely to decay.
  • Replace your toothbrush regularly: Invest in a new toothbrush or a replacement head for your electric or battery-operated toothbrush every three months.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks: When bacteria in the mouth break down simple sugars, they produce acids that can erode tooth enamel, opening the door to decay. Decrease sugary foods and maintain a well-balanced nutritional intake to prevent tooth decay and premature tooth loss.
  • Rinse or chew gum after meals: In addition to brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial rinse can help prevent decay. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can also protect by increasing saliva flow, which naturally washes bacteria away and neutralises acid.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco: Tobacco stains teeth and significantly increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer. If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, consider quitting.
  • See your dentist regularly: Most experts recommend a dental check-up every 6 months – more often if you have problems like gum disease. During a routine exam, your dentist or dental hygienist removes plaque build-up that you can’t brush or floss away and look for signs of decay. 
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Your dentist may recommend a dental procedure to restore or replace a tooth that has been lost or damaged or to improve the appearance, health and function of your teeth. While some of these procedures are straightforward, others may be extremely complex. The most common dental procedures are:

  • Fillings and repairs: During fillings and repairs, materials are used to restore teeth that have been compromised due to tooth decay or trauma. There are several types of different materials that can be used to repair teeth, the most common being composite fillings made from a tooth-coloured resin. Ask your dentist what material is best for you and your specific needs. The Canadian Dental Association urges patients to remember that the final decision on which type of filling is placed in their mouth is theirs alone.
  • Bridges and implants: Bridges and implants are two ways of replacing a missing tooth or teeth. A bridge, also known as a fixed removable denture, is used to fill the gap left by a missing tooth. Bridges can be supported in any of two ways: by natural teeth or implants. Dental implants are metal posts or frames surgically positioned into the jawbone beneath your gums. Dental implants replicate the entire tooth, including the crown and the root, and act as an anchor for replacement teeth.
  • Dental crowns: If your tooth is damaged but not lost, a crown can be used to cover and protect the damaged part of your tooth. They are often placed over the visible part of the tooth to add strength and improve appearance.
  • Root canals: Root canal treatment is the removal of the tooth’s pulp – a small, thread-like tissue in the centre of the tooth. The remaining space is cleaned, shaped and filled once the infected, injured or dead pulp is removed.
  • Extractions: A tooth extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket in the bone. There are many reasons for extracting a permanent tooth, the most common being a broken tooth or a tooth damaged by severe decay. Usually, your dentist will try to use other methods such as fixing the tooth with a filling, crown or other dental treatment, leaving extraction as a final option.
  • Veneers: Veneers are strong, thin pieces of ceramic or resin material that are bonded to the teeth. Veneers are used to repair chipped, decayed or stained teeth and may help in closing gaps between teeth.
  • Orthodontics: Orthodontic treatment uses braces or other appliances to put gentle pressure on your teeth and eventually move them into the right position. They can either be fixed or removable.
  • Teeth whitening: Teeth whitening is the process of whitening teeth using a peroxide-based material. It is one of the most effective cosmetic dental procedures in improving stained and discoloured teeth. 
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Many people all over the world experience fear or anxiety about seeing the dentist. Perhaps it's the thought that treatment will hurt, or that the sounds and smells bring back memories of bad experiences as a child. If you’re anxious about seeing the dentist, here are some tips to help ease the fear:

  • Find an understanding dentist: Ask friends and family if they can recommend a dentist or look for someone who advertises themselves as an expert with anxious patients.
  • Explore the dental office beforehand: Visiting the surgery to have a look around, meeting the receptionist and dentist and seeing the environment can all help to calm your nerves.
  • Distract yourself: Another way to reduce stress during a dental appointment is to distract yourself with something that will help you relax. For example, listen to music on your ipod, smartphone, tablet, or other device.
  • Make an early appointment: Pick an appointment time early in the morning so you have less time to dwell on it.
  • Communicate with your dentist: During the appointment, ask your dentist to explain what's happening at every stage of the procedure. This may help to lower your anxiety. When you know what the dentist is about to do next, you are able to mentally prepare yourself.
  • Use a hand signal: Agree on a sign with the dentist to show that you need a break and want him or her to stop. This will give you a sense of control.
  • Take a friend with you to your appointment: Another way to reduce dental anxiety is to have a friend accompany you throughout the check-up or treatment.
  • Learn relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, deep breathing and progressive relaxation, can help reduce levels of stress hormones as well as pain and anxiety.
  • Try hypnotherapy: Although hypnotherapy is more effective for some people than others, it can be a great way to treat dental anxiety. Hypnotherapy is simply a technique that creates a profound state of relaxation, and has an effect that is similar to that of meditation. Some people with dental phobia ask their therapists to go with them to the dentist's office to perform hypnosis, or they learn to practice self-hypnosis.
  • Speak to a therapist: Psychologists and psychiatrists often use techniques to help you overcome a phobia, including dental phobia.  You could try to talk about why you have this fear, and learn to accept your fear and face it gradually. 
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