The message for the 2020 World Oral Health Day is simple – “it is never too late to start looking after your oral health.” The World Dental Federation wishes to motivate people to maintain their teeth throughout their life and not to accept tooth loss as a natural part of ageing. Despite our busy lifestyles, it is important that we maintain good oral health. A twice daily routine of brushing and flossing, a diet low in sugar, regular dental visits and a reduction of lifestyle risks such as tobacco and alcohol will help to minimise oral disease.

According to a 2018 survey, we know that today in Australia the most common chronic disease is Tooth Decay. We also know that oral diseases such as tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer contribute to illness, disability and death in Australia. Despite everything we know, the percentage of adults over the age of 18 years who brush twice a day is only 51%. Also, adults with untreated tooth decay make up 25% of the population and 48% of the adult population consume too much sugar. The same data for children aged 5-14 years shows that only 68% brush twice daily, while 70% consume too much sugar. Poor oral health in childhood is the strongest predictor of further dental disease moving into adulthood.

2020 marks the 75th year of water fluoridation with approximately 25 countries around the world fluoridating their water supply. Drinking fluoridated water and using fluoridated toothpastes are major contributors to the reduction of tooth decay. Most major brand toothpastes contain fluoride, however many alternate toothpastes do not. The dental profession has evidence to show toothpastes containing fluoride will in fact help to reverse the early signs of decay.

Recycling and sustainability has now reached the realm of toothbrushes. With hundreds of thousands of toothbrushes disposed of annually, the use of recyclable toothbrushes is an appealing idea and a growing industry. Most modern Bamboo Toothbrushes advertised as recyclable have nylon bristles which need to first be removed from the brush handle and disposed of. The brush handle can then be recycled. If you want a fully biodegradable toothbrush, you will need to choose one with a bamboo handle and bristles made from boar hair. It is important to be aware that boar hair bristles are coarser and rougher than nylon bristles, which will increase the wear on your enamel and certainly lead to gum recession. When it comes to sustainability, the one thing that should be sustainable is a good smile and bite. Daily maintenance is the key to maintaining a healthy smile and enough teeth to bite with. We also know that a good bite has been linked with better balance and a reduction in the number of falls in the elderly, improving the quality of life in the ageing population.

The key message again – “it is never too late to start looking after your oral health.” Should you have any questions or concerns regarding oral health, please contact your dentist.

Dr Ian Sweeney is a dental surgeon at
Northside Dental & Implant Centre, Turramurra.