With proper dental care, you can show off your pearly whites when the occasion calls for it.
Urban legend has it that Mona Lisa – that enigmatic beauty made famous by Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci – appears reluctant to smile because she had bad teeth or worse, none at all. In all probability that may be true. If you were born in the 15th century at around the time the portrait was painted, there's a high chance that your teeth would have become rotten even before you reached your thirties.
Until about 100 years ago, drinking water even in developed countries was not fluoridated (the natural mineral fluoride helps prevent tooth decay), there were no proper toothbrushes or toothpaste and dental care was nowhere near what it is today. Thanks to modern developments and to advanced dental care and cosmetic dentistry, our teeth are in a much happier state. And anyone who practises proper dental hygiene and is happy to pay for aesthetic dental treatment, can have teeth that are close to perfect.
Alarmingly, with all the ease of dental healthcare today, some people are still letting their teeth go to rot, and a lot of it has to do with oral hygiene.
Common issues with teeth
Let’s look at the three common problems that get in the way of healthy teeth and a beautiful smile.
Dental caries or tooth decay
This happens when plaque, that sticky film of bacteria that clings on to teeth, is not removed through regular brushing and flossing. The bacteria feeds off the sugars from the foods and drinks we ingest and produces acids that erode the teeth enamel, leading to cavities and causing toothaches, sensitivity, discoloured teeth, and bad breath.
The good news is that dental caries is easily preventable.
Solution: Practise optimal dental hygiene (see “12 Dentist Tips for the Best Smile Ever”).
For mothers keen to give their child a head start against early childhood caries, a caries assessment test for both mother and child followed by a tailored dental programme can help lower the risk of tooth decay.
Crooked teeth give the same bacteria plenty of opportunity to settle on hard-to-reach uneven surfaces, which even the most diligent tooth brushing might not dislodge.
Solution: Talk to an orthodontist about straightening your teeth.
Accelerated orthodontics means you need to wear your braces for less time than it usually takes, which is typically about two years. Straightening your teeth not only helps to prevent tooth decay, it also enhances your appearance and improves your bite.
If you are worried about how you will look with braces, there is a solution: Clear, removable braces are virtually unnoticeable when fitted on.
These troublesome molars only start to grow in our late teens or early 20s. As luck would have it, they also appear at the back of our mouth, making them even harder to reach and therefore more prone to tooth decay and gum disease. The decay could affect the neighbouring teeth; cases where cysts form around an impacted wisdom tooth have also been recorded.
Solution: Surgery to remove your wisdom teeth at the first sign of trouble.
We use the word ‘surgery’ because the procedure usually requires an operation and stitching afterwards.
The National Dental Centre (NDC) Singapore is one of the five National Specialty Centres under SingHealth.