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Don’t dread the dentist

  • Bonitas
  • Category Advice Column, Bonitas, Child, Health, Lifestyle, Parenting, Toddler, Tween & Teen, Tween & Teen Advice

Most of us are scared of the dentist which means dental care can easily be overlooked but, taking good care of your teeth will not only leave you with a brilliant smile, it will also keep your mouth healthy. By following a good at-home care regime and regular dental visits, you can decrease the likelihood of health problems in the future.

Bonitas offers dental benefits through their partner, DENIS, the largest network of dental professionals in South Africa.  All dental procedures have predefined benefits, which are paid at the Bonitas Dental Tariff.

What will my benefits cover?

This depends on the option you’re on. Conservative dentistry is covered on most plans. Remember, we focus on the health of your teeth, rather than their appearance. Therefore, dental problems associated with pain, discomfort and oral hygiene  are generally covered, while cosmetic dentistry such as porcelain veneers and teeth whitening is excluded. 

What is conservative dentistry? 

Conservative dentistry is also known as basic or routine dentistry. It means the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of tooth and gum diseases as well as the repair of defective teeth. This includes consultations, oral hygiene (scale and polish), fillings, x-rays, root canals and extractions.

What is specialised dentistry?

Specialised dentistry (also known as advanced dentistry) occurs when teeth need to be replaced or when badly damaged teeth need to be repaired and conservative dentistry would not be adequate. Authorisation is required for some treatments before treatment starts. This includes partial metal frame dentures, implants, orthodontics, maxillofacial surgery as well as crowns and bridgework. Not all options have specialised dentistry benefits, so it is important that you check whether you are covered for specialised dentistry.

Guarding against gum disease

One of the biggest dental health issues is gum disease which is when plaque builds up under your gum line and your gums become inflamed due to bacteria. Your gums may become red, swollen, sensitive and start to recede and bleed easily. Over time they may pull away from your teeth and form pockets that become infected, which may lead to loss of teeth. If teeth are lost, you may need to fill the gaps with bridges, dentures or implants. 

How is gum disease caused?

When plaque stays on your teeth too long and is not removed through daily brushing and flossing, it forms a hard, harmful covering called tartar. Your gums become inflamed when tartar forms near the gum line and the plaque underneath releases poisons. Only a dental professional can remove tartar through dental cleaning. And you are more likely to develop gum disease if unhealthy gums run in your family, if you smoke, take a medicine that leads to dry mouth, have poor nutrition or experience high stress levels

What are the stages of gum disease?

There are three stages of gum disease. 

  • Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease when plaque builds up under your gum line and the gums become inflamed, making them tender and likely to bleed
  • Periodontitis is when the supporting bone and fibres holding the teeth in place are irreversibly damaged
  • Advanced Periodontitis is when the fibres and bone of your teeth are being destroyed causing your teeth to loosen and shift. This can affect your bite and the way you eat and talk.

How can I prevent this disease?

You need to remove plaque from your teeth to prevent gum disease. So ask your dentist to recommend the right dental products and show you the correct  way to brush and floss.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day on all sides for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes.
  • Brush the outer, upper and lower surfaces of each tooth keeping the toothbrush bristles angled against your gum line. Do this on the inside surfaces of all teeth too
  • Brush the biting surfaces of your teeth
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria
  • Floss to remove plaque that a toothbrush can’t reach
  • Change your toothbrush every three months
  • Visit your dental professional regularly for cleaning
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and quit smoking

How do I treat gum disease?

Only a dental professional can remove plaque that has built up and hardened into tartar on your teeth with a professional cleaning. Schedule a visit twice a year so that gum disease can be spotted early. You may be given you a bacteria-fighting fluoride mouth rinse, to help control plaque. 

Your dental professional can do periodontal therapy to stop more damage to the gum tissue and bone if you have Periodontitis. In addition, they can do scaling and root planning to treat diseased periodontal pockets and gum infection. They may also use an ultrasonic scaling device to remove plaque, tartar and food debris above and below the gum line. Furthermore, they can hand scale the tooth and root surfaces to make them smooth and disease free. 

Laser treatment is also an option but you may also need surgery to reduce pockets and bone grafting to restore lost bone if you have periodontal pockets more than 5mm deep. 

Moreover they will give you restorative options if you have Advanced Periodontitis and aggressive periodontal therapy can’t save your teeth and you need to remove teeth.

The bottom line: Don’t avoid the dentist, go for regular check-ups and make sure you maintain good dental health hygiene at home.

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