Oral health in Singapore - Shocking facts

In Singapore, a study last year found that six in 10 Singaporeans did not have dental check-ups every six months as advised by dentists, and 43 per cent visited a dentist only when they had problems like a toothache

Also, 56 per cent of them spent less than two minutes a day brushing their teeth and 18 per cent did not brush their teeth twice a day.

Singaporeans have a good level of dental health awareness, and oral hygiene here is fairly satisfactory, due to the emphasis on oral care in schools in the past 20 years, said Dr Chee Hoe Kit, Senior Consultant from Periodontics at National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

"But about 40 to 50 per cent of the population still have fairly poor oral hygiene. They are either unaware that this can lead to gum disease, or are possibly deterred by the cost of dental treatment. They may not know that they can visit a polyclinic, which has dental services, for a simple cleaning. These barriers may lead to poor dental health," he said.

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10 Easy tips for cleaner, healthier teeth

Here is some advice from Dr Chee to take proper care of your teeth so they can last to your golden years:

  1. Use a soft toothbrush, as hard bristles may be too abrasive on the gum line and teeth surfaces.

  2. Don’t brush too hard, as this can damage teeth by being too abrasive on the enamel or dentine surfaces. 

  3. Brush at a 45-degree angle to ensure you reach the areas between the teeth and gum line, where plaque builds.

  4. Jiggle the brush by using small circular or a left-top-right motion to clean and remove plaque build-up at the gum line. Up and down brushing, or vigorous left to right movements across the teeth, will not adequately get to where the plaque is located.

  5. Where to brush? Use the jiggling motion to brush teeth surfaces at the gum line. For the inner front teeth, use the up-down motion. Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth as well.

  6. Brush for two to three minutes to ensure all your teeth are adequately cleaned. The average person spends about one to 1½ minutes, which is too little.

  7. Brush at least twice a day. Three times a day (after each meal) is excellent.

  8. Do not snack after brushing as this causes plaque to accumulate again. Saliva flow is reduced when you sleep, so if you go to bed with bits of food still in your mouth, there will be less saliva to clean your teeth naturally.

  9. Floss using an upward scooping motion against the teeth and not a sawing motion, which may cut your gums.

  10. Visit a dentist at least once a year. Only a dentist can properly diagnose your dental health. Ask for a proper gum examination, during which the dentist will measure the gum pockets around each tooth to see if there are any disease sites that will need proper gum treatment.

Link between poor oral health and chronic diseases

Dr Chee added that periodontal (gum) disease has been associated with other medical risks in the last decade. Studies have associated it with chronic inflammatory conditions, such as:

Poor oral hygiene and uncontrolled gum disease may also exacerbate diabetes and worsen blood sugar levels.

"I have had patients who have come to me unaware that they might already have diabetes," said Dr Chee. 

"If patients have a family history of diabetes, and if I find they have severe gum disease, I would urge them to go to a polyclinic or their family doctor for a fasting blood glucose test, to rule out the possibility of diabetes. This is important, as gum disease is one of the complications of diabetes."

He added that blood vessels in the gums are linked to the body’s larger blood vessels. Bacteria from gum diseases can pass through oral crevices in the gum, enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body.

Ref. I23 (edit)

Check out other articles on oral care:

Tips for Fresher Breath

How to Choose the Right Toothbrush

Wisdom Tooth: When to Extract

Root Canal Treatment: How Painful is It?

Gum Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Am I Too Old for Braces?

Dentures vs Dental Impants: Which to Choose?