MALAYSIANS love socialising over food. When we have guests over, they'll usually be offered a ubiquitous platter of delicacies and served drinks.
While our stomachs have adapted to the endless varieties of food available, can we say the same about our teeth? The extreme sweet and savoury sensations that we so favour can do damage to our oral and overall health, especially if not enjoyed in moderation.
Treats like cendol, ais kacang, air bandung, kuih and other delicacies are high in sugar and can contribute to cavities and deterioration of the enamel, the hard mineral layer on the teeth.
Food contributes to the loss of whiteness in teeth. Basically, any food that can stain a white T-shirt will stain your teeth. Coffee, tea, balsamic vinegar, soya sauce and smoking will stain teeth.
Inevitably, as the mineral structure of your teeth changes over time, the enamel becomes less porous. The deterioration of the enamel also means we're more susceptible to stains or yellowing of the teeth. Yes, not a great confidence booster!
Unfortunately for some, this process accelerates into tooth sensitivity. And in cases of leaky fillings where silver amalgam fillings have deteriorated, bacteria can get between the teeth to cause damage. Cavities are not the only oral problems that can arise. The deterioration of the enamel also means we become more susceptible to stains or yellowing of the teeth, and, another more annoying condition - tooth sensitivity.
What is tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity (also known as dentine sensitivity) is a short, sharp and unexpected discomfort that can ruin enjoyment of food or drink. The pain or discomfort of tooth hypersensitivity happens when the dentine, which lies below each individual tooth's hard enamel, becomes exposed. This can happen when the enamel is destroyed through acidic soda drinks, excessive vomiting, a cracked tooth, constant grinding and even improper brushing. When the dentine is exposed, microscopic tubes known as tubules convey sensations to sensitive nerve endings, causing discomfort It can strike when you eat or drink something hot, cold, sweet or sour, and even when you breathe in cold air through your mouth. Excessive hot, cold, sweet or sour stimulation can cause pain and discomfort. However, cold is usually the culprit, such as ice-cold water or ice-cream. Sometimes breathing in air through the mouth can also trigger tooth sensitivity. Likewise, the touch of a dental instrument on that spot can make routine dental visits unbearable.
A tooth becomes sensitive when gums recede or the enamel erodes, exposing the underlying layer of the tooth. This layer is made of thousands of microscopic tubules or channels leading to the tooth centre. When something hot, cold, sweet or sour reaches these tubules; sensations travel through the tooth centre and trigger discomfort or pain.
It's an oral condition that affects up to 57 per cent of dental patients worldwide.
Globally, it is estimated that approximately one out of two people suffer from tooth sensitivity. Based on the Colgate Malaysia Omnibus Study, 14 per cent of people have reported incidences of tooth sensitivity and the issue is an increasing concern that not only affects our enjoyment of food but can also be detrimental to our lifestyles. Imagine pulling a face at a business meeting just because the hot coffee caused discomfort.
Local cuisine is full of extremely hot, cold, sweet and sour delicacies. If you cannot imagine biting down on these or sipping without exclaiming "ouch" and wincing, you may be suffering from tooth sensitivity too, limiting the enjoyment of foods you eat and making you cautious in accepting dining invitations.
The other causes of tooth sensitivity include:
* Clenching your teeth: Tooth clenching and grinding (also known medically as bruxism) can strip off tooth enamel in some cases, leaving large areas of exposed dentine. Broken teeth from trauma may cause the same hypersensitivity.
* Tooth erosion: Acidic foods and gastric reflux can gnaw away at tooth enamel and dentine, which is a good reason to stay away from sticky sweets and sodas, which promote an acidic environment in your mouth.
* Defective or leaky tooth fillings: If your tooth fillings are not properly sealed, the resulting gaps will expose dentine to the rest of your mouth, making you prone to dentine hypersensitivity.
* Teeth cleaning: You may experience some tooth sensitivity after undergoing cleaning or scaling because the unwanted tartar or calculus that previously covered exposed dentine is now removed.
* Teeth whitening: The material used to bleach teeth can lead to thinning of the enamel in order to remove stains. Some bleaching materials are also more abrasive than others, so check with your dentist before undergoing any form of teeth whitening.
* Tooth straightening: Changing the position of your teeth may expose certain uncovered dentine sites, which leads to dentine hypersensitivity. However, while tooth adjustment places pressure on teeth, it seldom leads to increased sensitivity.
Remedies old and new
As in the case of most ailments which have been around for a long time, sensitive teeth also has its share of home remedies.
It is believed that applying clove oil to the aching tooth will reduce the pain while removing any form of tooth infection.
Another is chewing on leaves of the guava tree. Garlic clove is also believed to provide immediate relief from pain when placed on affected tooth.
However, how do these remedies measure up in this modern age?
While many have stood the test of time, they provide little effect in the long run.
In today's world where time matters, the quickest and most effective solutions are what we yearn for. Ordinary oral care will not be sufficient to treat the discomfort that comes from enjoying your favourite foods.
Here are four simple steps taught in school as recommended by the Malaysian Dental Association: brushing, flossing, rinsing and visiting a dentist at least twice a year.
1. Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Brushing your teeth should take no less than two full minutes, beginning by tilting your toothbrush at about a 45 degrees angle against the gum line and sweeping or rolling the brush away from the gum line, then gently brushing the outside, inside and the chewing surface of each tooth using short back-and-forth strokes. Most dentists recommend using soft-bristle toothbrushes to care for your gums and enamel. Do not forget to clean your tongue as it helps to remove bacteria which can be a contributing factor to bad breath (halitosis).
2. Floss as often as possible. Flossing is just as important and you need to floss with the proper technique - hold the floss so that a short segment is ready to work with. Guide the floss gently between two teeth. If the fit is tight, use a back-and-forth motion to work the floss through the narrow spot. Hold the floss around the front and back of one tooth, making it into a "C" shape. This will wrap the floss around the side edge of that tooth. Gently move the floss towards the base of the tooth and up into the space between the tooth and gum. Move the floss up and down with light to firm pressure to skim off plaque in that area.
3. Rinse with mouthwash daily. Do you know that 80 per cent of the bacteria found in our mouth are not on our teeth? It is then important to use antibacterial mouthwash to prevent the build-up of bacteria and bad breath. Dentists recommend using a non-alcohol mouth wash as it is less irritating to the throat and soft tissues in your mouth.
4. Visit the dentist at least once every six months. Having regular dental check-ups is important to remove plaque and identify cavities and other oral health problems. The Malaysian Dental Association recommends regular visits of no less than twice a year in line with international best practice. Your dentist will also be able to advise you on proper brushing and flossing techniques, helping you maintain beautiful teeth throughout your life.
Cure for the "Ouch" the Colgate's way
Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Multi-Protection toothpaste gives instant relief from tooth sensitivity and long-lasting protection for gums and teeth all rolled into one.
It has a unique Pro-Argin formula that can instantly block pain and provide relief from tooth sensitivity. This patented technology contains arginine - an amino acid naturally found in saliva - and calcium carbonate, which provide protective oral health benefits with long-term use.
While most sensitive toothpastes work by numbing pain at the nerve endings, Colgate's Pro-Argin technology works by plugging dentine tubules that lead to sensitive tooth nerves, blocking the transmission of heat, cold, air and pressure that stimulate pain receptors within teeth.
Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief can be directly applied to a sensitive tooth, using a fingertip to gently massage for a minute, to deliver instant relief. Regular brushing with Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste builds a long-lasting protective barrier that acts like a seal against sensitivity.
The only sensitive toothpaste to be endorsed by the Malaysian Dental Association, it is also certified to be halal by JAKIM.
Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Multi-Protection fast facts
* Exclusive Pro-Argin technology
* Fights cavities
* Removes plaque
* Promotes gum health
* Strengthens enamel
* Removes stains
* Freshens breath.
Sensitive tooth sufferers can now finally have instant relief and can indulge in their favourite foods without worrying about pain!
For details, visit http://www.colgatesensitiveprorelief.com.my