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Tooth Matters

3 min read
A recent survey revealed that most Singaporeans are reluctant to visit the dentist. We look at the reasons for this, and why it pays to get regular dental check-ups.

For most people, visiting the dentist is unlikely to be at the top of their list of things to do. A recent survey by the Singapore Dental Association and the Singapore Dental Health Foundation bore this out: it found that only four in 10 Singaporeans out of the 572 people surveyed had regular dental check-ups.

The Top Three Reasons For Irregular Dental Visits Are:
19% Lack of Time
12% Fear of Pain
30% Seeing the need only if there is a dental problem or issue

Other reasons participants cited for staying away include a bad childhood experience, affordability issues, and the fear of discovering dental issues.

The study also found that:

  • 80% of Singaporeans were aware that the absence of pain does not equate with the absence of dental problems; and
  • 90% of respondents answered correctly when asked whether gum disease affects only the elderly.

This suggests a lack of dental awareness may not be the main reason for irregular dental attendances.

The dental clinic may seem like a scary place, but regular visits to the dentist could help save your teeth. Many people experience plaque build-up and gum diseases that go unnoticed because they didn’t see a dentist about it soon enough. Dr Goh Siew Hor, President of the Singapore Dental Association and the Singapore Dental Health Foundation, suggests that, as the severity of dental disease may not be correlated to pain, many patients may misjudge the extent of dental disease until it is in the advanced stages.

For instance, periodontal or gum disease, which affects the amount of bone supporting the teeth, can be ‘silent’, and patients are only alerted when their teeth start to become loose. Some patients may also assume that they can play catch-up later, and have all their dental issues fixed when they have the time. However, what they may not realise is that it may not always be possible to restore their teeth to their original condition.

There are issues related to your oral health you may not have even considered, such as having trouble sleeping or headaches from grinding your teeth or even more worrying conditions. A review of several published studies has found that gum disease is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, and has also been linked to diseases of the blood vessels and the arteries that supply the brain, reported a WebMD article. The bacteria found in gum disease are similar to those found in blood vessels in people who are going through atherosclerosis, the article quoted Sam Low, DDS, associate dean at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville, and president of the American Academy of Periodontology. Being able to target and treat such issues is one of the benefits of regular dental visits.

Furthermore, some dental work can break down over time, so it’s important to keep an eye on any dental work that has already been completed, especially if it was done by someone other than your current dentist.

By visiting the dentist every six months, you’re more likely to uncover — and address — potential problems before more costly and invasive treatments are required. Preventive maintenance for your teeth is not much different from preventive maintenance for your car. It will cost you less to change the oil regularly than having to change a failed engine due to neglect!