Don't make these dental mistakes

The topic of dental health is not a popular one - many people give their teeth cursory attention and put off going to the dentist as long as they possibly can. However, these poor practices can spell major trouble for their teeth such as tooth decay and gum disease which will be costly - and sometimes painful - to fix in future.

Here are some of the most common mistakes dental patients make.

Brushing too hard, too fast

"One of the most common mistakes is brushing too fast and too hard, so that you are actually scrubbing the teeth, but ignoring the areas near the gums," says Dr Charlene Goh.

Dr Goh, who is the editor of Dental Surgeon, the newsletter of the Singapore Dental Association (SDA), also adds that Singaporeans often forget to brush the inside surfaces of the teeth near the tongue and roof of the mouth. Instead, they tend to focus mainly on the outside surface areas.

This means that while Singaporeans believe they are practicing good dental hygiene, in reality they are still vulnerable to teeth woes such as plaque buildup, decay and gum problems.

Avoiding the dentist until a problem occurs

This is the pet peeve of many dentists - patients who arrive at their clinics with serious problems which could have been easily prevented or treated at an early stage if the patient had gone for regular checkups and cleanings.

Dr Wong Keng Mun, director of T32 Dental Centre, notes that some patients wait until they are in severe pain, or when their gums are bleeding, before they go to the dentist. By this time, the problem is often so advanced that a normal scaling and polishing will no longer suffice.

Dr Goh recommends that dental checkups be performed every six months. "This will help to maintain good oral health, and minimise the need for costly dental treatments," she explains.

Comparing prices and going for the cheapest 'deal'

Singaporean patients are a cost-conscious lot, and many of them tend to compare prices for a variety of things - including dentistry. Many will check out where they can get a procedure done at the cheapest price. However, what they fail to realize is that there are a variety of materials - of varying qualities - used for dental procedures. By opting for the cheapest 'deal', patients may be shortchanging themselves in the long term.

Instead, patients should ask their dentists for details about the procedure and the materials being used, says Dr Wong. A dental component made in Germany will cost more than a similar one made in China, but the difference in quality, appearance and durability will tell in time.

Not daring to ask questions

Patients should also do their "homework" and find out how experienced and how well-trained is the dentist they are going to, recommends Dr Wong. For example, if one is getting a dental implant, it is important to know what kind of training the dentist has received - was it a weekend course, a one-year course, or a three-year course?

Dr Wong also suggests requesting to see examples of the dentist's work. This is particularly important if one is looking for an aesthetic dentist, as the skill of the dentist and the materials used will have significant impact on the outcome.

Not taking care of one's own natural teeth

While there are many teeth restoration services available nowadays, nothing beats one's natural set of teeth, says Dr Wong.

For example, natural teeth have a translucent quality about them that even the best veneers and crowns can never perfectly replicate. Hence, it is always better to preserve what one already has, rather than spend a large sum on restorative work when one's teeth are damaged by neglect and poor dental hygiene.

"The best way to achieve good oral hygiene is to adopt a regular daily holistic oral care regime," says Dr Goh. She says this consists of "regular and proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash".