World Oral Health Day: Keeping your teeth for life

20 March 2019

There are a lot of assumptions we make as we get older - we’ll put on weight, we’ll forget why we walked into a room two seconds after arriving there, and we will lose all our teeth.

Not so fast, says the ADA, which is using World Oral Health Day today, an initiative of the FDI World Dental Federation, to remind people that you should see retaining all your teeth for life as a standard part of ageing. 

It’s not an unreasonable thing to expect with figures showing that increasing numbers of Australians are keeping their teeth for longer, a trend bolstered by increasing awareness of the importance of good oral health habits such as brushing and flossing, eating healthily, decreasing use of tobacco and alcohol and regular visits to the dentist.

The message from ADA President, Dr Carmelo Bonnano is that it’s never too late to act on World Oral Health Day’s theme of Say Ahh…Act on Mouth Health, especially when teeth are, on average sticking around for much longer.

"Many people attend the dentist with their teeth in a poor state and think there is nothing they can do. But it’s never too late to take that first step. With a national ageing population, maintaining good oral health has never been so important with people needing to keep their teeth longer as they continue to live longer. Australians should not consider tooth loss to be a natural part of getting older.”

It’s also, it should be added, never too early to start on a good oral health program with research showing that poor oral health in childhood is the greatest predictor for dental disease in adulthood.

But awareness of what’s needed to keep teeth and gums healthy isn’t necessarily translating to good oral health across the board with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealing that Australian adults have an average of 4.5 missing teeth and around 61% of people aged 75 or over have moderate or severe periodontitis.

This is a serious issue if you to keep your teeth as Dr Bonnano goes on to explain.

"Adults are keeping more of their teeth but as a result rates of gum disease are rising, and the risk increases with age. Poor oral hygiene contributes to all stages of gum disease and if left untreated, severe gum disease can result in tooth loss."

That this is a serious problem in Australia was made clear last year on World Oral Health Day when the ADA, in partnership with the Australian Health Policy Collaboration, launched Australia’s Oral Health Tracker which sets targets for a reduction in the prevalence of all kinds of chronic health conditions including the prevalence of the oral health problems which can lead to tooth loss.

For pro tip video guides on flossing and brushing and starting down a proactive path to good oral health, visit Your Dental Health video resources