Oral health often last in the queue when caring for your health

In a statement released to mark Oral Health Month, prominent healthcare service provider Netcare Medicross has placed the often underestimated significance of oral health in the broader spectrum of healthcare under the spotlight.

Dr Oelie van Schalkwyk, dental director of Netcare Medicross, emphasised that oral health tends to take a back seat in people’s healthcare priorities, with most individuals only seeking dental care when problems arise. 

“Contrary to common belief, no dental prosthesis, no matter how advanced, can match the long-term benefits of well-preserved and properly cared-for natural teeth. Healthy teeth, maintained through a simple and disciplined oral care routine, contribute significantly to overall wellness.”

Cautioning about the potential consequences of neglecting oral health, he noted that the impact of such neglect often only becomes apparent at a later stage when extensive and costly interventions to restore oral functionality become necessary. “The financial burden of these interventions can be overwhelming and prohibitive for many, leading to irreversible degeneration and premature loss of teeth and associated structures”.

Noteworthy statistics from the World Health Organization reveal that over 3.5 billion people globally suffer from oral diseases, surpassing major non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disorders, mental health issues and chronic respiratory conditions combined by over a billion cases.

Beyond being necessary for eating, speaking and breathing, good oral health also has a scientifically proven link to general medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. “A vibrant smile and healthy mouth furthermore play pivotal roles in enhancing personal well-being, boosting confidence and reducing the risk of social isolation,” he points out.

Dr Van Schalkwyk highlighted the importance of regular dental check-ups, recommending visits every six months for thorough examinations and preventive treatments. “These visits aid in early detection and timely management of issues like dental decay and gum disease, curbing the need for extensive and costly procedures down the line and prolonging tooth longevity.”

Regarding dental care for children, he stressed that establishing early dental care habits is crucial. “Children should ideally have their first dental visit by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth showing. This initial visit offers parents guidance on proper oral care techniques and sets the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits. Early exposure to dental care minimises anxiety and cultivates stress-free dental visits as children grow,” he noted.

Fluoride treatments, fissure sealants and guidance on breaking detrimental habits are among the preventive measures that can be tailored to different age groups. 

Dr Van Schalkwyk has urged the public to prioritise dental care for both themselves and their children. “Leading by example in oral hygiene practices will empower children to maintain proper oral care throughout their lives, steering clear of issues like tooth decay, receding gums, abscesses and gingivitis.

“Netcare Medicross encourages the public to schedule dental appointments promptly. It’s never too late to care for your teeth, although prevention always triumphs over cure,” he concluded.

Netcare appointmed™ will make appointments for YOU with specialists practising at Netcare hospitals, GPs and dentists at Medicross medical and dental centres, and specialists at Akeso mental health facilities. Simply request an appointment online at www.netcare.co.za/Request-a-medical-appointment or phone Netcare appointmed™ on 0860 555 565, Mondays to Fridays between 08h00 and 17h00.

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