Your smile is someone’s first clue about you and your health – and that’s why taking care of oral health is important. Not everyone is born with perfect, white teeth, but with good dental hygiene, you won’t need to worry about oral health issues like cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and more.
While most of us are familiar with how to brush our teeth (here’s a refresher to see if you’re doing it right), our knowledge of orthodontics and wisdom teeth are a bit hazier. So here’s a short overview of what you need to know about oral health.
Orthodontics (braces & teeth alignment)
The effects of straight, healthy teeth can trickle down to many areas of a person’s life. A good smile can help you with dating, career prospects, self-confidence and overall success, just to name a few.
Even if it wasn’t for aesthetics, proper teeth alignment is vital to oral health because teeth that are crooked or unevenly spaced can lead to problems like tooth decay and gum disease since food can get easily trapped between the teeth which leads to plaque formation and receding gumline.
While people can start wearing braces from as early as 7-8 years or well into their working adult life, most people choose to start wearing them during their teenage years, since their head and mouth are still growing. Orthodontic care during the teenage years is generally for teeth straightening to ensure that there’s enough space for all the teeth to sit comfortably in the mouth, and would require you to wear them for 12-24 months.
You’ve probably seen a lot of your classmates sporting a variety of braces, including:
Traditional metal braces (from $3,200) are the cheapest and most durable option, where stainless steel brackets are “glued” to the teeth’s external surface, connected to each other via an archwire that’s held in place by elastic bands. The braces exert pressure on the teeth to shift them into new positions.
Ceramic braces (from $4,300), recommended for upper teeth, are tooth-coloured braces affixed to the teeth’s outer surface. They’re less hardy and take a longer time to shift the teeth.
Self-ligating braces (from $4,500), in either metal or ceramic, are “second gen” braces that can slide back and forth on their own, with fewer manual adjustments required by the dentist. They produce faster results and are more comfortable than traditional metal ones.
Invisible lingual braces (from $8,000) work like metal braces except that they are custom-fitted to the back of the teeth instead of the front, and it looks invisible. However, they may affect your speech (gives you tongue ulcers too) and are harder to clean.
Invisalign (from $4,200) is the most aesthetically pleasing, as the (clear plastic) aligners are invisible and removable when eating or brushing. They’re not suitable for severely misaligned teeth, and require changing between 18 and 30 aligners in all.
After you’re done with braces, you’ll need to wear retainers for 6-12 months to keep your newly set teeth in place, since your teeth can still move (especially in the first month).
When to remove Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth won’t make you smarter (duh) but what you decide to do with those molars can impact your oral health. You get two on top and two on the bottom at the very back of your mouth as part of a complete set of 32 adult teeth. If you’re feeling pain or discomfort in your jaw, it may be your wisdom tooth erupting.
They’re also the most problematic teeth for most people, because it’s not often that wisdom teeth grow in straight, and erupt normally through the gums without impacting other teeth. Even so, they may sometimes get infected.
A top reason for wisdom tooth removal is impaction, when the tooth may be trapped inside gums or emerge partially, or if it grows in unusual angles. If it affects the nerves of neighbouring teeth or when infected by bacteria trapped by overlying gums, it can be painful and may lead to tooth decay, inflammation, cavities or cysts down the road.
In most cases, a wisdom tooth is extracted in a routine procedure, between 15-45 minutes. The dentist will first loosen the tooth with a tool called an elevator, then pull the tooth with dental forceps, which look like pliers. You’ll be fine within a few hours after the procedure.
If the tooth is impacted or difficult to extract, wisdom tooth surgery is performed, either under local anaesthesia or general anaesthesia. Typically, it takes about 3-5 days to recover from a wisdom tooth surgery with a clinical review about 5–7 days after the surgery when your stitches will be removed (unless it’s dissolvable stitches).
For a safer and quicker recovery, wisdom teeth removal is best performed on teenage and young adults (in early 20s) before the wisdom teeth grow full-sized roots and before the jaw bone becomes too dense.
March 20 is World Oral Health Day
In conjunction with World Oral Health Day (March 20), National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) is holding an annual online public forum via Zoom on Mar 19 (9.30am) to share oral healthcare insights, including developments in orthodontics (braces) and wisdom tooth removal. There will be two Question & Answer sections where you can ask questions during the webinar.
Registration is open from now till 18 March 2022. Click here to register.