Skip to content

Importance of oral health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights the importance of oral health as a key indicator of overall health, well-being and quality of life. With most oral health conditions largely preventable, dental assisting, dental therapy and oral hygienists have a crucial role to play, especially in the prevention and treatment of these conditions. The Dental Assisting, Dental Therapy and Oral Hygiene Professional Board (DOH) advise practitioners to stay up to date on the following developments in their field of practice.

Know your mouth rinse benefits

Mouth rinses are not a replacement for daily brushing and flossing. There are two types of mouth rinses: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic rinses may temporarily control bad breath and provide a pleasant taste. If a product doesn’t kill bacteria associated with bad breath, then its benefit is considered to be solely cosmetic, such as a fresh and great smelling breath. Therapeutic mouthwash, by contrast, has active ingredients intended to eliminate bacteria causing bad breath, gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay. 

Check your caries risk 

The WHO lists dental caries (also known as tooth decay) as the most common non-communicable disease worldwide. Severe dental caries impacts general health, often accompanied by pain and infection, sometimes leading to tooth extraction. The WHO points out the expensive nature of the treatment of dental caries in addition to being among the main reasons for hospitalization of children in some countries.

The DOH advises practitioners to acquaint themselves with the risk indications of dental caries:

Brushing once a day or less without further fluoride supplements
None or irregular access to dental care
Daily between-meal exposures of sugar-containing / caries-producing foods
Had a dental cavity in the last 12-24 months
Presence of dental caries
Visible plaque and inflamed gums
Special care needs that impacts cooperation or motor coordination
Presence of braces or other an orthodontic appliance
Any condition that impairs the salivary flow
Parent, siblings have caries
Mid to low-level income earner

Removing the risk indicator can change the level of caries risk.

Oral diseases

Oral diseases pose a major health burden and affect people throughout their lifetime. These diseases share common risk factors with other major non-communicable diseases. Factors contributing to oral diseases are an unhealthy diet high in sugar, use of tobacco and harmful use of alcohol. Most oral health diseases and conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages. These fall within the scope of practice of dental therapists and oral hygienists, with the assistance of dental assistants.

Last Updated on 3 September 2020 by HPCSA Corporate Affairs