Dumfries & Galloway Health & Social Care

Oral and Dental Health: Taking Care of Your Smile

Welcome to the Oral and Dental Health page, dedicated to providing essential information and guidance on maintaining a healthy smile. Amid the current shortage of NHS dentists within our region, we understand the challenges faced by people seeking dental care. This page aims to support you by offering practical advice, tips, and resources to maintain your oral health until you can access professional dental services. It is always recommended to register with a dentist and have your mouth checked regularly. However, with the current access challenges this page presents helpful information on how you can look after your teeth.

Maintaining Oral Health

1. Brushing and Flossing Techniques

Proper oral hygiene is vital for preventing dental problems. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth at least twice a day. Learn the correct brushing and flossing techniques to effectively remove plaque, reduce the risk of cavities, and maintain healthy gums. Remember to replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

2. Healthy Eating Habits

A balanced diet is essential for healthy teeth and gums. Limit sugary and acidic foods and beverages, as they can contribute to tooth decay. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your diet. Drinking fluoridated water can also help protect your teeth.

3, Avoiding Tobacco and Alcohol

Tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can have severe detrimental effects on oral health. Smoking increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer – for more information visit https://www.dentalhealth.org/smoking-and-oral-health Explore resources and support to quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption. Your overall dental well-being will greatly benefit from these positive lifestyle changes.

Recognising Dental Problems

1. Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, also known as cavities or dental caries, can cause tooth sensitivity, pain, and visible pits or holes in your teeth. Be mindful of persistent toothache, increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods, and visible discolouration.

2. Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, affects the tissues supporting the teeth. Look out for symptoms such as swollen, red, or bleeding gums, persistent bad breath, receding gums, and loose teeth. For more information, watch these videos: 1. What is gum disease? 2. How can I keep my gums healthy? 3. What about brushing my teeth? 4. What about inflamed gums? 5. What about receding gums? 6. Is bad breath a sign of gum disease?

3. Oral Infections

Oral infections, such as abscesses, can cause severe pain, swelling, and localised infection. If you experience persistent toothache accompanied by facial swelling, fever, or difficulty swallowing, it may indicate an oral infection. Seek urgent dental care or consult a healthcare professional immediately.

Be Mouth Aware

Check your own mouth regularly and visit a dentist or doctor if you notice any changes such as lumps, red and white patches or mouth ulcers which do not heal in three weeks. https://www.dentalhealth.org/mouth-cancer

Dental Emergencies

1. Severe Toothache

If you have a severe toothache that persists beyond normal measures like rinsing with warm saltwater or over-the-counter pain relief, it may indicate an underlying dental issue. Contact a dental professional for an emergency appointment.

You should call your registered dentist if you have one. If you are not registered with a dentist, call the Dental Helpline on Monday to Friday between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm  on 01387 245532 At all other times, or if you cannot reach your registered dentist, call NHS 24 on 111.

2. Broken or Knocked-out Teeth

In the case of a broken or knocked-out tooth, handle it carefully by the crown (top part) without touching the root. Rinse the tooth with milk or saline solution if it’s dirty, and try to place it back into the socket if possible. If you can’t reinsert the tooth, store it in milk or saliva and seek immediate dental care. You should call your registered dentist if you have one. If you are not registered with a dentist, call the Dental Helpline on Monday to Friday between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm on 01387 245532.  At all other times, or if you cannot reach your registered dentist, call NHS 24 on 111. For more information, click here: NHS Inform – broken or knocked-out tooth or click this link: Dental Trauma UK self-help video

3. Uncontrolled bleeding

It’s important to seek professional dental care immediately, but an initial step can include applying gentle pressure using a piece of gauze or a clean cloth, and maintaining this pressure for at least 10-15 minutes, avoiding continuously checking the area as it may disrupt the clotting process. If there is swelling or pain, apply a cold compress to the affected area to alleviate discomfort and reduce swelling. Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean cloth and hold it against the outside of your cheek for short intervals. Refrain from consuming hot or spicy foods, as well as acidic or carbonated beverages, which can further irritate the bleeding site. Seek immediate dental care if the bleeding does not stop.

4. Pain Relief 

Avoid stimuli that precipitate or worsen the pain such as hot or cold foods or cold air. Holding cooled water or crushed ice around the tooth can help some types of dental pain. Severe pain from the mouth or teeth sometimes feels worse when lying flat; therefore, try lying propped up as this might ease the pain. Use painkillers that have successfully provided pain relief for you in the past without adverse effects. For moderate or severe pain refer to dosage advice. Avoid taking aspirin as a painkiller if there is bleeding. Always stick to the recommended dose on the label or leaflet when taking pain relief. If you think you’ve taken more than the recommended maximum dose, phone 111.

Additional Resources

1. NHS Inform: Dental Services

Visit the NHS Inform website for national information on dental services. You’ll find information on registering with a dentist, dental treatment costs, NHS dental treatments and preventative actions. www.nhsinform.scot

2. Oral Health Foundation

The Oral Health Foundation provides a wealth of resources, including guides, fact sheets, and videos, covering various aspects of oral and dental health. Explore their website to access reliable information and tips for maintaining good oral hygiene. https://www.dentalhealth.org/

3. British Dental Association (BDA)

The British Dental Association offers comprehensive advice on oral health, dental care, and finding an NHS dentist. Visit their website for guidance on dental emergencies, oral health tips, and information on common dental procedures. https://bda.org/

4. Public Dental Service

If you are not registered with an NHS dentist and have a dental emergency, help can be provided by the local Public Dental Service. Call the NHS DG Dental Helpline on 01387 245532 for assistance between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm Monday to Friday. At all other times call NHS 24 on 111.

Remember, prevention is key!

By maintaining good oral hygiene and staying informed, you can promote a healthy smile and overall well-being.

For any urgent concerns or specific dental queries, please consult a dental professional directly.