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Saliva and your overall health

Saliva, as many of us know, is the ‘wet stuff’ in your mouth. It’s made in the salivary glands in your neck and cheek and secreted into your mouth. You might not think about it very much, if at all, but it’s truly awesome stuff and life without it is pretty difficult.

Saliva acts as a lubricant to help us to chew, enjoy and swallow food. After the food is swallowed it starts to clean the mouth. When we eat and chew the glands produce more saliva to do this.

In addition to helping us eat, saliva has a buffering capacity. Meaning that if conditions in the mouth become too acidic or alkaline it brings everything back to normal. This is very important to prevent lots of tooth decay. It also contains enzymes that start the digestive process, plus proteins and minerals that further protect against decay, gum disease and bad breath.

So you can see that life without saliva is not great. Unfortunately, having a decreased salivary flow is quite common. This can be due to illness such as disorders of the salivary glands, or systemic diseases such as Sjogren's syndrome or Parkinson’s disease. It’s also a side effect of many common medications including those prescribed for things like high blood pressure, anxiety or depression. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause a dry mouth and more commonly smoking and dehydration. We also have a decreased salivary flow when we are asleep.

When the saliva flow is decreased it can be quite uncomfortable. In addition we are more susceptible to oral health problems such as dental decay, gum disease and bad breath.

If you have a decreased salivary flow for any reason it is important to take action. Make sure you drink plenty of water so you don’t get dehydrated, quit smoking if you can, and see your doctor in case there’s an underlying illness or whether dry mouth causing medication can be changed.

It can also be helpful to chew some sugar free gum (chewing stimulates salivary flow). Artificial saliva as a liquid or spray can be sold over the counter at the pharmacy.

If you have a dry mouth it is very important to visit the dentist regularly as you are much more prone to dental disease. Your dentist or hygienist can give you further advice about how to manage the dry mouth and also treat any dental disease early.

Lurking Below The Gum Line: What You Need To Know About Gum Disease

By Dr Tonya Kirk

Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss. With the vast majority of adults suffering from some form of gum disease, it is vital to get diagnosed and treated by a dental professional before the condition worsens. 

Gum disease is caused by plaque — a sticky, colourless film of bacteria that sticks to the surfaces of the teeth and other oral tissues. A common place for plaque to form is where the gum meets the tooth. This is called the ‘gingival crevice.’

Because plaque is made up of bacteria, when the immune system senses plaque, it mounts a response to it. This is known as the ‘inflammatory response.’ 


Inflamed gums are often red and shiny in appearance and bleed more easily than usual. A common sign of early gum disease are gums which bleed during tooth brushing.

Although the inflammation is caused by the presence of plaque, the inflammatory response can vary greatly from person to person and at different times during life. Some people do a meticulous job of cleaning and flossing their teeth, but still get inflammation. 

Inflammation can sometimes be hormonally related, such as during pregnancy. Many pregnant women find they have bleeding gums. Very occasionally, bleeding gums can be related to more complex medical problems such as anaemia or leukaemia.

The problem with having inflamed gums is that in some people, the bone around the teeth responds to the inflammation by trying to get away from it. This can cause bone loss which can lead to the tooth developing a severe infection, or even worse, falling out. 

The other problem is that this advanced gum disease – known as ‘periodontitis’ – is also being more widely linked to chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. 

The thing to remember is that gum diseases affect every individual differently, and can also affect the same individual differently at different times of their lives.

By ensuring you get your teeth and gums checked regularly by a dental professional, means that any problems can be picked up on early.  A tailored treatment plan can be established before you have to worry about ‘periodontitis’ and the long term implications it could have on your oral health and overall wellbeing.

Tips To Protect Against Gum Disease

  • Brush thoroughly twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. 
  • Floss at least once a day. Make sure the floss cusps the tooth in a ‘C’ shape and goes underneath the gum-line, not just between the teeth. Next time you go to the dentist, check you have the right technique.
  • If you struggle with flossing, talk to your dental professional about other options that could be suitable for you. These include interdental brushes or water-flossers.
  • Regular dental check-ups every six months will help identify any issues and will allow for early intervention.

For more information, or to book an appointment, call (03) 5674 2691. Alternatively, drop into our friendly clinic at 2a High Street, Inverloch, or visiwww.inverlochfamilydental.com.au

Looking After Teeth In Old Age

By Dr Tonya Kirk

When suggesting an advanced dental treatment such as crowns, bridges or implants to patients in their 70s or even 60s, I am often met with the response that “it hardly seems worth it– my teeth do not need to last much longer.”

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Life expectancy in Australia has improved dramatically. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the average life expectancy in this country is now 82 years. 

With increased life expectancy, the challenge for healthcare professionals is to ensure that these golden years are spent in a comfortable and enjoyable way. 

This includes having the freedom to eat anything we want to eat, for as long as possible. This is important, both as a social and enjoyable pastime, but also to ensure adequate nutrition to keep our bodies healthy and strong for as long as possible.

With increased age, many people take prescription medications which can sometimes cause a decrease in salivary flow. Saliva is important in keeping gums and teeth healthy, by reducing the levels of acid in your mouth which can cause decay.

Also as we age, so do the fillings and other restorations that were put into them years ago.

If you are in your 60s or 70s and still have many of your own teeth, regular dental care with thoughtfully planned treatment, could see you enjoying life and eating healthily for another twenty or thirty years.

Quick Tips To Keep Ageing Teeth Healthy:

  • Be sure to visit the dentist for regular check-ups and a thorough clean. This will help identify any issues early on and prevent future issues from occurring. 
  • Drink plenty of water. This will help keep your teeth healthy by diluting acids in the mouth and remove any lingering food particles between meals.
  • Maintain regular flossing and brushing, twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste.


For more information or to book an appointment, call (03) 5674 2691. Alternatively, drop into our friendly clinic at 2a High Street, Inverloch, or visiwww.inverlochfamilydental.com.au

Pirate Teeth and Princess Crowns - A New Approach to Treating Decay in Baby Teeth

By Dr Tonya Kirk

Treating decay in deciduous or ‘baby teeth’ can be a challenge for dentists.

The traditional way to treat decay in a tooth is to drill out all the affected tissue and then fill the hole with some sort of filling material.

This method works well in permanent teeth, but is often not successful in treating decay in baby teeth.

Part of the reason for this is the ‘pulp’ in baby teeth (the red, squidgy tissue in the middle of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels) is closer to the surface compared to adult teeth. This means that baby teeth are more likely to be damaged by drilling, which can lead to infection. Along with this, many small children do not like having their teeth drilled, and with the procedure sometimes requiring a local anaesthetic injection, this can cause further distress.

 Back in the 1990s, a dentist called Norna Hall was working in a community in the Highlands of Scotland where many of the children were suffering from decay. She was eager to find a way to treat these cavities quickly, effectively and with minimum discomfort to the child. Hall pioneered a treatment using a preformed crown made of stainless steel, and cemented them to the teeth in the hope that by sealing off the decay, it would be halted from progressing further. It seemed to work.

Clinical trials by researchers from the University of Dundee, confirmed the method was both safe and effective in treating decay in baby teeth. The "Hall Crown" technique was developed and became widely used throughout the UK and Europe. 

The technique is now becoming more frequently used in Australia and worldwide.

 It is certainly not the treatment for every hole in every patient in every tooth, but it is proving to be a great way to treat decay without the need for drilling or needles.

For more information or to book an appointment, call (03) 5674 2691. Alternately, drop into our friendly clinic at 2a High Street, Inverloch, or visit www.inverlochfamilydental.com.au

Beautiful Smiles Begin Early: Dental Care For Babies

By Dr Tonya Kirk

I am often asked by people, "what is the best age for my child to start seeing the dentist?"

My answer is always: it is never too soon!

The Australian Dental Association currently advises that babies should have their first dental visit as soon as the first tooth is cut.

Early dental visits ensure that everything is developing as it should, and also provide useful advice to parents and guardians about how to best protect babies’ teeth against decay. At these visits, the dentist will examine baby quickly- usually in the comfort of their parent’s knee, with an emphasis on preventative advice.

The most common form of dental decay found in very young children is known as ‘nursing caries’. These nursing caries occur when the teeth are being consistently bathed in milk, formula or other drinks- particularly when a bottle is being used as a pacifier. 

Tooth decay is caused when the bacteria in our mouth turn sugars into acids by fermentation. Some sugars such as sucrose are turned into acid very quickly. Drinks containing these sugars (such as soft drinks, cordials and fruit juices) should never be given to small children, and definitely never in a nursing bottle.

The sugar present in milk and formula is known as lactose. Lactose is fermented by oral bacteria a lot more slowly than other sugars and is generally far less harmful to the teeth. However, if the bottle is being used as a comforter and the milk is in contact with the teeth for prolonged periods of time, dental decay can occur. Even human breast milk can cause dental decay if baby is suckling for prolonged periods, especially overnight.

All babies and toddlers love to suck on things, and doing so is important psychologically for them. However, if the need for sucking is met with a bottle containing milk or other fluids, the sugar can lead to tooth decay.

For this reason, it is far better to use a dummy as a pacifier (or baby might use his fingers or a thumb) and keep the bottle or breast-milk just for nutrition at mealtimes. It is perfectly normal for babies and young children to want to use sucking to pacify until the age of about four and until this time, there is no need to worry about pacifier use.

Quick Tips To Keep Baby’s Teeth Healthy:

  • Use the bottle as a means of feeding the baby at mealtimes only - move on to a sippy-cup as soon as baby can manage.
  • Avoid allowing baby to suckle on breast-milk for prolonged periods overnight
  • Stick to infant formula, milk or water in a bottle- avoid sugary juices.
  • Visit your dentist as soon as the first tooth comes through for advice about diet, effective cleaning and to pick up any problems early.

For more information or to book an appointment call (03) 5674 2691 , drop in at our friendly clinic at 2a High Street, Inverloch or visit www.inverlochfamilydental.com.au

Regular dental check ups a ‘no brainer’ for the Andersons

As a busy mother of three, Inverloch’s Trina Anderson is all smiles when it comes to her family’s next trip to the dentist. 

Since discovering Medicare’s Child Dental Benefits Schedule – a generous government dental grant for eligible children - Trina’s three kids have become regulars at Inverloch Family Dental.

And believe it or not, Froley, 8, Zeb, 6 and Dae, 3 are “almost excited” about going in for their next check up.

“From the first time we came to Inverloch Family Dental a few years ago, we found the staff extremely friendly and
very relatable for the kids,” Trina said.

“They make it a relaxing and joyful experience, rather than the ‘daunting’ dentist visit that people can often think about.”

All of the Anderson family’s check-up costs, including X-rays and thorough examinations, have been covered by the Child Dental Benefits Schedule – a government benefit that allocates $1000 worth of treatment to every
eligible child between 2 and 17 over a two year period.

“All up the CDBS has covered us for more than a thousand dollars worth of treatment, so it’s been an absolute no-brainer. If you’ve got kids, you’d be crazy not to make the most of it,” Trina said. 

Inverloch Family Dental’s dental assistant
Hannah Gray and Dr Dianne Jung catch up with
Froley, 8, Zeb, 6 and Dae, 3, during a friendly
visit to the clinic last week.

Trina implored other parents to take advantage of the CDBS at Inverloch Family Dental’s clinic, specially designed for child check-ups and treatments, including examinations, cleaning, extractions, X-rays and fillings.

“I think some people hear about ‘special offers’ and can think of them as a bit of a scam, as if it’s too good to be true.

But the CDBS is excellent, it’s been such a great way to ensure we're on top of our kids’ dental health.”As a local business owner of Invisage Blinds in Inverloch, Trina said it was fantastic to have convenient access to
quality dental services on her doorstep in South Gippsland.

“It’s been super convenient for us, the staff have always been accommodating in booking after school visits, there’s definitely a great relationship going on between us and the clinic staff,” Trina said.

“As a parent that makes me feel relaxed, it’s not a chore that you dread popping up in your schedule. They make it such an easy thing to work into your life and you know you’re doing the right thing for your kids.”

“It’s become very familiar there now. The staff know all our kids’ names and it’s something that they look forward to; they see it as excitement rather than something that they ‘have to do’”.

It’s a view shared by the Inverloch Family Dental team, who cherish the opportunity to watch young families grow over the years through their recommended 6 monthly checkup visits.

Trina said toys, ceiling televisions and kids gift bags were just of a few of the other ways the team at Inverloch Family Dental made children of all ages feel welcome.

“The clinic and all the equipment is very new and clean, it’s the perfect mix of professional medical service and that welcoming community feeling coming together, so it’s a really good fit for our family.”

Inverloch Family Dental will be celebrating its fourth year of trading next to the Post Office on May 1st.

For more information or to book an appointment call (03) 5674 2691, drop in at our friendly clinic at 2a High Street, Inverloch or visit www.inverlochfamilydental.com.au

$700 in dental care goes a long way for your child

Get your family off to a smiling start in 2017 with $700 in dental care for every eligible child at Inverloch Family Dental, thanks to an extension to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.

The popular rebate scheme, delivered by Medicare, has been extended at a reduced rate, which means eligible children between the ages of 2 to 17 can receive up to $700 worth of dental treatments over two years.

Inverloch Family Dental practice director Taehee Lee said the CDBS extension would be extremely welcome news for South Gippsland familes, as the scheme had been well utilised since it first launched in 2014.

Dr Lee said families could come to Inverloch Family Dental’s clinic specially designed for children for all CDBS check-ups and treatments, including examinations, cleaning, extractions, X-rays and fillings.

At Inverloch Family Dental we want to a trip to the dentist for your child to be as positive an experience as possible. That’s why we’ve had our clinic specially designed for children, to provide the most comfortable environment possible,” Dr Lee said.

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule gives parents a great opportunity to seek and obtain the dental treatments their children need.

 “The current Government has recognised the community benefit in keeping this valuable service going, so we strongly encourage people to keep their children's examinations regular and ensure they make the most of the service.”

The current CDBS funding extension replaces all existing funding allocations that expired at the end of 2016. Dr Lee advised families to plan the frequency of their denal check ups to ensure they made the most of the fresh $700 entitlement.

“Our clinic is authorised to check a patient’s CDBS balances and eligibility, and offer top quality dental care without any out-of-pocket cost,” Dr Lee said.

“And for those families who are not eligible for the CDBS, we have a great range of special family rates on check-ups, cleans and other services at our friendly expert clinic.” 

For all CDBS or family related appointments, or for more information, visit the clinic at 2a High Street Inverloch – just behind the post office.  

Call (03) 5674 2691 for more information.

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