Steve Price interviewer: Dr Larry’s with us every Monday night, he joins us again, good to speak with you.

Dr Larry Benge: How are you Steven?

Steve Price: Good, we got a bit confused last week and went off on a tangent about tourism, where people go offshore and have their teeth done which is good, you gave us some good advice to people – lets hope they listened! Lets go back to the basics though about your teeth and dentistry. Good idea for people as they head toward the end of the year to get their check ups and things. How do you actually know when you might need a filling? How would you tell? Pain? Or is it food getting stuck in your mouth? What is it?

Dr Larry Benge: Yeah look – a combination of both. You know dentistry is actually pretty interesting in terms of, you know, if you’ve got a decay in a tooth then you might not know what’s going on till all of a sudden you think, all of sudden there’s a huge hole in your tooth. What can happen, is think of it like a bit of concrete, where you get a bit of decay or a bit dirt washes out from under the concrete, then all of sudden you stand on it or your bite it and that bit of concrete just gives away. So all of a sudden one day you can have nothing, then there’s a huge hole, the next day and what’s actually been happening is the decay has been going on in an area where you can’t see until the enamel or the hard outside layer gets undermined and then just breaks away. So it can actually get fairly extensive without getting painful, that’s already one of the problems with dentistry, in terms of – you know, the pain doesn’t always present itself until it’s pretty late in the process. So that’s why it’s really efficient and really good to be having a check up because you can pick things up early.

Steve Price: I know I’ve been guilty of this myself and I’m sure plenty of people have. None of us really look forward to coming to see you, Larry – I’m sorry to tell you that, but it’s not something that we put in our calendar and look forward to.

Dr Larry Benge: It’s not as bad as it used to be!

Steve Price: No, I know. But still, you don’t want go if you can help it. You feel like your constantly getting a piece of food stuck in, what is obviously something that needs looking at and you put it off and you put it off, and you put it off. People all do that, don’t they?

Dr Larry Benge: Yep, absolutely and as you say people don’t look forward to it. But I can tell you if you do that regularly something is going to brew. So at some stage you’re going to be forced to have to go.

Steve Price: Yeah, you don’t want to leave it too long.

Dr Larry Benge: No exactly.

Steve Price: I used to gage it, as a 6 monthly visit to the dentist for a check up, is that about right?

Dr Larry Benge: Yeah I think so, particularly for children and kids in their early teenage years, very very important. As you get older, your mature years – you could stretch it out to yearly, you know particularly if your, you know very low caries or decay rate and your looking after your gums – you could string it out. But the recommended time is every 6 months to ensure that nothing is brewing. And remember that gum disease which is a huge problem in the community, really doesn’t cause any pain, until it gets to the terminal stage when you’re about to lose teeth.

Steve Price: Wow and that’s when you’ve left it far too long! So that comes to our next point, I mean how often should you be doing things like flossing and I mean brushing obviously – twice a day, when you get up and when you go to bed. That’s enough isn’t it?

Dr Larry Benge: Yep, exactly – absolutely. And flossing once a day would be fine as well. You know people find it hell of a chore you know, to do that and they think I never have time in my day to actually do it and the number of people I try and reinforce flossing, now remember if your brushing your teeth your not cleaning all the surfaces of the teeth. Your brush is not getting in between the teeth. So it’s that area in between the teeth where most of the decay actually happens – so your brush actually is not that efficient.

Steve Price: And you’d be staggered how much actually gets stuck in there, wouldn’t you?

Dr Larry Benge: Absolutely and particularly you know, when you might find you’ve all of a sudden your teeth a drifting a little bit or you get these gaps opening up between your teeth. So, every time you eat you get something in their, and your really obligated then to actually take it out and dental floss is probably the most efficient.

Steve Price: Any very dependent on the type of food your eating. I mean if you’re eating stringy meat for example the chances of it getting stuck in there are much greater than if you’re eating an apple.

Dr Larry Benge: Absolutely, very high – although you’ll find that apple gets caught in there as well. So it can be quite variable, I see a lot of people who have gum disease, or they’ve had gum disease and have it treated and then they are always coming in and saying “Oh Larry, I’m always getting food stuck between my teeth” and that’s just a consequence of losing some bone, losing a bit of gum around the tooth, that is a problem. So you’ve really got to get in there with dental floss or what we call interdental brushes, little tiny brushes, like little Christmas tree brushes.

Steve Price: Mmmm…I’ve got some of those – they work really well.

Dr Larry Benge: Really well, they can be if the gap is sometime a little bigger, those little brushes are even more efficient then the dental floss in actually cleaning it out.

Steve Price: I reckon they are fantastic those things.

Dr Larry Benge: Yep

Steve Price: If you go to your dentist you should ask for those and they give you a little pack of them, they are not expensive and they work really well, don’t they?

Dr Larry Benge: Exactly

Steve Price: For your children, how much should you limit the amount of soft drink they should drink? For example, or, is fruit juice just as bad?

Dr Larry Benge: Well, two different types. You know fruit juice being acidic type of, you know, orange juice, lemon juice, not many people drink lemon juice but that sort of thing can be corrosive to teeth. Where as the sugar you know, equally is a problem because of the bacteria in the mouth uses the sugar and that’s where the decay comes from. So you really need to limit the amount of sugary sort of food and drinks that one has. You know, often those cordials, Ribena, you know those sorts of things are very high in sugar. They are very popular with kids but you really need to be either washing your mouth with some water, rinsing out after you’ve had that. That then will then alleviate a little bit of the problem. Although there is some argument that if you have the acid against your tooth for a period of time you should not actually brush your teeth too quickly straight afterwards because the acid sitting against the tooth can be quite abrasive so the best thing is, is just rinse your mouth out. You know particularly with the footballers, you take a lot of Gatorade, those sorts of, you know sports drinks. We always get them to chase it with water after they’ve had the drinks.

Steve Price: It’s interesting isn’t it, given how expensive denture procedures can be – people don’t spend enough time thinking about it.

Dr Larry Benge: Yes exactly.

Steve Price: You only think about it when you get the bill and you go oh my god!

Dr Larry Benge: Exactly, the cost, I would say the average cost in Australia of having a check up is very very reasonable! You know, very reasonable because the health funds really do take care a lot of the expense so, you know, people complain about it, the big bills they get, the big bills only come, only come, if you haven’t looked after your teeth. So if you’re actually putting in the hard work and going 6 monthly, having a check up, you’re really going to save a lot of money over your lifetime.

Steve Price: Exactly right, great to catch up with you as usual, talk to you next week.

Dr Larry Benge: Thanks Steve.