Category Archives: dentist

The everyday habits causing your tooth sensitivity

Jan_dental_sensitivity promo_no text.jpgEveryone knows how important it is to brush twice daily and floss for healthy teeth and gums. No doubt, your dentist reminds you at every six-monthly visit. But did you know that there are lots of things you can do to prevent the serious and growing problem of tooth erosion?

‘Your tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body and it is designed to protect the inside of your teeth’ says Dr Lincoln Law, dentist at the healthy teeth clinic in Surry Hills.

‘But acidic foods and drinks can damage the teeth by etching away at the thin layer of enamel. This leads to sensitivity and this can leave your pearly whites less than white,’ he adds.

Tooth sensitivity: why it happens

‘Teeth are made up from layers, the outer surface is enamel and when this is worn away, the dentine layer is exposed, which is a yellowy or off-white colour. Dentine has tiny holes in it and via these holes, hot and cold temperatures and even sweetness, and sour tastes can reach the nerves causing pain.’ Explains Dr Lincoln.

More and more people are being affected by sensitive teeth, a problem that can start early in life. Plus, if tooth erosion affects the adult teeth, the results are permanent because enamel doesn’t grow back!

It’s all about pH

‘Both acids and alkaline are measured via a system called pH and your mouth has a pH of around seven (a pH of one is very acidic and 14 is very alkaline). So seven is neutral because it’s right in the middle of the pH scale.

‘So, acidic drinks – such as cola which has a pH of around three – erodes enamel i.e. it dissolves the calcium salts in it. See for yourself – if you have a baby tooth to experiment with, drop it into a glass of cola and it will eventually dissolve. Foods such as pickles and vinegars, and drinks such as wine also etch away at your enamel,’ he says.

Enamel erosion can have other causes too, including:

  • Acid reflux – where acid from the stomach flows up the mouth causing the pain of heartburn). The acid usually affects the teeth at the back of the mouth.
  • Frequent vomiting – which can be caused by medicines and also the condition bulimia. This also erodes the back or chewing teeth.
  • Over-brushing or using abrasive toothpaste – both can wear down your precious enamel.
  • Physical wear and tear – including tooth-to-tooth grinding, which can lead to the gradual loss of enamel.

What you can do

‘Leave some time between eating acidic foods or consuming acidic drinks – including breakfast juices and tooth brushing. This is because the acid will have softened the enamel. And, brushing too soon can literally brush enamel away. So brush before food and rinse your mouth with water afterwards,’ Dr Lincoln advises.

Remember, it can take up to 30 minutes for the surface of a tooth to get back to normal pH after an acidic drink so wait at least this long before brushing.

 

Treatment

Sensitive teeth can be treated with high-strength fluoride toothpaste or remineralising pastes containing calcium and phosphate. If the damage is severe, though, you may need restorative dentistry.

Practical tips to protect your enamel

Don’t brush too soon after eating foods with acids in them (including pickles and ketchup) and drinks (such as juices and wine).

Eat fruits as part of a meal since chewing stimulates saliva, which is your body’s natural way to cleanse your mouth.

Avoid fizzy drinks, especially with screw caps to discourage sipping throughout the day. ‘If you want a fizzy drink, drink in one go and use a straw to reduce contact with the teeth. Rinse your mouth with water afterwards. Remember that juices and some alcoholic drinks including wine are also acidic and spirits with juices plus cider. Sparkling water has less of a damaging effect but still contains acid,’ advises Dr Lincoln.

See your GP if you are having problems with acid reflux.

See your dentist to check you haven’t cracked a tooth or filling that’s causing the sensitivity.

 

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Dr Lincoln Law, dentist at the healthy teeth clinic in Surry Hills

Got a bad breath problem? This could be why …

You probably won’t be surprised to know that a lot of people have a bad breath problem. But did you know bad breath is a chronic problem for one in four people[i]?

If you’re that one in four, it’s a problem for you – and possibly those around you. Learn about the gases that cause imperfect pongs and what you can do about them …

Bad breath affects most of us at some time or another – after a night’s sleep or after chomping on onions and garlic. But lingering smells need attention. Dr Lincoln Law who practices at the Healthy Teeth clinic in Surry Hills explains: ‘Bad breath is also known as halitosis or feta oris and it’s a pretty common reason for people coming into the clinic.’

Flagrant not fragrant

Research backs Dr Lincoln’s experience; it’s the third most common reason for seeking the help of a dentist after tooth decay and gum disease[ii].

As for the causes of less than fragrant breath? ‘Well, there can be many,’ explains Dr Lincoln.

‘Poor oral hygiene is the major cause of bad breath. It can happen when bits of food caught in your teeth start to break down. When mouth living bacteria eat these bits of food, they release noxious gases,’ says Dr Lincoln.

Anyone for bad eggs?

Scarily, these noxious gases include hydrogen sulphide (think rotten eggs), dimethyl sulphide (think rotten seaweed) and cadaverine and putrescine (the gases given off by decaying corpses) …

‘Lifestyle factors such as smoking also cause bad breath because of the tar and carbon that remain in the mouth. Smoking and alcohol consumption also dehydrate the body, which can cause dry mouth and can affect the quality of your breath.’

The food factor

Food is another factor that can cause bad breath. Take the popular paleo way of eating. ‘Severe dieting means that your body breaks down different nutrients and this can cause bad breath. Low carb and no carb diets can also do it.’

Dr Lincoln explains: ‘That’s because, when you cut the carbs and increase your protein intake, your body burns fat and this produces volatile compounds called ketones, which cause a particular kind of bad breath. Better dental hygiene can’t fix this one – it’s best to include a few low GI, healthy wholegrain foods in your diet. You can also try masking the smell with sugar-free gum.’

Feed bad bacteria

Most of the time, the cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. Pongs occur when bacteria eat the traces of food that remain between and on the teeth and gums, producing sulphur-containing gases.

Dr Lincoln says that, in his experience, people just need a little help to improve their oral hygiene – the best approach is with gentle but effective cleaning techniques for each individual.

‘Bacteria live in your mouth. They find homes in the crevices of the tongue, teeth and gums where they eat the food you eat and emit foul-smelling gases that cause odours. So removing bacteria and their waste through an effective cleaning regime can freshen your breath for a few hours,’ advises Dr Lincoln.

 Health conditions and halitosis

Serious illnesses – like bowel problems and pneumonia – as well as reflux problems, can cause bad breath. Medication can also be a trigger – including nitrates used to treat angina, some chemotherapy medications and certain tranquillisers, plus any kind of medicine that causes dry mouth.

Although medical problems need prompt medical treatment and you need to see your GP, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from bad breath. ‘Recent research suggests that one of the most effective ways to beat bad breath is based on bacteria,’ says Dr Lincoln.

Better bacteria

‘More and more research is showing that one of the most effective ways to treat bad breath is via probiotics (good bacteria). There are trillions of beneficial bacteria that live in and on your body that are vital to life and can help to reduce bad breath. So, many new treatments are likely to focus on increasing certain beneficial probiotics,’ he explains.

Probiotics work by forcing out the bad guys i.e. the bad bacteria which are potentially disease-causing microorganisms. Look for oral probiotics designed specifically to improve your dental health.

Feeding the good guys

‘Encouraging lots of prebiotics is important, too. Prebiotics – like wholegrains, pulses, veggies and fruits – are foods that nourish you and promote the growth of good bacteria. Yet another reason to enjoy a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits and healthy carbohydrates,’ explains Dr Lincoln.

Crunch time

‘Vegetables are an especially good choice because they are also rich in water and fibre – you could say they act like a dietary toothbrush. Drink lots of water and try to rinse your mouth with water after eating to help the natural mouth cleansing action of saliva,’ ends Dr Lincoln.

Of course, effective and regular cleaning is absolutely vital to maintain a healthy mouth. So don’t neglect regular check-ups with your dentist for a professional clean.

[i] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/166636.php

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12013345

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Dr Lincoln Law, dentist at the Healthy Teeth clinic in Surry Hills

Hormonal shifts that might hit you in the mouth

Hot flushes, sweats and mood swings – the middle years can be a challenging time for many women. And, although most people know about the effects on the body, menopause can also have a big impact on oral health.

To mark Dental Health Week (1-7 August 2016) which focuses on women and oral health this year, rt healthy teeth dentist, Dr Karlien Roper, shares some of the less well-known side effects of menopause.

Dr Karlien says, ‘Most people know that around the middle years, fluctuations in female hormones such as oestrogen can cause a range of problems before, during and around menopause. And, it’s well known that women can become more susceptible to bone problems such as osteoporosis and heart conditions during this time. But there are also a number of related oral health problems.’

Dry mouth

Dipping oestrogen levels affect the amount of water in the body since oestrogen plays a part in controlling fluid regulation[i]  – and that includes the fluid content of the mouth. Couple this with the fact that the body’s ability to conserve water naturally declines with age which means that it’s easier to get dehydrated.

Dehydration can contribute to:

  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay and gum problems (as oral bacteria produce acids that damage teeth and gums which saliva helps to wash away)
  • Altered taste perception and burning tongue (these could be due to the effects of oestrogen on the nerves that control taste perception).

What you can do

Drinking plenty of water may help keep your body – and your mouth hydrated. Sip some throughout the day – keep a glass or bottle with you. Drinking water after a meal also helps to cleanse the mouth, boosting the action of saliva. Watery foods such as vegetables and fruits are a good choice. But alcohol, advises Dr Karlien, is a natural dehydrator and can make dry mouth worse. So try to dilute alcoholic drinks with water and enjoy water or other non-alcoholic alternatives between alcoholic drinks. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating is also a good idea, as it triggers saliva flow helping to cleanse the mouth after eating.

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Dr Karlien adds: ‘Whatever the cause, if you feel your mouth is dry, see your dentist. Your dentist may refer you to a specialist to find out the cause as dry mouth and taste changes can be distressing. Reduced saliva production also means that oral problems can worsen because bacteria have more time and opportunity to stay in contact with the teeth, causing damage to both teeth and gums.’

Guidance for gums

Some conditions that affect the gums are more common in the years after menopause, again, because of fluctuating levels of hormones that directly affect the oral cavity[ii]. The majority of women – 60 per cent – experience periodontal (gum) problems[iii].

Signs of gum disease include:

  • Sensitive, soft or swollen gums
  • Receding gums
  • A change in colour of the gums
  • Gum pain
  • Bleeding gums.

 What you can do

‘Keep it clean!’ says Dr Karlien. ‘The cause of gum disease is the build-up of bacteria between the gums and teeth and this causes irritation, inflammation and bleeding (gingivitis). So, between-teeth cleaning is vital.’ Because the gums are the foundation for your teeth, a weak foundation could even lead to tooth loss.

‘Gingivitis is not a serious condition,’ continues Dr Karlien. ‘The problem is that it can progress to a more serious form of gum disease, periodontitis. This involves deeper infection and can result in potential tooth loss. Periodontitis is also linked with chronic (long-term) diseases such as heart disease[iv], as bacteria from infected gums pass through damaged gum tissue and enter the bloodstream causing heart problems. This is why it’s vital to keep teeth and gums as healthy as possible not just at home, but with professional dental health check-ups and treatment.’

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Hormones and bones

The risk of osteoporosis increases rapidly just after menopause and the jawbone, like other bones, can be affected. This is because oestrogen blocks the enzyme that causes bone breakdown[v].

What you can do

Get enough calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is the major mineral in bones and teeth while vitamin D is vital for the absorption of calcium. Foods such as cheese, broccoli and tofu are great sources of calcium and you can get enough vitamin D by going outside. This can help to prevent erosion but won’t be enough to restore bone loss. Your doctor may prescribe treatment to rebalance your hormone levels if you have severe bone loss.

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Tips to keep your teeth

Wear and tear is natural with age. And so, protecting your teeth is as vital ever. ‘Twice daily brushing and flossing are great home maintenance habits. But seeing your dentist for a professional clean and check-up are vital too. Small challenges can be picked up early by your dentist and effective treatments can keep you smiling for the long term,’ ends Dr Karlien Roper.

About the author

In her work at rt healthy teeth, Dr Karlien Roper enjoys the variety of services offered to her patients and also has a keen interest in cosmetic dentistry, facial aesthetics and endodontics. Married with two beautiful boys, Dr Karlien enjoys spending time with her family, cheering her family on at the sports fields, having a braai (South African barbecue) with friends and travelling.

Dr Karlien Roper
Dr Karlien Roper, Dentist at rt healthy teeth

[i]  PubMed – NCBI. Sex Hormone Effects on Body Fluid Regulation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2849969/

[ii] PubMed – NCBI. Menopause and oral health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195183/

[iii] PubMed – NCBI. Oral Health and Menopause: A Comprehensive Review on Current Knowledge and Associated Dental Management. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793432/

[iv] WebMD. Periodontal Disease and Heart Health. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/periodontal-disease-heart-health

[v] ScienceDaily. How Estrogen Protects Bones. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070323171448.htm

Whether training or at a tournament, why a mouthguard’s a must!

Being active is vital for physical health and it’s a whole lot of fun, too. But, whether it’s a kick about with friends or a competitive tournament, playing sports can be tough on your teeth.

We’re talking about chips and fractures to teeth, knocked out teeth, fractures to the jaw and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth. All of these can be avoided or minimised with the use of a suitable mouthguard.

Even though dentists and sports teachers recommend wearing them, only around one in three Australian children do so[i]. The result? Thousands of people are treated for dental injuries due to a fall or damage resulting from equipment or accidental collisions. About a third of injuries to teeth are sports-related according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), with children being most often affected – one in two kids experience some kind of dental injury[ii].

A good quality mouthguard is important because it absorbs and spreads the impact of a blow to the face. Some dentists suggest mouthguards are worn for non-contact sport, such as soccer and basketball as well as contact sports such as rugby. And, they’re not just important for game days – wearing a mouthguard during training is important since it helps children get used to wearing one while protecting their teeth.

cricket

So what exactly is a mouthguard? And what kind is the best kind for your kids and why?

Dentist made mouthguards

Custom made to accurately fit your child’s mouth, a dentist made mouthguard offers greater protection compared with off-the-shelf products; they are strongly recommended by the ADA. To make one, your dentist takes an impression of the teeth and a plaster model is made from this. For the perfect fit, the mouthguard should be around 4mm thick, with enough cushioning to protect against impact. The appliance needs to fit snugly but allow the wearer to talk.

A mouthguard is an important investment in your child’s health – if he or she has a dental injury, the pain and distress and the dental and/or hospital costs are likely to cost much more than the cost of a mouthguard.

mouthguard

Over-the-counter mouthguards

These boil-and-bite mouthguards are first placed into hot water before placing in the mouth. When teeth are closed over the material, the resulting impression is the shape and size of the mouth.

These mouthguards are less effective and not as comfortable as a custom made mouthguard since they won’t conform perfectly to an individual’s bite. Although cheaper than custom made mouthguards, the ADA says that over-the-counter mouthguards don’t provide enough protection and they recommend a custom mouthguard fitted by a dental professional.

Caring for your mouthguard

Your dentist will advise you to keep the mouthguard in a plastic container with vents to allow some air to reach it (oral bacteria which can cause plaque hate air and are destroyed by it). Keep it clean by washing it in warm soapy water and rinsing carefully. Antibacterial mouthwash can be used to give it a thorough disinfection. Heat can alter the shape of the mouthguard so try and keep it in a sports bag and don’t allow it to become overheated (which can happen if you keep it in the car between games and training).

Bring the mouthguard along to your six monthly dental visit so your dentist can help to keep it in good condition – or replace it if it has been damaged. And, if your child is still growing, he or she may need a new piece from time to time to accommodate growth – about every 12-18 months or so. If the mouthguard starts to feel uncomfortable, your child’s dentist can advise you.

The bottom line …

If your child is playing sport regularly, it’s important that you get them fitted with a good-quality mouthguard – then make sure that they actually wear it. This will protect their teeth long-term, potentially saving them many painful (and possibly expensive) visits to the dentist.

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Dr Karlien Roper, dentist at rt healthy teeth

[i] Australian Dental Association. About Mouthguards. http://www.mouthguardawareness.info/about-mouthguards.html

[ii] Australian Dental Association. There are easier ways to protect your child’s mouth from sports injury. http://www.ada.org.au/app_cmslib/media/lib/0803/m122630_v1_mouthguard%20poster%20a3.pdf

Healthy eats for stronger teeth

A lifetime of healthy smiles starts in childhood. So, as well as brushing twice daily, flossing and visiting the dentist, what you give your kids to eat can dramatically affect their tooth health – and their confidence, too.

A healthy diet isn’t just about limiting the amount of sugar you give them (although cutting down on sugar is better for everyone and has much wider health benefits).

Little tummies need regular feeding and healthy snacks can help to boost your child’s energy. So what are the best snacks to help your child smile?

Cheese and crackers/breadsticks

Hard cheese like Cheddar and soft cheese such as mozzarella are great for teeth because:

  1. They are rich in calcium, which is what teeth are made from. Immediately eating a small cube of cheese after a meal or a snack plugs the tiny holes in the enamel helping protect and build stronger teeth.
  2. The protein in cheese helps neutralise the acids from food and drinks, providing both protective and strengthening effects.
  3. The chewing action encourages the flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural cleanser.

cheddar cheese

Fruits – apples, pears, melon and more

Yes, they contain sugar and acids, but fruits are good for the teeth because they contain vitamin C, which helps to strengthen blood vessels that nourish cells with oxygen and food. Vitamin C is also vital for strengthening the connective tissue, which keeps the teeth in place. It also helps to protect gums and other tissues from cell damage and even bacterial infection. This vitamin also has an anti-inflammatory action.

Encourage fruit as part of a meal because the chewing action helps to stimulate saliva, the body’s way to wash food debris away. And offer a glass of water after they eat fruit to help wash away any acids.

Raisins

Dried fruit isn’t usually a tooth friendly snack because the drying process removes water, which concentrates the sugars. Plus the sticky texture means it can cling to the teeth for longer, providing plaque-producing bacteria plenty of time to feast on the sugar and produce acidic waste, which can damage delicate enamel.

We used to think that raisins were much like other dried fruit but recent research shows that raisins are a tooth healthy option.

Like other fruits, raisins contain protective phytochemicals, which are effective antioxidants. One of these found in raisins is called oleanolic (pronounced o-lee-an-o-lic) acid. This seems to reduce the growth of two species of oral bacteria, one that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans) and one that causes gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis)[i].

raisins

Legumes

Peas, beans and lentils also contain antioxidants that help boost the immune system that in turn helps the body fight bacteria and inflammation. Try hummus with strips of pita bread/breadsticks or veggie sticks.

Crisp veggies

Crunchy carrots and celery help to clean teeth, massage gums and freshen breath. They contain a lot of water, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain. And, because they need a lot of chewing, crisp veggies stimulate saliva flow (which helps protect against decay by washing away food particles and buffering against acids). Plus, the folate they contain helps to build healthy blood, which delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to every cell.

carrots and celery

Sandwiches

Made with fish, lean meat, hummus, egg or cheese, small sandwiches for tiny tummies are a great choice. Although small children often don’t like the strong taste of fish, canned fish like salmon is a great sandwich filling because it is rich in tooth building calcium. Opt for wholegrain bread because it contains fibre, which requires chewing. Remember children under five don’t need as much fibre as adults so stick with white bread sandwiches for them.

Milk – cow’s milk and soy milk

Cow’s milk is naturally rich in calcium as is soy milk, if it is processed with calcium. Although it’s a tooth friendly drink, always make the last drink of the day water, as milk contains the milk sugar, lactose. If allowed to stay in contact with the teeth for long periods, it provides food for plaque-producing bacteria, increasing the risk of tooth damage.

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Both are rich in minerals including zinc and magnesium. Zinc plays a key role in wound healing – including little wounds in the mouth. Plus, they contain magnesium, another mineral which works with calcium to build strong, protective enamel that can resist decay. Lack of magnesium could mean that teeth become softer and more susceptible to cavities.

pumpkin seeds

With all snacks, encourage your kids to wash them down with some water afterwards. Water helps to wash away food debris, stimulate saliva production and most water supplies in Australia have added fluoride to help harden the enamel and protect teeth, too.

Remember, children’s milk teeth are much more delicate than adult teeth – as well as being smaller, the layer of enamel is thinner so small children are especially at risk of decay and damage. And, if baby teeth are removed because of decay, there’s more risk that the adult teeth will grow into abnormal positions.

So help them snack smarter and enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

 

[i] WebMD. Raisins May Help Fight Cavities. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20050608/raisins-may-help-fight-cavities

 

Seven steps to protect your kids’ teeth

iStock_000014584757_NewBeing a parent is a massive learning curve and with so much conflicting advice around, it can be hard to know what’s right and who’s right. So, our rt healthy teeth Dentist, Dr Lincoln Law, shares his advice on protecting your kids’ teeth now and into the future.

1. Don’t feed the feeders. If you’re thinking about giving your child lollies, think again. ‘The trouble with lollies is that they stick to the teeth. This provides ongoing food for oral bacteria, which feed on the sugars. They then produce acidic waste, which can cause tooth decay,’ says Lincoln.

2. If they must have a treat, make sure they have it with a meal. When you chew, your mouth automatically produces saliva, which helps to kick-start the digestion of starches. Saliva also lubricates food for easier swallowing plus it helps to wash away food debris. This helps to clean the teeth and the mouth giving mouth bacteria less chance to eat food left behind.

3. Don’t brush immediately after eating. ‘This is especially so if your kids have been consuming acidic foods and drinks (like fruit juices and soft drinks),’ says Dr Law. ‘It’s important to wait for at least half an hour before brushing. This is because acids soften the enamel so if you get your kids to brush too quickly afterwards, they could literally be brushing the enamel away. So, get your kids brushing twice a day, before eating in the morning and before bed – preferably about an hour after the last meal or drink of the day (unless that drink is water).

4. Go with H2O. The natural way to quench thirst is with water, which has the added bonus of being sugar and acid free.

Happy child playing on green grass outdoors in spring park

Plus, most areas in Australia have fluoride added to the water supply, which helps to harden and protect kids’ and adults’ teeth.

5. Try sugar-free gum. If your kids are old enough, chewing sugar-free gum after eating sugary and/or acidic food and drink is a good idea. It stimulates the production of saliva, which helps to cleanse the mouth.

6. See them? Clean them. ‘It’s vital that you start looking after your kids’ teeth as soon as they appear. Milk teeth (baby teeth) for example, serve a long-term purpose – they hold the space in the jaw for the adult teeth to come through. And, if milk teeth are lost, there may not be enough space for the adult teeth, resulting in the need for orthodontic treatment. Early dental visits are also important to ensure that children don’t associate a visit to the dentist with fear. Plus, good teeth boost children’s self esteem. To clean your child’s teeth, use a child’s toothbrush (which is small enough to get to the back teeth) and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Remember, your kids don’t have the dexterity to clean their teeth until they can tie their shoelaces. They’ll need to be taught good oral health habits – so show them early on and lead by example,’ advises Lincoln Law.

7. Ask your dentist. There may be certain treatments that your dentist can use to protect teeth. Take dental sealants, for example, which are a thin layer of plastic-like material. Your dentist will brush them into the grooves of chewing teeth, i.e. the molars, which helps to provide a barrier against attacking mouth bacteria. These sealants help to protect the deep areas in the mouth, which can be a challenge to reach with a toothbrush.

Dr Lincoln Law is a practising dentist at rt healthy teeth, 1 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010. We are conveniently located close to Central Station. Just use the Chalmers Street exit and walk up Devonshire Street.

To make an appointment to see Dr Lincoln Law or to see one of our other caring dentists, call 1300 991 044.

For more information see our website.

Lincoln Law[1]
Dr Lincoln Law from rt healthy teeth