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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
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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

Your health cover – seven reasons why it shouldn’t be set and forget …

All too often people take out health cover at one life stage and forget to update it as their needs, and the needs of their family, change over time. Peta Gane, from rt’s member services team, shares some expert tips to getting the right kind of cover for your needs – and why your health cover should have an occasional health check!

‘We’ve all heard about people caught without the right level of health cover. It’s really distressing for the person and for us when we find someone is on the wrong cover for their needs. That’s why it’s so important to give your health cover a health check from time to time,’ she says.

Peta says she and the team at rt find people who might be on the wrong type of cover by looking at their age and the level of cover they have, and by comparing it with data that tells them the types of medical treatments people in those age groups are most likely to use.

Taking a proactive approach and reviewing your health cover by talking to a representative will make sure your needs are met. Peta explains saying: ‘It’s important to encourage people to give their health cover a regular check. And, there are a number of life events and stages when checking your level of cover may be especially important.’ These include:

01 You’re turning 31, thinking of dropping your hospital cover or if you’re new to Australia

You may be at risk of getting stuck with a Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading if:

  • you don’t have private hospital insurance before 1 July following your 31st birthday
  • you’re over the age of 31 and have had hospital cover, but let it lapse
  • you’ve moved to Australia and are eligible to receive full Medicare entitlements.

‘The LHC loading is a government penalty designed to encourage people to take out
private hospital cover and to keep it. Once you have an LHC loading, you’ll have to
pay it for ten continuous years, so avoiding it or minimising it as early as possible is
important – the team at rt can show you how,’ says Peta.

02 You’re planning a trip

Australian private health insurance only covers you for treatment you receive in Australia and for products and services you buy in the country. So, if you’re heading overseas for 28 days or more, suspend your cover.

03 You get a pay rise

‘If you’re earning over a certain amount and you don’t have private hospital cover, you’ll be charged an additional tax called the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS). Single people earning over $90,000 a year and couples/families earning over $180,000 are affected. If this applies to you, you’re better off having hospital cover than paying the extra tax – you’ll avoid the surcharge and gain all the benefits of private cover. The income tiers are set by the tax office; the current tiers are in place until 30 June 2018,’ explains Peta.

04 You’re planning a family

‘Having a baby is an exciting time and one of your most important considerations will be where you plan to have your baby and who you want to see you through your pregnancy.’ Peta urges you to check that the hospital cover you have includes pregnancy in a private hospital and remember that waiting periods may apply before you’re covered if you are new to a fund or if you upgrade to a cover that includes pregnancy. ‘If you have a single membership with rt, for example, you’ll need to upgrade to a family or sole-parent family membership at least two months before the baby’s due date. If you don’t upgrade, and your baby needs hospital care following birth, your baby won’t be covered. If you already have a couple, family or sole-parent family membership your baby will be covered if hospital care is needed. Planning ahead enables you to put your mind at ease so you can enjoy a healthy pregnancy and beyond, our team can guide you,’ she explains.

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05 The kids are growing

Got kids who might need orthodontic treatment soon? Get the right kind of extras cover to help during this important (and expensive) time. ‘When your kids reach about 12, think about checking or upgrading your extras to make sure they are covered if they need orthodontic treatment,’ says Dr Lincoln Law, dentist at Healthy Teeth. ‘There’s a waiting period of 12 months before you can claim orthodontics if you’re not already covered, so as with everything that’s important in life, plan ahead!’ adds Peta.

06 You’re celebrating a graduation

With rt, your children can be covered by your family or sole-parent family membership until their 21st birthday. After that, they can stay on your membership until they’re 25 if they’re studying full-time at an approved Australian school, college or university, and aren’t married or living in a de facto relationship. If they aren’t studying, you can keep the kids covered under your membership for an additional contribution that’s a fraction of what they’d pay for their own cover. ‘It’s called ‘family extension and it’s available with rt’s Premium Hospital cover,’ Peta explains.

If you join or are with rt health, your kids are eligible to join, and provided they transfer to their own membership with an equivalent level of cover within two months of leaving yours, they’ll have no waiting periods to serve.

07 There’s a significant birthday on the horizon

Celebrating important milestones in the family is one of life’s greatest joys. But with different ages and stages, come different health needs. As you get older, you’re more likely to need certain types of medical treatment for knees, hips, hearts and more.

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‘No matter what your life stage, think about whether your health cover is working for you right now. And, will it meet your upcoming needs? We’re committed to providing our existing and new members with the best advice possible and matching them with the right cover for their changing needs!’ ends Peta.

Call us on 1300 56 46 46 to join rt health and get the rt health check your health deserves!

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Peta Gane, member services team

 

 

Six reasons to add exercise into your day

Your body was made to move. But because of the hectic pace of 21st century living, many of us don’t fit enough exercise into our day.

Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 56 per cent of us don’t get close to the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week[i].

If you make time for exercise you’ll benefit not just your body, but your mind, too. Sports and exercise help boost your mood and blast stress. As you know prolonged stress can lead to serious health problems.

Different exercise, different health benefits

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise helps to protect your heart and lungs, improve endurance and builds your fitness, strength and stamina.

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Strength training (working with weights) will sculpt your body because it builds muscle and burns fat. By the way, ladies, don’t worry that weight training will make you look like a man – you don’t have enough of the muscle building hormone testosterone so weight training will make you look slender – not manly!

If you have a lot to lose or have stiff joints, swimming is a great low impact-exercise. And walking is a great workout too, especially if it’s brisk.  All types of exercise burn kilojoules, helping you manage your weight.  And if you want to lose a few kilos, exercise also helps you to focus your mind on your healthy plans so it’s easier to get to a healthy, happy weight!

Not convinced? Here are six super reasons you should fit exercise into your day! 

  1. Burn those kilojoules

Dieting 101: Consume more kilojoules than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Burn more kilojoules than you consume and you’ll lose the kilos. But whether you want to lose weight or not, exercise is vital to help you get lean and stay that way. Though beware, if you’re exercising to lose weight – the exercise will need to be intensive and prolonged.

Not seeing the results you want? You may not be burning off as much as you think. For example, if you weigh around 60kg and you eat a 50g chocolate bar (1,130 kilojoules) you’ll need to cycle at a moderate pace for 35 minutes or walk for over an hour to burn it off! So, think about what kind of exercise you do and your exercise intensity so you become an active exerciser and not a distracted dieter!

  1. Boost circulation

When you exercise your working muscles produce chemicals, which leave the muscle cells and dilate (widen) tiny capillaries (blood vessels). This makes it easier for blood to reach your body and brain cells, bringing more nourishing oxygen-rich blood to your cells. Another benefit of better circulation is that you’ll nourish your internal organs. So you feel good on the inside – and on the outside, too!

  1. Support the muscles that support your joints

Exercise helps to build strong bones and maintain strength and flexibility. Strength and flexibility is important at every stage of your life but especially as you get older.

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  1. Shape up!

Ever heard that if you build lots of muscle that it will turn to fat if you don’t exercise as much? Not true. Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues so it’s not possible to replace one with the other. But you can build muscle and reduce body fat with weight training and strengthening exercises. Muscle burns more kilojoules than fat because it needs a lot more fuel to simply exist, compared with fat, which is a storage material. Exercising helps your body use up fat stores and gives a sleeker shape. That’s because muscle and fat take up a different amount of space in your body.

  1. Tone up the right places

Everyone has target areas they’d like to tackle. Aerobic exercise blasts fat from all of you, but you can target your problem areas. Fat from around the exercising muscle is used for energy as the muscle grows, enabling you to trim down and firm up trouble areas.

Lifting weights can really help to tone up! Aim for strengthening exercises with weights at least twice per week for up to 30 minutes, to slowly build up your body’s muscle. If you haven’t exercised for some time, speak with your doctor first and get the help of a qualified personal trainer who can help you get your technique, posture and balance right.

Your posture is about the way various parts of your body align in relation to one another. Good posture can help to prevent fatigue, headaches and chronic muscular tension. Perfecting your posture can also help to boost circulation, aid digestion and may help you sleep more soundly.

For good balance, you have to be able to control a number of muscles in order to prevent falls, which may help prevent injuries as you age.

  1. Feel good about you!

Australia’s Black Dog Institute says, ‘Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who do not exercise regularly. Several trials have shown that regular exercise of moderate intensity can be an effective treatment by itself for mild-to-moderate depression[ii].’

One of the reasons is that exercise boosts the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and feel-good chemicals, which helps to boost your mood[iii]. And as regular exercise helps to tone and shape your body, you’ll have another reason to feel good!

So go on, get moving!

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

*The advice provided is for the average adult and should not be interpreted as being applicable to children, the elderly or those with a chronic medical condition necessitating prescribed diets and physical activity regimens.

[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Risk factors to health. http://www.aihw.gov.au/risk-factors/ 

[ii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

[iii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

Quick, tasty, lovely lunches

Making fast, nutritious and delicious lunches and lunch choices can be a challenge whether you’re working, studying or running around with the family. The health and wellbeing team at rt health fund share some of their tips to selecting healthy eats – where delicious meets nutritious!

You already know the basics – fresh is best and the less processed, the better. For example, canned tuna or fresh fish trumps fish nuggets and an apple is a better choice than a sugary apple bar from the supermarket. But time and hunger can challenge the best of intentions. So, if you’re watching your weight or trying to boost the nutrient content of your diet, here are some super quick tips:

1. Fill up half of your lunchbox or plate with veggies – red, orange, blue and yellow. The more colours, the better. Go for masses of green veggies such as broccoli, kale, rocket and asparagus – these are ultra-low in calories and very high in nutrition.

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2. Make a quarter of your meal starchy carbohydrates – the wholegrain kinds of bread, rice and pasta are best because they have their fibre, vitamins and minerals intact. In the same way, potatoes with their skins on are better than without and sweet potatoes are a great choice. Try to avoid white flour foods, for example white bread and pastry because they have had the fibre and nutrients removed from them in processing. Without the fibre, these foods are digested quickly so you feel hungry again after a short time. So, for a steadier life, go wholegrain.

3. Make a quarter of your lunch protein foods. Fish is a great choice as it provides omega-3 essential fats (oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are especially high), lean meat provides a big hit of iron and pulses (peas, beans and legumes) are a rich source of protein with added fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential omega-3 fats.

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4. Add a source of calcium – either dairy or a vegetarian alternative such as soy or almond milk. Many women don’t get enough bone and teeth-building calcium, which can lead to issues such as osteoporosis later in life.

5. Some fresh fruit – which provides vitamins, minerals, fibre and a whole host of protective plant pigments. Plus, when you have a meal that satisfies your savoury taste buds, you may want something sweet to finish. Fruit could do the trick and could reduce the temptation for sugary/fatty snacks.

Here are some quick lunch ideas to get you started (most can be made at home using supermarket ingredients but some can be bought from takeaway shops):

  • Canned tuna with a little low-fat mayonnaise and lots of salad on a wholemeal roll
  • Roast beef with lettuce and lots of sliced tomato on rye bread
  • Supermarket salad leaves (lettuce, baby spinach, rocket) with tomatoes, feta and a can of drained red kidney beans
  • Hummus, pita bread and a double serving of tabbouleh

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  • Sushi and boiled green soybeans (edamame)
  • Quinoa with a rainbow of veggies
  • Poached eggs on wholegrain toast with spinach and avocado
  • Store-bought soup with added frozen baby peas
  • Vietnamese rice paper rolls with a large side salad
  • Falafel/chicken/lean meat roll with extra salad
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and lots of steamed veggies
  • Indian dhal with basmati rice and a big salad
  • Hot smoked salmon with mashed potatoes, green beans and grilled tomatoes
  • Mushroom and veggie omelette with wholegrain bread
  • Thai salad with fish, meat or tofu
  • Tofu and veggie stir fry
  • Homemade chilli con carne with meat or veggie mince and extra beans with tomato salad.

And for something sweet …

  • Fresh fruit
  • Sugar-free dairy or coconut yoghurt
  • A few dried peaches/apricots/prunes with unsalted nuts
  • Sugar-free jelly
  • Canned peaches or apricots (drained)
  • A couple of squares of dark chocolate.

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

Do you know what hepatitis is?

‘Hep’ means liver and ‘itis’ means inflammation of, so hepatitis literally means inflammation of the liver.

Your liver is a large organ – it’s your body’s waste disposal system. It also regulates metabolism, stores iron and vitamins such as folate and B12 and produces proteins and bile, a liquid that’s needed to digest fats. If your liver doesn’t work properly, the result can be serious illness and it can be life-threatening, too.

The causes of hepatitis can be due to chemicals, alcohol, drug use and viruses such as the yellow fever virus and the virus that causes glandular fever.

There are seven forms of hepatitis – some types don’t cause serious health problems but others can result in chronic (long-term problems), scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and even liver cancer.

Here’s our guide to what you need to know about the different types of hepatitis.

What are the symptoms?

Short-term (acute) hepatitis may not have any symptoms at all and if there are symptoms, they might be pretty non-specific i.e. they can be connected with many conditions. For example, nausea, tiredness, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, getting bruised easily, a high temperature (fever) of 38 degrees Celsius, dark coloured urine and light bowel movements are signs of hepatitis.

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Long-term (chronic) hepatitis may not have any obvious symptoms, either, until the liver stops working properly and liver failure results. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) is also a sign of late stage liver failure. Hepatitis may only be picked up during blood tests.

If you have any persistent or troublesome symptoms that you think could be caused by hepatitis, go and see your GP immediately.

The seven types of hepatitis are:

  1. Hepatitis A

Caused by the hepatitis A virus, this infection is caught by consuming food or drink contaminated with the bowel movements of an infected person. It is most common in countries with poor sanitation. This type of hepatitis usually passes in a few months. But, it can be severe and even life-threatening.

If you’re travelling overseas, book in before your trip to see your GP, who may recommend a vaccination.

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  1. Hepatitis B

Caused by the hepatitis B virus, infection is spread via the blood of an infected person (e.g. through shared injection needles).

Most adults can fight off the infection in two months or so. But infection in children may be long-term and can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Treatment may involve antiviral medications. If you are in a high-risk group, for example, if you are a health care worker or you inject drugs – your GP may recommend vaccination.

  1. Hepatitis C

Caused by the hepatitis C virus, this is usually spread via blood-to-blood contact with an infected person (e.g. via shared needles or through poor health care practices). Symptoms of infection may be similar to a bout of flu and many people don’t know that they are infected.

Around one in four people can fight off the infection but most people will develop chronic hepatitis C[i], which can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. Treatment is usually antiviral medication but currently there is no vaccination.

  1. Hepatitis D

Caused by the hepatitis D virus, this infection only affects people who already have hepatitis B. It is usually spread through blood-to-blood or sexual contact. It is not common in Australia[ii].

Long-term hepatitis D infection can increase the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis D, your GP might suggest the hepatitis B vaccine to protect you from getting hepatitis D.

  1. Hepatitis E

Common in developing countries, this type of hepatitis is caused by the hepatitis E virus; infection is usually caught via consuming food and drink contaminated with bowel movements from an infected person. Generally mild and short-lived, the infection doesn’t require any treatment. However, for a small number of people, it can be serious (such as those with a suppressed immune system) and it can become chronic.

There’s no vaccine to protect against hepatitis E but you can reduce your risk by being very careful with food and drinks when travelling to parts of the world with poor sanitation. If you are pregnant, you should not travel to areas where there is a lot of hepatitis E, especially during the last three months of pregnancy.

  1. Alcoholic hepatitis

Caused by excessive alcohol consumption over a number of years, many people who have it don’t know that they do because it usually doesn’t have any symptoms. However, it can be detected by a blood test (liver function test). Your liver can usually recover if you stop drinking alcohol. But if you don’t, the result can be liver failure or liver cancer.

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  1. Autoimmune hepatitis

Like other autoimmune conditions, autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the cells of the body start attacking itself. Treatment involves medication to stop the attack.  More research needs to be done to find out why it happens and if anything can be done to prevent autoimmune hepatitis.

For more information, contact:

  • Your GP
  • National Hepatitis information line on 1800 437 222
  • DirectLine (for information about where to get clean needles and syringes for drug users) on 1800 888 236
  • Immunise Australia information line on 1800 671 811.
Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

 

[i] NHS Choices. Hepatitis. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hepatitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx#hep-C

[ii] Hepatitis Australia. Hepatitis D. http://www.hepatitisaustralia.com/hepatitis-d/

Ten facts about bowel cancer

In Australia, the government estimates that there will be over 17,500 cases of bowel cancer[i] this year.  And although it was the third most diagnosed cancer in 2012, it is set to be the second most diagnosed cancer of 2016[ii]. So what is bowel cancer? Why does it occur and what can you do to prevent it?

Here are 10 need-to-know facts about bowel cancer …

1. The bowel is the large intestine so bowel cancer is cancer of the large intestine – it is also known as colorectal cancer.

2. The bowel is the last part of the very long and specialised tube called the gastro intestinal tract (GIT). Food is broken down in the early part of the GIT and is then digested and absorbed. Nutrients from food enter your bloodstream and then go to body cells where they provide nourishment. In the large intestine, water is reabsorbed and the result is waste materials.

3. The condition is most common in people over 50. That’s why from 50 years of age, you’ll be encouraged to use a bowel testing kit which can pick up early signs of the condition. Even so, the rates of bowel cancer in younger people have increased which researchers say is a worrying trend[iii]. Early detection is key as up to 90% of cases can be successfully treated[iv].

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4. Many cancers have a genetic link so if a close family member has had bowel cancer, you should be monitored closely by your GP.

5. Diet and lifestyle play a major role in the development of many cancers including bowel cancer. The Cancer Council estimates that in 2010, more than 2,600 new bowel cancer cases in Australia were associated with consuming too much red meat and processed meat[v]. Now, the World Health Organization has classified processed meats (ham, salami, sausages and hot dogs) as class one carcinogens. This means that there is strong evidence that these meats cause cancers; this could be due to the chemicals used in meat processing. Red meat (e.g. pork, beef and lamb) are classified as probable causes of cancer[vi]. High temperature cooking (e.g. cooking on a barbeque), can also create chemicals that are carcinogenic (potentially cancer-causing). So what can you do? Downsize your portion sizes of meat and enjoy vegetables more often. When you’re cooking, add plenty of beans in your chilli con carne and casseroles and add lots of veggies in your pies and pasta dishes.

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6. A diet that’s rich in plant foods – veggies and fruits – reduces bowel cancer risk. These foods are rich in plant antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which are protective to your health. Plus, veggies and fruits contain fibre which is the body’s natural cleanser. Fibre mixes with water in the gut and this helps to speed waste products out of it, reducing the time that wastes are in contact with the gut.

7. Getting plenty of fibre is also important because if you eat high-fibre foods and eat less fatty foods, the type of gut bacteria changes inside you and the bacteria produce more of a substance called butyrate. This by-product of fibre metabolism has important anticancer effects[vii].

8. Watch your weight. The majority of Australians – over 60 per cent[viii] – are now overweight or obese. Being overweight raises your risk of bowel cancer because excess body fat produces hormones and growth factors that affect the way cells work. Bowel cancer is one of many cancers that are linked to being overweight or obese[ix].

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9. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption raise the risk of bowel cancer. Both introduce potential carcinogens into the body. If you smoke or drink to excess, get help by talking to your GP.

10. What to look out for? Blood in your stool, abdominal bloating/cramping, a persistent change in your bowel habits and unexplained changes in weight.

The Australian Government, through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, offers free screening for bowel cancer. If you are eligible you will be sent a kit with information about what to do. If you have any of the symptoms listed above no matter your age, make sure you see your GP.

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

[i] Australian Government. Bowel Cancer Statistics. https://bowel-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics

[ii] Australian Government. Bowel Cancer Statistics. https://bowel-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics 

[iii] Bowel Cancer Australia. Bowel Cancer Australia. https://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/youre-never-too-young

[iv] Australian Government. Cancer Screening – Bowel Screening Campaign Home. http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/content/bowel-campaign-home

[v] Cancer Council Australia. New WHO meat study another reason to eat more fruit and veggies, says Cancer Council. http://www.cancer.org.au/news/media-releases/new-who-meat-study-another-reason-to-eat-more-fruit-and-veggies-says-cancer-council.html

[vi] American Cancer Society. World Health Organization Says Processed Meat Causes Cancer. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/world-health-organization-says-processed-meat-causes-cancer

[vii] Imperial College London. Diet swap has dramatic effects on colon cancer risk for Americans and Africans. http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_28-4-2015-12-6-31

[viii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Overweight and obesity. http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity/

[ix] Cancer Research UK. How being overweight causes cancer. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/bodyweight-and-cancer/how-being-overweight-causes-cancer

Don’t get slugged with an extra penalty!

Did you know that almost three-quarters of Australians without private hospital insurance don’t know that they could be slapped with a 10-year Lifetime Health Cover loading*?  The statistics are even higher for young Australians (18-31) without private hospital insurance – a massive 80% are unaware of LHC*. Thankfully LHC can be avoided or minimised so read on to find out how!

What you need to know …

Lifetime Health Cover is a government initiative that’s designed to encourage Australians to take out private hospital cover early in life and to keep it. If you don’t have private hospital insurance before 1 July following your 31st birthday, the LHC meter starts running. And, from that point on, hospital cover will cost you an additional 2 per cent on top of the usual price every year you delay, up to a maximum loading of 70 per cent! And, the loading stays with you until you have paid it for ten continuous years.

Not yet 31?

If you take out hospital cover by the time you are 31 (and keep it) you’ll pay the lowest rate offered by the health fund you join. And, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that if the unexpected happens, you have choice, security and control.

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Already over 31?

The longer you delay, the more you’ll pay. This can mean that hospital cover ends up costing you thousands of dollars more than you needed to pay. So, for example, if you were to put off taking out hospital cover until you were 40, you’d be paying 20% more than someone who took out the same hospital cover at age 30. This loading could add up to thousands of dollars over a ten-year period! The bottom line is that if you want to avoid getting tripped up by the LHC loading, you have to take out hospital cover sooner rather than later (and keep it)!

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Dropped your private hospital cover?

If you’re over 31 and have held private hospital cover without an LHC loading but you’ve let your cover lapse, you may be subject to a loading when you choose to re-join a health fund later on. Our team can explain the details and why getting hospital cover and sticking with it is so worthwhile.

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New to Australia?

If you’re a new Australian and you hold either a green or blue Medicare card, the LHC loading can be avoided by taking out private hospital cover by 1 July following your 31st birthday. Over 31? Take out hospital cover before the first anniversary of the day you registered for full Medicare benefits. Otherwise, you’ll be charged a 2% loading for every year you are over 31!

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If you want to avoid the LHC loading or minimise it – talk to us today! We can explain the details to you in plain English and you won’t be rushed off the phone. Give our team of experts a call on 1300 56 46 46.

For further information about Lifetime Health Cover see the Australian Government’s Private Health Insurance Ombudsman website.

Daniel Walshaw
Daniel Walshaw – Marketing Communications Content Specialist at rt health fund

 

Disclaimer: This information is brought to you by rt health fund – the health fund for transport and energy industry people. You are welcome to reproduce this article with mention of rt health fund as the source. With all tax-related issues, we strongly recommend you speak with your accountant, financial planner or tax adviser. The information provided here is intended to be for information only and should be carefully evaluated for its source, accuracy, completeness and relevance for your purposes.

*Ipsos/iSelect, June 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Where we get our inspiration …

What have I learnt from my children?

In honour of International Women’s Day, we share some thoughts about what being a mum means to some of the ladies that connect with rt health fund.

Children learn by what they see

‘My girls are now almost 21 and 19 and over their lifetime, I have learnt (finally) that they really do learn things from you by watching the way you do things again and again.

In order for them to live happily and healthily, I realise that I need to be living that way too. If I don’t love myself enough to look after myself well, that’s what they will learn too. You know that safety instruction that you’re given on airplanes about putting on your own oxygen mask first? Well I understand that this is so important in so many ways …

My children have brought me to the peaks of joy and pride, and to the depths of despair and frustration. So I guess you could say they have also taught me to be resilient.’

Fiona Riley, Transport Women Australia Ltd (TWAL)

Fiona’s daughters Lauren in pink and Morgan in black
Fiona’s daughters, Lauren in pink and Morgan in black

A child’s smile can lift you from the worries of the world!

‘My children have taught me that no matter what is going on in our lives, that the smile of an innocent child can make all the worries in the world disappear – even if only momentarily!’

Katrina Jorgensen, Queensland Rail

Katrina with her sons Cooper and Joshua
Katrina with her sons Cooper and Joshua  

Be there!

‘What have I learnt from my children? One of the biggest factors is the value of being ‘present!’  No amount of gifts can make up for not being there when your children need you.’

Lisa Acret, Queensland Trucking Association Ltd. 

Lisa with her son Mitchell
Lisa with her son Mitchell

I now know that if it is to be …

‘I have learnt a couple of things from my children …

  1. If it’s to be, then it’s up to me …
  2. Self-belief. My children have shown me the importance of being the best you can be. Have dreams and ambitions and then do what you can to bring them to fruition.’

Maureen Paterson, Encompass Credit Union

To be a better person

‘I have learnt some very important lessons from my two daughters, most of all to not be selfish.

Having to be totally responsible for these precious girls and raising them to become independent, selfless women has made me take a good look at myself. And I am still learning from them! I can definitely say that I am certainly a better person for having them.

My mum reminded me the other day that family and relationships are all that matters. And it’s true.’

Jen Bogaart, rt health fund member 

Jen with her daughters Emersen and Layla
Jen with her daughters Emersen and Layla

Excitement for the future

‘What I feel that I have learnt most from my beautiful seven-month-old son so far is that joy and innocence still exists in the world that we live in.

Seeing life through his eyes is so very refreshing. It really is the simple things in life that matter. I feel so blessed to have a happy and healthy son whom my husband Brenton and I adore beyond measure and would do anything for. I’m sure that every parent feels exactly the same.

I am so very excited for the future and all of the milestones to come as we watch little Oliver grow up and experience the wonderful journey of life.’

Rachael Tickner, QRI Lifestyle

Rachael and Brenton with their son Oliver
Rachael and Brenton with their son Oliver

It’s about patience and understanding

‘I am blessed to be the mother of four wonderful children (two amazing adults and two school-age children) and have learnt many things. But one of the most significant of these is the need for patience and understanding.

My children make me stop, listen and really appreciate the important things in life. Children feel happy and secure when they have good friends around them and I have learnt to appreciate the comfort that comes from friendship, both in their lives and in my own. I enjoy the funny things they do, we laugh a lot. And, I love joining them when they are being creative – it helps keep me feeling young.’

Mary Mason, rt health fund member

Patience is a virtue

‘As a mum to three beautiful children, I have learnt to cultivate patience – which I really didn’t believe I had in me. I have also learnt not to assume anything, not to jump to conclusions and to understand that things are not always as they might seem at first.’

Linda Rollason, rt health fund member

Sharing life, love and counsel

‘My children are now adults in their own right – loving and capable wives and mothers. I have learnt that you cannot love too much or give too much of your time, presence or counsel, and that I am still a part of their lives as they will always be a part of mine. I know that, to them, it is very important that I take care of my health and remain active and that they want to know about and be a part of my life, just as I want to know what is happening in their lives and my grandchildren’s lives. These are the things that are important to me.’

Maureen McAlorum, rt health fund member

Maureen with her granddaughter, Bianca
Maureen with her granddaughter, Bianca

Sharing life, love and counsel

‘My children have taught me to not hold grudges. A stressful morning of spilt cereal, half-dressed children, forgotten library bags and meltdowns over lost, adorable purple unicorns can all be forgotten when they give you a hug and tell you that you’re the best mum in the world. Or, they flash a cheeky smile with a freshly picked flower in their hand!’

Ali Rees, rt health fund member

Ali, her husband Brett and their children Nevaeh and Travis
Ali, Brett and their children Nevaeh and Travis

This message is brought to you by rt health fund’s Strategic Business Development Manager, Rebecca Delahaye and Key Account Managers; Alison Weatherill, David Stock and Cassandra Reynolds.