Q&A with Dr Hitesh Batavia
Dr Hitesh Batavia is the Principal General Dentist and Practice owner of Ravenscourt Dental Practice. Dr Batavia is renowned for his expertise in treating nervous patients and young children and excels in the treatment of early interceptive orthodontics. He has a holistic approach to dental treatment and maintains an interest in homeopathy to supplement conventional treatments and enhance patient care. Drawing on nearly three decades of dental expertise, on Monday 14 September we were delighted to welcome Dr Batavia to speak with pupils in both Lower and Upper School Assembly.
How often should we go to the dentist?
If you are under 18 you should visit the dentist at least once a year, unless the dentist specifically recommends twice a year. The benefits are that you will receive advice and help with preventative oral hygiene techniques. This will help you look after your teeth properly in the long term, you will need a lot less dental treatment, and probably save yourself a lot of money.
What is the best way to brush our teeth?
Understand your teeth, how they are shaped and sit against each other, so for example try dividing your mouth into six segments: lower right; left, front and upper right; left and front; and then divide time equally when brushing each segment.
Visualise each tooth as a box without a bottom, you can brush 3 out of 5 surfaces and need to floss 2 out of 5 surfaces.
Start brushing at gum level, to remove the plaque sitting around the gum line. Then brush the rest of the tooth surface. Plaque is sticky, like peanut butter, so you need to go back and forth about 5-6 times. Repeat on each segment including the biting surface, moving slowly and putting enough pressure so that you really scrub your teeth properly.
An extra step is to use disclosing solution, it colours the areas where plaque is left. You will be surprised to see how much plaque can be left on the teeth! My tip is to use this solution, twice a week for a month, you’ll soon see the areas you’re missing out.
Seeing a dentist and a hygienist regularly also helps.
Flossing is very important because it cleans 40% of your teeth – remember the 2 out of 5 surfaces - a statistic most people don’t know!
When flossing, gently see-saw the floss between your teeth rather than push and tug. Take it to the gum edge, and do the same on the opposite side because each space is a V shape.
The first few times your gums may feel tender and bleed a little bit. Over time you will find that they do firm up and it will become far easier. The big bonus is that your mouth will feel noticeably fresher and you’ll find yourself reaching for the floss every time you want a fresh mouth!
How does sugar damage our teeth?
Sugar - refined or unrefined - including naturally occurring sugar in fruit, is absorbed by plaque which is a very thin sticky layer around the tooth. The bacteria in the plaque will then work with the sugar to produce acid, which in turn creates little holes – cavities - in your teeth. This is the process of decay.
If you want to have something sugary, my tip would be: reduce the frequency! So if you must, have 4 biscuits in one go, rather than 1 biscuit every hour. I am not however recommending you make a habit of having sugary treats, keep it to once or twice a week.
How much sugar should we consume each day?
There is some sugar in all your meals, and naturally occurring sugars in fruit as well – more than enough as daily consumption. Sugar is not a nutritional requirement so it needs to be viewed as a treat.
If you do a lot of physical exercise a healthier option is food which releases sugar slower like porridge and sweet potatoes. This will result in energy being released slowly over a longer period of time.
Which foods and drinks are the worst for causing tooth decay?
Anything that tastes sweet is probably going to damage your teeth.
Refined sugars are sweets, chocolates, biscuits, smoothies and even yoghurts which contain fruit syrups.
Naturally occurring sugars, are found in all fruit and fruit juices, fruit squash drinks, dried fruit and honey.
When considering the rule of 5 a day it is ok to have fruit as part of this, as long as you have it with a meal and not between meals. Unfortunately I had to treat a child aged 10 who was eating 7-10 apples a day, and ended up needing 20 fillings.
Set yourself a challenge to avoid processed foods which usually contain higher levels of sugar and cook your meals from scratch.
What colour should teeth be?
Baby teeth are often milky white. Adult teeth are more ivory coloured and with time and age they can get darker.
What are the most common problems with teeth, and what can be done to avoid them?
Tooth decay and tooth wear!
Tooth decay is due to how much sugar is in your diet. Most people reduce their sugar consumption after the age of 25 and become more health conscious, and the rate of tooth decay falls. If you continue to take sugar or honey in teas and coffees, you are more likely to get decay.
We are all keeping our teeth for a lot longer now, and unfortunately some of us grind or clench our teeth, thereby wearing them down. So if you clench or grind your teeth, think about how you can control that in the day, and protect them during the night with a guard.
If you like playing rugby, football, cricket and various martial arts, you can experience injuries, so get a well fitted sports guard so that you can continue to enjoy sports.
Gum disease is another common problem resulting in teeth becoming loose and if left untreated you can lose your teeth. With the regular check-ups this can be detected at an earlier stage.
Describe an average day in the life of a dentist.
The life of a dentist is so varied, there will be a list of people from all walks of life with a variety of problems to see. They may have special requirements, for example they might be nervous, or need a more complicated treatment. I need to let my team know what is expected of them to support me. As a team how can we make the patient’s journey nice and smooth and hopefully enjoyable? It’s also good to ensure that the patient knows and feels you are looking after them. So the biggest thing is to ensure that you are prepared for the day, and you know what the patient is coming for.
Other than a dentist, what roles and jobs are there in dentistry?
There’s a fantastic structure in dentistry offering enormous potential for an individual who wants to pursue a career in dentistry. Every dentist needs a team, this starts with the dental receptionist, practice manager, dental nurses, an oral health educator, to mention a few. Dental nurses can specialise further to become Dental hygienists, therapist nurses, Orthodontic technicians or nurses, and Implant or Oral surgery nurses, and lastly dental radiography so that they can take x-rays and take models for bases. The sky is the limit!
Why should young people consider a career in dentistry?
Dentistry offers a variety of jobs of varying levels of skills and complexity. You could be part of the support team or practice dentistry itself. Additionally there are specialisations and areas of special expertise e.g. being qualified to sedate patients before treatment.
Since most dentists are self-employed, there is a great deal of flexibility with the hours and times you wish to work. Dentistry gives a good deal of scope on personal development as well as professional development, e.g. time management and effective team management. For some specialists it can become quite lucrative, so it depends on how hard you want to work. There’s a lot to be said for a career for dentistry, a lot of advances are taking place in the technology used to help deliver treatments.
What qualifications do you need to become a dentist?
Bachelor’s Degree in Dentistry BDS, and perhaps a Master’s degree as well. Once qualified you will be able to register with the General Dental Council for a license to practice.
What problems do you face as a dentist?
You will face clinical and non-clinical problems.
With clinical difficulties you can seek help from peers, colleagues and others in the practice. If you progress to do a specialisation you will need to follow the various protocols and guidelines given by governing bodies. That brings us to the biggest thing that a dentist should have - the ability to communicate and manage patient expectations. It is very important that both dentist and patient are on the same page to avoid disappointment.
You need to manage any stress you may experience during your working day. For example you may feel stressed if you have not been able to give enough time to a patient, and another patient is already waiting to be seen. With experience and time you will learn to organise your day in a way where you can handle most eventualities. It helps to view stress positively as it allows you to grow, develop, stretch yourself and perform even better.
The non-clinical aspects will be patient and team management issues, compliance procedures. Although there are hurdles and boxes to tick, before you can actually start practising as a dentist, there is a lot of help available.
What personality traits do you need to become a dentist?
Genuinely like people because that’s exactly who you will be treating throughout your life, be interested in and understand your patients. Be organised so you can manage your time, stress and be able to work in a team as well. Keep a curious mind so you can solve the problems.
Then your patients will benefit from your experience as well as your analytical mind. Think of it as being a dental detective! People will describe their symptoms and you have to decide how to investigate further so that you achieve a definite diagnosis.
Finally, what is the most important piece of information everyone should know about how to look after their teeth?
You only have one set of teeth, they are such an important part of your personality – allowing you to eat, drink, laugh and smile!
We’ve already talked about the relationship of your teeth to sugars, cleaning your teeth to gum disease, tooth wear and long term health of your teeth.
So my top tip would be avoid eating sugar, brush and floss thoroughly, see your dentist regularly.
I hope you are inspired after reading this to look after your teeth better, and perhaps even become a dentist.
Now here is something you can do…
I would be delighted if you want to be creative and send me posters featuring healthy foods and the sugar they contain versus various processed foods and how many teaspoons of sugar. So you could research fruit and vegetables, brown rice, eggs versus a yoghurt, tomato ketchup, a tin of baked beans, a can of cola, a small smoothie, a cereal bar, or anything else you can think of.
Your entries will be featured on our website and our Facebook page, and the best entry will receive a prize. Please hand in your entries to Reception, or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The winning prize is a Philips Sonicare HX6972/10 FlexCare+ Rechargeable Toothbrush with UV Sanitiser" which retails at £200. Kindly donated by Philips Sonicare.
2. The two runners up will receive an Oral-B Advance Power 400 Toothbrush worth £9. Kindly donated by Dent-O-Care.
DEADLINE: MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2016
Good luck! Dr Batavia