Oral healthcare

General Information

Good oral health means having a healthy mouth, tongue, gums and teeth.

Gum and tooth disease start with the development of plaque, which builds up on the surface of your teeth. Plaque contains bacteria, and these use the sugars in your mouth to produce acid. Acid destroys the surfaces of the teeth (enamel) and can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Common oral health problems include:

  • tooth decay
  • gum disease, including bleeding gums, which is a sign of gingivitis (gum inflammation)
  • mouth ulcers
  • pain from ill-fitting dentures, tooth decay or dental abscesses
  • halitosis (bad breath), which can be caused by dental abscesses, indigestion or stomach acid reflux, spicy foods or garlic, smoking and alcohol consumption or low levels of saliva
  • childhood teething; when ‘baby teeth’ start to appear through the gums (six months to about two years of age), this may cause pain, irritability, swollen red gums, and a slightly raised temperature
  • oral thrush (candida infection)

Oral thrush appears as creamy, white patches on the inside of the mouth with red, irritated areas. It may occur in people with dentures, those who have just been treated with antibiotics, or those with diabetes or a lowered immune system.

Oral thrush can also affect people who use steroid inhalers for asthma prevention– you can avoid this by rinsing your mouth or brushing your teeth after using these medicines.

See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional

  • if your mouth or gums are inflamed (red)
  • if you have throbbing pain; this could be a symptom caused by a dental abscess
  • if you have a swollen, painful jaw or face
  • if you have a fever or sore throat
  • if you have been injured on your face or mouth
  • if you have persistent bleeding in your mouth or from your gums
  • if you have a persistent bad taste in your mouth
  • if mouth problems, such as ulcers or a sore tongue, have not resolved within 7 to 10 days, or after treatment is completed
  • if you have large or unusually shaped mouth ulcers, or large clumps of mouth ulcers
  • if mouth ulcers occur in a child under 10 years of age
  • if you have red or white patches in your mouth that are painless
  • if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; some medicines may not be suitable
  • if you have allergies to any medicines
  • if you are taking other medicines or have other medical conditions

Treatment Tips

  • clean your teeth every day using a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss; removing plaque helps prevent dental decay
  • always visit the dentist when a toothache develops; it is a sign of dental decay
  • ensure dentures fit well
  • avoid spicy or acidic foods as they can irritate or delay healing of mouth ulcers
  • halitosis (bad breath) is often caused by bacteria on your tongue, which build up overnight; brushing the surface of your tongue with a soft toothbrush or rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash can help
  • toothbrushes should be thrown out if the bristles are splayed out because they can no longer effectively remove the plaque; your brush may need replacing every three months, depending on bristle wear
  • use a soft toothbrush to avoid damage to the gums
  • mouth ulcers may be caused by stress, so relaxing techniques may be beneficial
  • use orthodontic wax to apply to braces that may be causing damage to the gums

Treatment Options

  • for teething pain in infants, try giving the child something to chew on, rub a teething gel on painful gums or give infant paracetamol for pain or fever
  • follow the manufacturer’s instructions for paracetamol doses (dose according to the child’s weight)
  • relieve dental pain with paracetamol until the person is able to visit a dentist, but do not use aspirin, because this can increase the risk of bleeding during dental treatment
  • sucking ice may help to reduce the pain from mouth ulcers, and drink plenty of water

Gels, drops or solutions for sore or painful mouth and gums

[GENERAL SALE]
e.g. Bonjela Mouth Ulcer Gel, Bonjela Teething Gel, Curash Family Oral Pain Relieving Gel, Ora-Sed Jel, Orabase Protective Paste, Seda-Gel

  • it is acceptable to use Bonjela, Ora-sed and Seda-Gel at the recommended dose from 4 months of age
  • don’t use Bonjela or Ora-sed if allergic to aspirin

[PHARMACY ONLY]
e.g. Difflam Anti-inflammatory Throat Spray, Difflam-C Anti-inflammatory Antiseptic Solution, Difflam Mouth Gel, Difflam Solution, Medijel, Nyal Toothache Drops , Oral-eze Dental Emergency Toothache Medication, SM-33 Adult Formula, SM-33 Gel, Seda Lotion

  • these medicines contain local anaesthetics to numb ulcer pain or other ingredients that relieve pain and reduce redness
  • apply gel with a clean finger and follow the manufacturer’s directions
  • if you are allergic to local anaesthetics or have severe mouth trauma, check with your pharmacist first

Gargles

[GENERAL SALE]
e.g. Betadine Sore Throat Gargle, Cepacol Solution, Savacol Antiseptic Mouth and Throat Rinse, Herron Riodine Concentrated Gargle, Thymol Compound Mouthwash

[PHARMACY ONLY]
e.g. Difflam-C Anti-inflammatory Antiseptic Solution, Cepacaine

  • some gargles prevent infections and others treat oral infections
  • gargles containing chlorhexidine are widely used for gingivitis (gum inflammation); however, long-term use may stain your teeth and tongue brown
  • some gargles need to be diluted; always read the manufacturer’s directions
  • spit out gargles when you’re finished; do not swallow them
  • Difflam-C and Cepacaine may also provide pain relief

Medicated treatments for mouth ulcers (topical corticosteroids)

[PHARMACIST ONLY]
e.g. triamcinolone (Kenalog in Orabase)

  • protects mouth ulcers and allows healing; may reduce the pain and duration of ulcers
  • dab onto a dry area at bedtime or after meals; see manufacturer’s directions
  • do not rub the paste in, as it will crumble
  • talk to your pharmacist if you think you have a fungal, viral or bacterial infection of the mouth or throat
  • talk to your pharmacist if you have diabetes

Medicated gels and drops for oral thrush

[PHARMACIST ONLY]
e.g. miconazole (Daktarin Oral Gel), nystatin (Nilstat Oral Drops, Mycostatin Oral Drops)

  • these medicines treat the fungal infection (candida) that causes thrush; the full course of treatment must be completed
  • hold the gel or drops in the mouth for as long as possible and then swallow
  • avoid using the gel or drops prior to food or drink
  • if you wear dentures, these should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly; Daktarin Oral Gel can be applied to the dentures and left overnight
  • Daktarin is not always suitable; tell your pharmacist if you are pregnant, if your baby is under six months old or if you take other medicines
  • younger children should be supervised when using Daktarin as there is a small risk of choking; divide the dose into small portions and place in the front of the mouth
  • if your baby has oral thrush and you are breastfeeding, you may also need treatment

More Information

Availability of medicines

  • GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
  • PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
  • PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.

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Last Reviewed: 21 July 2016
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