Today’s post is a bit different, hopefully it’ll still provide you with some knowledge in some way or another, but it’s regarding your dental health. For those of you who don’t already know (which to be fair, is probably all of you as I’ve only mentioned it maybe once in passing) I am a qualified Dental Nurse. So, today I wanted to impart some knowledge and skills on how to keep your oral hygiene in tip top condition.
Side note: I have no fillings and overall perfect oral health, which is something I am overly proud of, the day I get told I need to have my first filling will be a very dark day for me – I have no reason for pointing this out other than the fact I am *as said already* strangely proud and wanting to flaunt my dental health. – I’m a sad creature.
Firstly, I’ll provide you with a base level regarding what causes dental decay.
Sugar is often called out for causing cavities, which it does, however, sugar is not wholly to blame for this process. The sugar within our food mixes with the bacteria that is already naturally present within our mouth, this bacteria feeds on the sugar producing acid which demineralises (which basically means softening and weakening) the tooth’s enamel, taking away it’s structure and leading to decay. Enamel is, in fact, the hardest substance within the body, but even it is unable to defend itself completely against the acid that is produced every time we eat and drink. So the answer – stop eating and drinking.
No, obviously I’m joking. In short, there is no way of actually preventing acid attacks, however, you can prevent tooth decay by practicing good oral hygiene among other tips and tricks that I’m going to list below.
TOP 10 TIPS
1. Brushing Basics – You should be brushing your teeth twice daily, for an average of 2-3 minutes, at a 45 degree angle in circular motions. This combination works best to remove the soft plaque that can build up within a day, if this plaque is not removed it will harden and become ‘tartar’ or ‘calculus’, this is what you really want to avoid, hence why you’re told to brush your teeth everyday.
Your toothbrush, for the majority of people, is best suited when the head and bristles are small enough to reach into the nooks and crannies of the harder to reach teeth, such as your molars. This is one of the reasons I actually use a toddlers toothbrush. The head is smaller and I find I have better control over cleaning all the surfaces properly, I’m not necessarily advising that you do this too – it is a personal preference for me – but choosing smaller brushes will allow for better access and proper cleaning.
Your brush should be changed once the bristles start to splay, or alternatively, every 2 – 3 months. It is very important that you change your brushes as past a certain time, they are no longer being effective in removing plaque, so you are, for the most part, simply wasting your time.
2. Inter-dental Cleaning – I cannot, simply cannot, over emphasises the importance of flossing or inter-dental cleaning (cleaning the surfaces between the teeth, i.e. those little pockets near your gum line and the small spaces between where your teeth touch at the side). I’ve heard so many people arguing that they use mouthwash which is more than enough – it is not – mouthwash, in the grand scheme of oral health, does very little (sorry to be bursting bubbles there but you’re teeth and gums will thank me). Nothing compares to brushing your teeth and inter-dentally cleaning them. This can be done with floss, inter-dental sticks (which in my opinion are some of the best – I’ll explain them more in a bit), or even a toothpick (although out of all the options this one would be the last tool I’d pick unless I was using it alongside floss or inter-dental sticks).
Basically, inter-dental cleaning is one of the only ways to successfully clean and reach between the teeth to remove the germs stuck there. This area of build up is the main cause of gum disease which can quickly become periodontal disease which ends with your teeth falling out. Harsh, but true.
QUICK LOW-DOWN ON INTER-DENTAL STICKS: These are one of the best ways of cleaning inter-dentally as you can specifically choose sizes that fit you. There are a range of sizes that correspond to the space between your teeth. You can either go to your dentist and have them choose what size will work best for you, or buy a combo pack and try them out yourself, they should fit snug but not painfully in the spaces. I’ve included some photo’s below that I think will be helpful. As you can see, the brush will pick up way more debris and soft plaque that a toothpick or floss would be unable to do. I personally use both inter-dental sticks (for the areas where the gaps are bigger) and floss (for the tightly packed spaces such as my front teeth), this combo works best for me.
You can buy them in a range of places, but here’s a link that you can check out.
3. Fluoride Facts – I’m sure by now the majority of people are aware of Fluoride, but basically, it is very important in reducing tooth decay. This is why it is advised that you’re toothpaste (as an adult) should, at least, contain 1350-1500ppm fluoride (you can check this by simply looking on the back of your toothpaste, if it doesn’t state it, it’s not a good brand to be using).
4. Mouthwash – Now I know above I said that mouthwash wasn’t all it’s built up to be, so why am I listing it? Basically because, if used properly, it can aid your overall oral hygiene. One of the main reasons I find mouthwash adverts annoying is because it always depicts the character as happily swishing mouthwash around straight after brushing their teeth. This is not advisable. Using a mouthwash, even one that contains fluoride, straight after brushing your teeth will simply wash away the more concentrated fluoride left behind from your toothpaste. Using it like this is only doing you a disservice.
If you want to use a mouthwash, use it at a separate time to brushing, for example, use it after your dinner (or lunch) as it will help dislodge any food debris without interfering with the greater benefits of your toothpaste.
5. Use A Tongue Scraper – Tongue scrapers have become more common, they are often sold as a combination with a toothbrush, this is because they help remove bacteria that is left on the tongue plus keeping an overall freshened mouth, i.e. fresher breath.
6. Limit Food To Meal Times – Very quickly I’ll just further summerise acid attacks: As explained above, sugars within our food mixing with the bacteria already present in our mouths produces acid. This acid starts the demineralising process, these ‘acid attacks’ over time will erode through the layers of the teeth causing irreparable damage (without the use of fillings, crowns etc).
Acid attacks cannot be prevented, however, limiting yourself to three a day will greatly increase the chances of never having to deal with decay or cavities. By this, I simply mean, limit your food and drink (not water, as water has no sugar, so that will not cause an acid attack) to your three main meals; breakfast, dinner and tea. During these three meals, eat whatever you like, whether it be the sweetest, sugar coated candy or a healthy soup. The acid attack is already happening, so you are not supplying the bacteria within your mouth any more of an ability to produce acid than it already was.
Acid attacks, once you have finished eating, only lasts for around 20 – 40 minutes, this is why, instead of having your dinner at 1pm (equals one acid attack) followed by a snack at 2pm (2nd acid attack) and a fizzy drink at 4pm (3rd acid attack) you should combine them into the same meal to minimise the damage done during the attack. You can still snack on sugar free or natural sugars, such as fruit, as they do not play a significant role in dental decay unless consumed in excess, such as freshly squeezed juices, which are more of an issue in regards to erosion. As for your coffees and teas, they are fine too as the sugar in milk, again, is not a dental decay issue. So as long as you are taking them without sugar, you’re fine.
Your saliva works as a neutraliser after eating sugar and suffering an acid attack, once your saliva has neutalised the pH level within your mouth, remineralisation takes place, preventing any further damage from occurring – basically, stopping it in it’s tracks. Depending on the amount of time available for remineralisation, i.e. snacking throughout the day and not allowing sufficient time for neutralisation, the rapid succession of acid attacks will lead to cavity formations.
7. Don’t Brush Right After Eating Or Drinking – You might think that brushing your teeth straight after eating/drinking will encourage the remineralisation process, however, whilst the acid attack is still happening, all you will be doing is etching away the enamel.
This is the reason as to why you shouldn’t brush your teeth straight after being sick, as you are simply combining the acid with the scrubbing motion of the toothbrush, which is obviously damaging.
8. Have It Be The Last Thing You Do At Night – I know a lot of people brush there teeth after their last main meal but then continue drinking cups of tea or snacking on little bits and bobs before going to bed but think that is fine, as they have brushed their teeth twice that day.
It’s not ideal though, doing this leaves debris on your teeth that otherwise could have easily been removed. This will now sit there all night providing fuel for the bacteria rather than the fluoride from your toothpaste. After brushing your teeth at night you shouldn’t be eating or drinking anything else that contains sugar.
9. Regular Dental Visits – You didn’t think I wouldn’t slip this one in there did you? I get that visiting the Dentist can be scary, but going for a check up is very simple, no needles, no scary tools, chances are nothing electrical. Go, let your Dentist know you are nervous, they will always be as accommodating as they can, and chances are, you won’t have to go back for another 6 months. And for those fearing they might already need more extensive care – well continuing to leave it just means that more work will be required or you’ll simply lose you’re tooth. Again, harsh, but true.
10. Don’t Be A Tool – Your teeth are a great tool, but not for anything other than chewing your food. So, if you have a party trick that includes removing beers caps with your teeth – stop, you’re playing a risky game; you could easily crack a tooth, or worse, knock one out altogether. By the same token, if you play any impact sports, wear a bite-guard, they are worn by the professionals for a reason… and that reason isn’t to look cute 😉
I actually had so much fun writing up this post – I told you I was sad – and if it’s well received I’d be more than happy to do more dental related posts that are more specific to certain areas; Gum Disease, Fillings, Crowns/Inlays, Veneers and Implants, Whitening Methods, Braces etc.
If this was helpful please let me know, and if you have any questions that I might be able to answer, feel free to ask away. Also, if you would like to see more posts regarding Dentistry, let me know.
THIS POST CONTAINS SOME AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK & BUY FROM ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS, I’LL RECEIVE COMMISSION.