6 things people are doing in 2015 to protect their white smiles
The key to a brighter smile extends much further than simply brushing your teeth twice a day. Yet with so many different dental care options now available, which practices should patients be focusing on to protect their teeth?
Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for healthy teeth and gums. Food and drink containing sugar and acid can weaken the enamel of the teeth, leading to a build-up of plaque which can cause tooth decay. Plaque is a sticky substance made of bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease. The British Dental Health Foundation recommends brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night and at least once throughout the day to prevent plaque build-up, but people are generally going to far greater lengths to protect their teeth. A white smile is all the rage, after all!
Some of these techniques are causing a great deal of debate among dentists, while some proven methods seem to be dying out. Let’s take a closer look.
Regular flossing can provide significant benefits for your oral health, as it helps to remove pieces of food and plaque from in between your teeth. However, a study undertaken by staging.mydentistcareers.co.uk showed that 50% of people claimed they never floss their teeth. In addition to this, only 28% of people floss their teeth once a day and less than a quarter of respondents claim to floss twice a day according to our research.
If your patient is reluctant to use dental floss, recommend that they use dental tape as it is slightly thicker and some people find it easier to work with. Alternatively they could use an interdental brush which holds the floss in place. Ensure that your patient is fully instructed on how to use floss properly, because floss can actually damage gums if used incorrectly. In general terms, it’s a shame to see such an effective means of tooth protection being used less and less.
When used in conjunction with a rigorous brushing routine, a fluoride mouthwash can really help to prevent gum diseases, such as gingivitis, and plaque forming on the teeth and gums.
Regularly using a fluoride mouthwash can also help to prevent cavities from forming and it can strengthen your enamel, however be sure to check the label, as not all mouthwashes contain fluoride. In addition to this, using a mouthwash after eating or drinking can help to reduce the amount of acid or sugar left on the teeth. You could also recommend that patients use it before brushing, rather than after, to thoroughly rinse the mouth of any food particles before brushing.
The benefits of chewing gum go beyond fresh breath, as chewing sugar-free gum helps to protect your mouth in between meals when it is not possible to brush your teeth.
Chewing gum encourages your mouth to produce more saliva, which acts as a natural defender against acid and sugars which may lead to tooth decay and dental erosion. Chewing gum helps to remineralise enamel, neutralise plaque acid and remove food debris. Adhering to eating a piece of sugar-free gum every time you eat or drink is a simple and convenient way to maintain good oral hygiene throughout the day.
Brushing on the go
It’s important to stick to a dental hygiene routine, especially when you are travelling. According to a survey conducted by the National Dental Health Association, people in the UK take their brushing schedules very seriously and have revealed that they have brushed their teeth in some very unusual places, including the Wall of China, in the Masai Mara while on safari, and even in the Australian Outback.
For occasions when people need to properly brush their teeth but don’t have access to their usual brush, then a disposable toothbrush is the best option. These convenient items are often found pre-pasted so you just need to add water. They eliminate the problem of packing a normal toothbrush, which may be unprotected from germs, and you can normally find a machine in the majority of public bathrooms for a small price. You shouldn’t rely too heavily on them, but they’re certainly handy to have around.
Oil pulling has become a recent trend in the UK and consists of holding a type of oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes a day to draw out bacteria and toxins from the mouth. The oil acts as a mouthwash to attract and bind to the bacteria that causes gum disease and bad breath.
Dr Amer Saeed, Clinical Director of Garden Square Dental, told us about the trend: “[Oil pulling] is said to reduce the level of inflammation and bleeding gums in the mouth, which can in turn improve the overall systemic health, as chronic illness is often associated with inflammatory markers. The perceived benefit to the teeth is that they become whiter. However, it is more probable that the teeth become cleaner and as a result look whiter.
“I have to say it tasted pretty awful and my teeth did not measure any whiter after two weeks. They did look shiny and felt ‘glossy’, though. I can’t say that I would specifically recommend this to patients over a proprietary mouthwash unless they were allergic or sensitive to certain chemicals, namely chlorhexidine gluconate (0.2%), which is industry standard for treating gingivitis.”
Electric vs. manual toothbrush
In a technology-driven world, it is easy to assume that an electric toothbrush will provide a far superior clean when compared to a manual toothbrush, but in reality the two both have equal benefits.
Manual toothbrushes are inexpensive and can be easily replaced to ensure that your toothbrush is hygienic and in good condition. Due to their size, they are more flexible than electric brushes, and you can target areas of the mouth that may be difficult to reach with an electric brush. On the other hand, an electric toothbrush uses rotating bristles to do all of the hard work for you, which may provide you with a deeper clean than manual brushing. Many of the electric models on the market have timers or sensors to inform you when you have completed a section of the mouth, which may be useful if you want to be certain that you are brushing your teeth for at least two minutes.
The bottom line is that as long as you are brushing your teeth for over two minutes, at least twice a day, and using a good quality fluoride toothpaste, then there really is little difference between a manual and an electric toothbrush. Both types of brushes will ensure good oral hygiene as long as you brush correctly.
The toughest job that most hygienists and therapists face is convincing their patients to get into a regular routine whereby they adopt proven methods to keep their teeth clean and healthy. A lot of people will endeavour to floss for a week or so, for example, but they quickly slip back into their old habits. It’s all about consistency!