Dental Care myths unraveled

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Does an electric toothbrush make your teeth cleaner? Do you need to use mouthwash and why do we have more dental problems as we age.  Dr Dianne Sainsbury unpacks all the dental myths below.

An electric toothbrush is better than a normal toothbrush

It all depends on your technique.   If your technique is up to scratch, then there’s not much difference in the quality of your teeth clean if you use an electric toothbrush or a normal toothbrush.  But if you don’t have good practices, including proper attention to the gum line and the chewing surfaces, then an electric toothbrush can really help.  They’re often the best solution to ensuring good oral hygiene if you are wearing fixed braces, as braces can be hard to clean.  Whatever toothbrush you use, you always need to floss at least once per day, and drink plenty of non-carbonated water.

We have to use mouthwash to get a deep clean

Non alcoholic mouthwashes are a good way to refresh your mouth after eating when you are unable to clean your teeth, but they do not clean your teeth and do not enhance the clean after using a toothbrush and toothpaste.  Spitting but not rinsing for 30 minutes after using a fluoridated toothpaste is a better way to utilise the value of a fluoridated product than a mouth rinse, but if you do use a mouth rinse, try not to drink or eat anything for as long as possible so the rinse remains in contact with the teeth.  That’s why using a mouth rinse before bed is a good idea.  Don’t use a mouthwash immediately after brushing as you are rinsing high fluoride toothpaste away for lower fluoride mouthwash.

Brushing your teeth once a day is good enough

Once a day is definitely not good enough, but certainly better than not at all.  A minimum of twice a day, with at least one time for a thorough two minutes, is the best way to look after your teeth and mouth.  Plus flossing once a day.  The ancient adage ‘floss the teeth you want to keep’ never goes out of fashion, and has never been disproved!

As we get older we have to see the dentist more often

As we age our hormones change, man or woman. Hormones play a role in managing the bacteria naturally occurring in our body, including in the mouth.  Stress, diet choices, pollution – these things and many others, affect the balance of our hormones, and we are exposed to more and more the longer we live.  Grinding, or bruxism, can be a reaction to stress and this can also have a negative impact on your teeth.  If you haven’t been taking care of your oral hygiene, you may experience dental problems, and the longer you haven’t been caring for your mouth properly, the worse these problems may be.  So it’s not age that sends you to the dentist more often, it’s what your life long habits have been, and your natural ageing rhythm, that are the drivers.

The harder you brush the cleaner your teeth, the cleaner they get

Definitely not the case, in fact, the harder you brush your teeth, the bigger the problem you may end up with.  You can brush away the dentine near the gum line which can cause sensitivity.  Receding gums are most often caused by long term heavy-handed brushing.  The teeth need the gums to keep them in position so if you don’t have enough gum because you’ve been using a hard toothbrush and brushing really hard, you’ll lose your gum and your teeth will fall out.

When it comes to cavities, sugar is the main culprit.

The main culprit for making cavities is not sugar, but the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth that feed off the sugar. Not drinking enough water, particularly after eating any kind of food/surgary drinks, and not brushing your teeth regularly will lead to cavities.  Cavities can be minimised if your mouth is rinsed with water after eating or drinking.  If you wear braces only drink water and avoid sugar altogether because it’s very hard to keep your mouth clean with a simple rinse.

If you have sensitive teeth, it means you have worn away too much of the enamel on your teeth

Sensitive teeth can develop in several ways. Extreme hot and cold temperature changes can cause teeth to expand and contract. An example would be crunching ice with your teeth. Over time your teeth can develop tiny cracks, which allow sensation to be transmitted to the nerve of your tooth, causing discomfort and pain.  This painful reaction – referred to as “cracked tooth syndrome” can be caused by hot and cold, and also by biting pressure.  Most of these fracture lines cannot be seen, but whether or not a fracture is found, sensitivity to pressure and cold usually indicates a problem.

If your teeth are sensitive along the gum line and you experience discomfort only when brushing your teeth, this can suggest you have an exposed area of dentin. Dentin is the protein-rich layer under the enamel – a tooth’s in-built shock absorber. Because tooth enamel is thinner along the gum line, it can be worn away by abrasion from hard-bristled toothbrushes or aggressive brushing.

Use a soft brush without aggressive scrubbing and brushing or switch to an electric toothbrush to reduce damage.

If nothing is bothering you, you don’t need a dental checkup

WRONG!  You certainly need a dental checkup if something is bothering you, of course, but if you wait until something hurts, the remedy may be more aggressive than would otherwise be the case, and may be more expensive too.  It is common for a cavity to be very close to the nerve of the tooth or below the gum line, without you experiencing any discomfort.  Gum problems such as gingivitis and periodontal disease are typically also almost painless. You can lose the support from your gums and bones resulting in tooth loss without ever experiencing pain. In fact, periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss amongst people over 30 years of age. Regular dental visits, which include x-rays as needed, are often all that’s needed to prevent teeth and gum problems, or to catch problems in their earliest stages.