Ever wonder if you’re actually supposed to use mouthwash after brushing? Or, if an electric toothbrush is better than a manual one? Here, DR DIANNE SAINSBURY, a dentist at Smilefocus, sets the record straight on these dental myths and more – including flossing, tooth sensitivity and the real truth about what causes cavities!
#1 An electric toothbrush is better than a normal toothbrush
Electric toothbrush or manual toothbrush? It all depends on your technique, says Dr Sainsbury. “If your technique is up to scratch, then there’s not much difference in the quality of your teeth cleaning if you use an electric toothbrush versus a manual toothbrush.”
However, if you don’t have good practices, including proper attention to the gum-line and chewing surfaces, then an electric toothbrush can be very beneficial.
“An electric toothbrush is often the best solution to ensuring good oral hygiene if you are wearing fixed braces, as braces can be hard to clean,” says Dr Sainsbury.
But, regardless of the type of toothbrush you use, she says flossing at least once a day is a must for keeping away decay and cavities, as is drinking plenty of non-carbonated water.
#2 Brushing your teeth once a day is good enough to prevent cavities
Brushing teeth once a day is definitely not good enough, but certainly better than not at all, says Dr Sainsbury. A minimum of twice a day, with at least one time for a thorough two minutes, is the best way to look after your mouth and prevent cavities.
It’s also important to floss at least once a day, says Dr Sainsbury. “The ancient adage ‘floss the teeth you want to keep’ never goes out of fashion, and has never been disproved!”
#3 The harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth get
This is definitely not the case, says Dr Sainsbury. In fact, the harder you brush your teeth, the bigger the problem you may end up with. Brushing too hard can brush away the dentine near the gum-line, which can cause tooth sensitivity.
Receding gums are most often caused by long-term heavy-handed brushing,” she says. “The teeth need the gums to keep them in position. So, if you don’t have enough gum because you’ve been brushing really hard, your teeth could actually fall out.”
#4 Mouthwash is necessary to get a deep clean
Non-alcoholic mouthwashes are a good way to freshen your mouth after eating, especially when brushing isn’t an option. However, mouthwash does not clean your teeth, explains Dr Sainsbury. Mouthwash after brushing also doesn’t enhance the cleaning you’ve just completed with a toothbrush and paste.
“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,” she says. “But if you do use a mouth rinse, try not to drink or eat anything for as long as possible so that the rinse remains in contact with your teeth.”
For this reason, it’s a good idea to use mouthwash before going to bed. However, she says mouthwash shouldn’t be used immediately after brushing. Doing so will only rinse away the high fluoride toothpaste and swap it for a lower fluoride mouthwash.
#5 Getting older means having to see the dentist more often
As we age, our hormones change. This is the case for both men and women. Hormones play a role in managing the bacteria that naturally occurs in the body, including in the mouth. Everything from stress and diet choices to pollution affect the balance of our hormones, and we are exposed to more and more the longer we live, explains Dr Sainsbury. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can be a reaction to stress and this can have a negative impact on your teeth, she says.
“If you haven’t been taking care of your oral hygiene, you may experience dental problems including tooth sensitivity. 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.”
#6 Sugar is what causes cavities
Think you know what causes cavities? It’s not sugar, if that’s what you’re thinking! According to Dr Sainsbury, cavities are actually caused by the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth that feed off the sugar. Not drinking enough water, particularly after eating any kind of food or sugary drink, and not brushing your teeth regularly can lead to cavities.
Cavities can be minimised if your mouth is rinsed with water after eating or drinking. If you wear braces, try to stick to drinking water only and avoid sugar altogether because it’s very hard to keep the mouth clean with a simple rinse.
#7 Tooth sensitivity means your enamel has worn down completely
Tooth sensitivity can actually develop in several different ways, says Dr Sainsbury. One way is extreme hot and cold temperature changes that can cause teeth to expand and contract. For example, crunching teeth with ice.
“Over time, your teeth can develop tiny cracks, which allow sensation to be transmitted to the nerve of your tooth. This causes discomfort and pain,” she says. “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 can’t be seen. But, whether or not a fracture is found, sensitivity to pressure and cold usually indicates a problem.”
When teeth are sensitive along the gum-line and you experience discomfort only when brushing your teeth, this may indicate 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 gumline, it can be worn away by abrasion from hard-bristled toothbrushes or aggressive brushing.
Dr Sainsbury recommends using a soft brush without aggressive scrubbing or switching to an electric toothbrush to reduce damage.
#8 You don’t need a dental checkup if nothing is bothering you
Wrong, says Dr Sainsbury. “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 it may be more expensive!”
She says, “It’s common for cavities 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. So, the problem is that you can lose the support from your gums and bones resulting in tooth loss, without ever experiencing pain.”
In fact, she says that periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss amongst people over 30. Regular dental visits, which include x-rays as needed, are often all that’s required to prevent tooth and gum problems, and to catch problems in their earliest stages.
#08-02/03 and #08-07/08 Camden Medical Centre, 1 Orchard Boulevard
6733 9882 | 6834 0877 | smilefocus.com.sg
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