Keeping your smile in tip top condition should be one of your priorities. Apart from the well-documented health advantages of strong, well-aligned and efficiently functioning chompers, there is also the aesthetics side – who doesn’t love a big bright smile? We talk to dentists in Singapore about the do’s and don’ts, from tongue scraping, chewing ice and breathing with your mouth open.
Do’s and Don’ts!
We tend to take our teeth for granted, says DR DAPHNE CHUA of Aesthete Smilestudio, especially those who are naturally blessed. Here’s what you need to do to keep them and you looking great.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day to keep decay away – in the morning, and the last thing before you go to bed at night. That’s to get rid of the zillions of bacteria in our mouth that gather in the crevices between the teeth – the acid they release is the main cause of cavities.
Floss every night! It’s not much fun and lacks the instant gratification of that zingy, minty, just-brushed feeling, but some believe that flossing may be even more important than brushing. That’s because flossing gets right down between the teeth to remove plaque build-up before it has time to cause periodontitis, tooth loss, and gingivitis (gum infection).
Use a fluoride toothpaste and rinse daily with fluoride, says Dr Chua. Rinse for a full minute at a time, and ideally after your bedtime brushing and flossing. Why? A fluoride rinse hardens the surfaces of the teeth, making them more resistant to decay. Be sure not to swallow the stuff, though – it’s toxic when ingested.
Tongue-scraping is not just an ancient Ayurvedic practice – we should all be doing it, every morning. The spongy, bumpy texture of the tongue’s surface is a favourite place for bacteria to breed. Getting rid of that malodorous layer of morning gunk will guard against halitosis, improve your sense of taste, and prevent the bacteria migrating to your just-brushed teeth.
Limit acidic food and drinks where possible, and be sure not to drink anything acidic at least half an hour before brushing. Despite their undoubted benefits, some of the worst culprits are citrus fruit, pickles, coffee, wine and sodas – and sugar, of course, which has little nutritional benefit. But you don’t have to give up that fresh lemon juice: try drinking it through a straw!
Chewing ice is terrible for teeth, because the low temperature of ice makes the enamel brittle and more vulnerable than usual to microscopic fractures and breakage. Watch out for popcorn kernels, too. If you’re overwhelmed by the urge to crunch, go for celery sticks, baby carrots or an old-fashioned apple.
Don’t use your teeth as a bottle-opener, or to rip off garment labels, or to open plastic packaging. Just don’t.
Get enough calcium and other tooth-building minerals found in dairy foods, seafood, leafy vegetables, legumes, soya, nuts and fish canned with their bones. Early prevention and detection of problems is key, so visit your dentist for regular six-monthly dental check-ups and cleaning.
How it all connects?
Taking a holistic viewpoint on dentistry and general health, DR BERNARD SIEW of Smilefocus says there is much that you can do to promote your own longevity – and that of your teeth. It is wrong to see dental caries and gum diseases as acute conditions that arise suddenly. In fact, they indicate chronic systemic problems. A cavity is the result of minerals having been leached out of a tooth over a long period of tooth disease, in the same way as a heart attack is the culmination of long-term heart disease.
What is meant by “the mouth-body connection”?
Historically, the mouth has always been an indicator of the general state of the body. As we can’t easily inspect the internal organs such as the stomach or the heart, we can make inferences from different conditions we see in the mouth. Inflammation is key.
What do you mean by inflammation?
Inflammation, in a nutshell, is the release of our soldier cells to fight a threat to the body, either known or unknown. Inflammation can be present in the absence of infection, for example in the case of allergy. It also exists in people who have a loss of physiological balance. When we see chronic inflammation in the mouth, we can deduce that similar inflammation may be occurring elsewhere.
Tell us more about your holistic approach.
I firmly believe that the primary focus of both dentistry and medicine should be on preventing disease and maintaining health. For example, we would recommend early treatment for a child patient’s problematic airways so as to prevent orthodontic problems, a dry-mouth and a higher risk in future of gum disease and dental caries. Also, I’m looking for early signs of teeth-grinding or erosion, which can really reduce the lifespan of our teeth. For this, I make dental devices such as hard-splint night-guards to prevent tooth-grinding.
How common are airway problems?
Chronic respiratory problems have become more common and are directly related to chronic mouth breathing. As a result, we are seeing a general deformity of the jaws – a narrowing and a deepening. Plaque and dental decay are rampant in patients with airway problems, and they often require orthodontic correction of the jaws.
How can we promote healthy levels of oral bacteria that will not cause tooth decay and gum disease?
I believe there is a role for probiotics. By planting the mouth with non-aggressive bacteria, we can limit the ability of aggressive bacteria to thrive. Apart from that, maintain a good, balanced diet with adequate hydration. Brush twice-daily with a fluoride toothpaste and don’t rinse it all out: fluoride strengthens the enamel structure and slows the growth of the bacteria in plaque. Floss daily … and do it well! Get plenty of rest, and manage your stress levels.
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