When I was a young boy, I remember the dentist quite fondly. He was fairly gentle, and I got a brand new toothbrush at the end. As I got older, visits to the dentists got a little bit less fun. They would get stuck in around my gums very energetically; they would drill away at my teeth and I swear the high pitched sound rattled through my brain like no other noise. But far from resenting this gung ho attitude, I applaud it. Because looking after your dental hygiene is actually far more important than you think. It has made me a more conscientious brusher of my teeth. And look, I get it. It’s probably not everyone’s idea of a good time. In fact 2% of people don’t even brush their teeth at all. These people probably don’t have too many chompers left, so the choice gets taken out of their hands eventually. But it is incredibly important that we brush our teeth because so much can go wrong if we don’t.
Firstly, you can end up with really stained teeth. This might be a general build up of plaque which contributes to a yellow hue, or if you are drinking a lot of wine, coffee or smoking a lot of cigarettes, your teeth could get stained a dark brown or purple. These contain a staining agent that builds up in the protein of your teeth enamel. Happily, this is by no means permanent. You can pretty much undo any of this damage with some careful brushing using whitening toothpaste. And you can get the aforesaid mentioned whitening toothpaste at this very discounted chemist for the best price.
But there are further problems. Failing to brush properly can result in tooth decay. This is where you wear away at the enamel which forms a natural shield for your teeth. Best case scenario? You’ll end up with bad breath. Worst case? Your teeth will start to crack and break down, which will require root canal, fillings or crowns. That’s expensive. Much more expensive than just buying good toothpaste from a discounted chemist. Save yourself the time, pain and money now.
You can also develop gum disease, AKA periodontitis. This is where the your poor oral hygiene extends to your gums and they become swollen, bloodied and raw. You can begin to struggle to chew properly if your entire gums are inflamed, and it can even begin to break them down entirely. Think about that for a second. Your gums are what keep your teeth in line. If they begin to fail, your teeth can fall out. As if this wasn’t bad enough, periodontal disease has been associated with higher risks of kidney disease, dementia, and certain types of cancers. I guess what I’m saying is: Look after your teeth. They look after you.
I’m going to anticipate your obvious question. How do I know if I’m doing it right? It’s a good question because most people aren’t. The average time spent brushing your teeth in a 24 hour period is about 45-70 seconds, less than half of what is recommended. One in three people only brush once a day. One in five people are never flossing their teeth, and almost one in three people wait three years between visits to the dentist. So what are you supposed to do?
Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day
You need to spend at least two minutes each time. A dentist friend of mine recommends spending aout 30 seconds in each of the quadrants of your mouth (bottom left and right, top left and right, front teeth). He also recommended setting a stopwatch because you tend to overestimate how long you’ve spent in each section. You want to hold the brush at roughly 45 degrees to your tooth and brush in towards the gums. Also, don’t forget to brush your tongue and roof of your mouth. These are the areas which are most likely to contribute to halitosis. Here is where the advice gets tricky: Dentists advise that you wait one hour between breakfast and brushing. Some acidic food can momentarily loosen your enamel, and brushing straight away can get rid of more than you are bargaining for. So, although it seems like the height of strange, brushing your teeth before breakfast might actually be the better option if you can’t wait an hour.
Floss Each Time
Counterintuitively, you should actually floss before you brush. This will pull out those sneaky bits of food wedged in those hard to reach places, and will make your brushing much more effective. You need a clean bit of floss for each tooth. This isn’t the time for skimping. Otherwise, you will just be rubbing dirty string into your gums. This means you will roughly need somewhere between 40-50cm.
Get into your Mouthwashes
Think of this as the final wash out of any of the residue that flossing and brushing didn’t quite get rid of. Often, it will be bits of gunk stuck in your cheeks that aren’t necessarily targeted by these first two methods. Swirling around mouthwash is the final sweep. It also helps your breath to stay fresh and minty and (from a personal perspective) it lets you start your day feeling fresh.
If your teeth feel clean, your gums are a healthy pink colour and your breath is fresher throughout the day, you can rest assured that you are doing it right!
There are a few products which I often point people towards in my discounted chemist with regard to dental hygiene. Firstly, consider picking up an electric toothbrush. This is a damning indictment of the 21st century but we are far more likely to spend time doing something if it is easy. Secondly, toothpaste that specifically whitens, or offers relief from sensitivity. I myself get sensitive teeth from a cool breeze, so I have a lifetime supply of Sensodyne.
At the end of the day, you need to find a routine that works for you. But do it early, because (self-evident as it sounds), when it is too late, it is too late…
Floyd - Senior Pharmacist