It’s been an up and down few weeks, and I for one have indulged in many a sweet treat over the course of this lockdown. As we ‘normalise’, I thought that for this week’s #WellnessMatters blog, we’d revisit our interview with Niall Finlay BDS MFDS from The Northside Dentist in Thornbury about all things dentistry – from how often you should be flossing, to the merits of teeth whitening, and even which toothpaste and toothbrush combination he recommends. I know I am in desperate need of a checkup!
I’ve always heard that you should brush your teeth twice a day, but should I always be brushing after a meal?
In an ideal world, we would be brushing after every meal; however, how likely is it for somebody to take their toothbrush and toothpaste to work and find the time to brush at lunch? Two times per day (once after breakfast and again before bed time) is fine, so long as you are diligent in doing so.
If I was to only brush my teeth once a day, would this have a noticeable effect on my teeth and the health of my gums?
This would depend on how well you actually brushed your teeth. If you were doing so religiously and taking the time to ensure you’re brushing properly, you likely wouldn’t notice any drastic effects of cutting back to once per day, at least initially.
I certainly would not recommend cutting back to once per day however, as most people are not meticulous enough when brushing for the effects of less regular brushing to be mitigated.
If you were to cut back to once per day, initially your teeth may feel furry and they will stain easier. As time goes on, your gums will become more susceptible to bleeding, both when brushing and eventually when eating.
As you go on longer and longer with a reduced brushing routine, plaque will continue to build up, often leading to cavities and subsequent sensitivity to cold or sweet foods and drinks.
You should attend your dentist at the first sign of any bleeding.
How often should I be flossing?
As most guidelines will tell you, flossing daily is extremely beneficial to the health of your teeth and gums. Being realistic though, not many people find the time to floss on a daily basis, especially when they are starting from scratch.
If you’re only just beginning to floss, set yourself a goal of doing so 1-2 times per week, maybe in front of the TV, that way you’re keeping yourself entertained and are likely to floss for a longer period of time. Once you’ve settled into a routine, try to add another day or two of flossing to your weekly routine – it really does make a difference.
The general idea of flossing is that your toothbrush cannot reach between your teeth, leaving your gums and teeth susceptible to bacteria build-up. Dental floss reaches into these gaps and removes the bacteria, reducing the risk of plaque build-up which can lead to decay, cavities and gum disease.
Does teeth whitening REALLY work?
Teeth whitening or bleaching will lighten your teeth and remove enamel stain; however, this entirely depends on the amount and quality of enamel on your teeth.
This process uses hydrogen peroxide (or carbamide peroxide which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide) which contains oxygen that binds and breaks up the stain molecules. Whitening does not damage your teeth, although it can cause some transient sensitivity.
I’m 24 and I still haven’t has any wisdom teeth come through – is this normal?
Wisdom teeth are the most commonly missing teeth in humans, and this is becoming a more frequent occurrence as humans develop due to wisdom teeth not being necessary.
Sometimes they just don’t come through, although you should be having fairly regular oral X-rays to ensure they are not at risk of impacting your other teeth. Just because they haven’t come through, it doesn’t mean they are not there.
Often, patients attend saying that their wisdom teeth are causing crowding, resulting in their other teeth being ‘pushed forward’; however, many studies note that this happens regardless of the presence of wisdom teeth. I don’t believe that the sensation of your teeth being pushed forward is justification to have your wisdom teeth removed; however, each case will be judged on its own merits.
Which toothbrush and toothpaste do you recommend?
Your ideal toothbrush is almost purely a matter of personal preference, although as a general rule, I recommend toothbrushes with a soft bristles and a small head so that they can clean those hard to reach places and also between your teeth. Whether that’s a manual or electric toothbrush, the choice is yours.
In terms of toothpaste, again this comes down to a matter of preference, as long as the toothpaste contains fluoride as this prevents decay. To put it in perspective, I use Aquafresh toothpaste as the three coloured stripes make brushing more fun! If your teeth are sensitive, there is some merit in using toothpastes such as Sensodyne or Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief.
What are the benefits (if any) of using a mouthwash such as Listerine?
Unless there are specific oral issues that you’re trying to address, mouthwashes are not usually necessary. In this case, I often recommend the use of Savacol as it contains chlorhexidine, which acts as an antibacterial agent which can be used to treat gum issues such as gingivitis.
I don’t generally recommend mouthwashes such as Listerine as these are often used after brushing your teeth, removing the remnants of the toothpaste you just applied.
This leads me to an important topic: after brushing, spit, don’t rinse. Toothpaste is applied topically and the greatest benefits are seen if the toothpaste remains on and in-between your teeth after brushing. Rinsing your mouth out actually diminishes the positive effects of the toothpaste.
To return to an earlier point I made about brushing your teeth during the day – if you’re unable to find time to brush while you’re at work, mouthwash can be used as a suitable substitute for brushing, as long as you’re still brushing in the morning and at night.
People are reluctant to visit the dentist for a multitude of reasons (fear of pain, cost of services etc.) – how often should we actually be visiting the dentist?
How regularly you should visit the dentist is dependent on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to): oral hygiene motivation, risk of decay, diet and whether or not the patient has fillings (as these need to be checked regularly).
As a general rule, you should visit your dentist every 6-12 months to ensure your teeth and gums are remaining in good health. When I see a new patient, I get them to come in every six months or so to allow me to monitor their progress.
If you have a health profession you would like us to explore in future editions of Ask an Expert, please email me here.