A Guide to Keeping Your Teeth and Mouth Healthy
Gentle reminder, in case you've neglected your dental health in the midst of the pandemic.
We've been told to wash our hands and wear a mask, but what about oral hygiene, especially now in these capricious times when good personal practices are our first line of defence?
Too often, dental health has been an afterthought and whilst dental services in Singapore are gradually resuming – you can get your teeth cleaned now – some of us may still be cautious about going out. It may be a while before you see your dentist but this doesn't mean you should slack off on dental hygiene. Think of as it as a vital form of self-care.
“Put your health where your mouth is,” says Dr Glaphyra Lim, a Sydney-based dentist. “Your mouth is the gateway to your body, and what you put in your mouth and how you take care of it will affect the rest of your body and your overall health.”
Like other aspects of your health, prevention is better than cure. Oral health has been found to be linked to diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, dementia and pregnancy complications.
“Take care of your teeth and gums, keep them healthy and you’ll be able to eat well right into your twilight years,” Dr Lim says. “People will also notice a nice sparkly smile, which can boost your self-confidence.”
“Dental health is one of the easiest areas of your body that you can take care of. You don’t need fancy gadgets and expensive products.”
Ahead, her advice for a gleaming, no-fuss dental regimen.
Brush x 2, floss x 1; repeat
You know the drill and it's more important than ever to implement it.
“Brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste, flossing once a day and watching what you eat and drink will prevent most issues,” says Dr Lim.
Tip: If you find flossing difficult, use inter-proximal brushes instead, especially if you have larger gaps between the teeth.
Limit sugary and acidic food and drinks
Both can make your teeth more prone to cavities. “Too much acid can cause erosion and wear of teeth, which will also cause sensitivity and that translucent look,” Dr Lim says.
She adds that a lot of people who lead healthy lifestyles tend to have an acidic diet; for instance, drinking lemon water, apple cider vinegar or kombucha. Sparkling water is acidic too. She advises drinking with a straw so that it doesn’t swish around the mouth too much, or rinsing your mouth with water after.
Grazers, take note
If you snack throughout the day, there’s a higher risk of decay.
Here's why: Digestion begins in the mouth. When it’s breaking down food, the pH of saliva is acidic and after a while, it becomes neutral again to protect the teeth. According to Dr Lim, if you’re constantly eating, the saliva pH doesn’t have time to correct itself to be neutral again.
“It’s a constant demineralisation and mineralisation process, and if it’s always in a demineralisation state, you’re more at risk of dental caries.”
Any type of toothbrush works
Both regular and electric toothbrushes will clean your teeth well, as long as you’re doing it properly. “I always say it’s easy to clean with an electric toothbrush and it’s my personal preference, but that doesn’t mean you can’t brush effectively with a regular toothbrush.”
Always make sure the toothbrush head is in between the gums and the teeth: Use small circular movements following the gum line with the regular toothbrush. Or, follow the gum line and let the electric toothbrush do all the work.
You could clean your toothbrush, if you want
There’s insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to adverse oral or health effects, and Dr Lim says that it isn’t necessary to clean your toothbrush.
“But if you really want to, soak the brush head in diluted sodium peroxide, like a 1:2 solution of Milton’s (sterilising fluid) and water, overnight every week.”
You should however, replace your toothbrush every three months. “If your brush is splaying our before then, you’re probably brushing too vigorously.”
Mouthwash isn’t essential, either
It’s effective in freshening your breath and reducing bacterial load in your mouth – not specifically just bad bacteria. "If that’s what you need, then go for it," Dr Lim says.
But she stresses that if you want clean teeth to prevent decay and gum disease, then there’s no other way than brushing, cleaning between teeth and seeing your dentist for a thorough cleaning at least every six months.
However, there are some medicated mouthwashes that your dentist will prescribe to you that are most effective for gum healing.
Use a fluoridated toothpaste
It provides the protection of fluoride, which helps to strengthen the teeth.
“The other added ingredients help to fresh the breath, reduce bacterial load and plaque build-up which can cause decay and gum disease”
Be careful of trendy products such as those found on social media, Dr Lim warns. Charcoal and whitening toothpastes are abrasive. Whilst they can remove external staining due to their abrasiveness, they can do more damage in the long run.
"If you want whiter teeth, don’t waste your money. See a dentist for a proper whitening treatment."