In recognition of Dental Health Week, our resident dental blogger Dr Emma caught up with Everyday Health TV to provide her top tips on a preventive, hands-on approach to your oral health care.
Tiffany Cherry: Well, it happens to be Dental Health Week, so Dr Emma has some tips for us on how to properly look after your teeth.
Dr Emma: Hi, I’m Dr Emma. Preventative dental care is so important. A lot of the procedures carried out in the dental chair can actually be avoided if you’ve got really good prevention in place - so that's why it's so important to visit your dentist regularly. Have good preventative dental care so that you can avoid a lot of hassles in the future.
A big part of prevention is making sure you remove the plaque and calculus that’s in your mouth. So what is plaque? Dentist’s love to go on and on about plaque and calculus - plague is the bacterial colonies that live in your mouth. It’s the white gooey stuff that comes off when you brush your teeth. Calculus or people love to call it tartar as well is when the plague gets hard and it can no longer be removed at home by yourself. The main place that calculus tends to build up is behind the lower front teeth down there and that’s because the saliva pulls in that area and minerals that calcify the plaque come from your salvia. This is the main spot that gets clean when you get a scale and clean at your dentist, so that’s why it’s really important to visit your dentist for a regular scale and clean to have that calculus removed.
The research shows us that it actually takes us about 48 hours before plaque will reform on your teeth; but not everyone brushes their teeth so well that they can afford to only brush their teeth every two days. That’s why we recommend brushing morning and night to keep your plaque levels down. Electric toothbrushes are fantastic; they make the job so much easier and quicker. The correct technique for brushing with a manual toothbrush is to angle towards the gum line and use gentle little circles the whole way around and it usually takes around three or four minutes to do a proper job.
An electric toothbrush takes all that hard work out of it for you. You just have to hold it there; move it around tooth to tooth and it only take about two minutes. It is so quick and easy and that is why I love them. Toothpaste is basically a delivery mechanism for fluoride. So when you think about it like that rinsing out water after you’ve brushed doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You’re rinsing all the fluoride of your teeth when you really want to leave it on there for the most benefit. So what I recommend is that after you’ve brushed; spit out the excess paste and leave the reminder sitting on your teeth.
Flossing – people seem to see this as some type of optional extra for the dental nerds that really love to get their teeth cleaned but it is so important to do it once a day. Imagine taking a shower but not washing underneath your arms that’s kind of what you’re doing to your mouth when your brush but you don’t floss. You can do it at any time of day whenever it suits you in your routine as long as it gets done. Getting daily fluoride exposure on to your teeth is really important; fluoride basically make your teeth more acid resistant, so it protects against decay and also help to protect against the daily onset of acidic things we put into our mouths like soft drink and citrus fruit; so getting that daily fluoride on there really helps to protect against acid.
People often ask me how frequently they should be visiting their dentist and it’s a bit of a case of how long is a piece of string. It is going to depend on how well you clean your teeth at home and how much calculus your mouth builds up. This is where your HIF Extras Cover can come in; it’s going to substantially reduce the cost of your regular dental visits and if you’ve got good preventative care in place it will help reduce the need for costly treatment in the future.
I’ve been practicing as a dentist for ten years now and something I’ve seen again and again is that patients who get the best treatment are the ones who are really involved in making decisions about it. That’s why I think it is really important that you have a health insurer who lets you choose your own dentist.