You might think you have great oral hygiene if you brush and floss regularly and steer clear of too much sugar.
But many seemingly innocent everyday habits can damage your teeth—causing decay, eroding enamel, or literally cracking teeth in half.
So, to help us keep our teeth strong and healthy, we asked Dr Rick Iskandar, principal dentist at Tailored Teeth, some of the most common dental hygiene questions.
When it comes to their teeth, what is men’s biggest grooming mistake?
This is obviously a generalisation but the most common mistake I see male patients in particular make is to assume that brushing harder is better. We, men, are creatures of logic and rationality and easily come to the logical conclusion that a really good scrubbing is the way to make sure our teeth are clean. In reality, hard scrubbing of the teeth leads to toothbrush abrasion which makes teeth yellower, more susceptible to staining and more sensitive.
How do you know if you’re brushing too hard?
This is not an easy thing to identify – patients who brush too hard don’t normally feel anything unusual until it is much too late to prevent the damage from toothbrush abrasion. The most effective way is to see your dentist for a check-up and get them to check to see if there is damage caused by the way you brush. Unexplained sensitivity, gradual yellow discolouration of the part of your tooth closest to the gums or a rough tooth surface can all be signs of toothbrushing damage.
Alternatively, take the thinking out and get yourself a toothbrush that tells you when you’re brushing too hard. SenseIQ technology onboard the Sonicare 9900 Prestige uses real-time feedback through its array of sensors to change the vibrations and alert you with an LED on the handle when you are either scrubbing too much or pressing too hard on the toothbrush.
Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast?
Great question! And one that is also counterintuitive. You should always brush your teeth before breakfast. But what about bad breath from the breakfast you just ate? A healthy, clean mouth does not carry smells. If you find that your breath smells strongly of the food you have just eaten, it’s possibly because there is a large amount of plaque or calculus (soft or hard build-up, respectively) in your mouth. These, and not your mouth itself, are what carry smells and make your breath smell.
There are so many toothpastes out there—what do you really need to look for when selecting one?
There are many claims made by toothpastes that seem like they can solve all dental problems on their own, however many of these do not stand up to scientific scrutiny or have not been rigorously studied.
The most important part of a toothpaste is that it contains the recommended amount of fluoride – 1000ppm. Fluoride (and its effects on humans when included in city water) is the single most comprehensively studied public health initiative in history and has been adequately proven to have an excellent risk/benefit profile. In higher concentrations, such as in toothpaste, fluoride has been proven to significantly decrease the risk of damage to the teeth by making them harder and less susceptible to softening by acids, including those made by bacteria which cause tooth decay.
Electric toothbrushes are expensive. Is buying one worth the cost?
Every purchase we make is a positive response to a value proposition, so the only way to answer this question is to talk about what you get with a good electric toothbrush that you don’t get with a manual toothbrush.
Good electric toothbrushes take the technique element out of toothbrushing and reduce the impact of human error. The most common errors I see with manual toothbrushes are toothbrush abrasion, as mentioned earlier, and inconsistent/incomplete brushing, which can lead to decay and gum disease. Fixing decay and gum disease is a difficult and expensive process, in fact, the most expensive electric toothbrushes on the market are around half the average cost of one round of full mouth periodontal (gum disease) treatment, or roughly the cost of two small fillings.
An excellent electric toothbrush, like the Sonicare 9900 Prestige, contains tech that improves your brushing technique and can reduce the likelihood of the development of disease of the teeth and gums that will need to be repaired or replaced in the future. To circle back to the question of whether they’re worth the cost? What’s the value you place on maintaining the health, aesthetics and functionality of your smile?
If your gums bleed when flossing – should you be worried?
Pain, swelling, redness and bleeding are signs of inflammation and this can be directly applied to gingivitis – inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is caused by our body’s immune response to plaque sitting on the gums for too long. If your gums bleed while flossing, especially if you are an irregular flosser, this is the most likely cause.
In the short-term, gingivitis is entirely reversible and can usually be fixed with a professional clean and upping the effectiveness of your home care routine. However, if left unchecked, gingivitis will eventually progress to periodontitis (gum disease), which is irreversible and causes destruction of the ligaments and bone that keep your teeth in place. Over time the teeth can become wobbly and may eventually need to be removed.
Interdental cleaning (cleaning between the teeth) such as flossing is an important part of the prevention of dental disease. Some patients find it very difficult to floss because of manual dexterity problems, crowded teeth, or personal preference. If this is the case for you, there are other options available such as interdental brushes or water-based flossers like the Sonicare Power Flosser 7000, which uses powerful jets of water to clean plaque from in between the teeth.
If your gums are bleeding regularly, have a chat to your dentist about the reasons why this may be happening and, in the meantime, clean between your teeth every day to reduce the plaque that causes inflammation and gum disease.