A Dental Expert Answers Common Questions Related To Oral Hygiene

Pooja Maheshwary , 07 Aug 2019

In our busy, hectic lives, sometimes our dental care routine may take a backseat. The health of our teeth, however, may often be related to other health concerns. This makes it even more necessary to keep up good oral hygiene habits.

The ladies on Malini’s Girl Tribe recently discussed their common dental health concerns. So, we got in touch with  Dr. Shruti Shanbhag, who is a dentist with a specialisation in Prosthetic and Aesthetic Dentistry, to help us answer all their queries. Read on to find out everything you need to know to maintain a happy set of pearlies!

Q. How many times should one brush their teeth?

Normally, brushing twice a day (morning and night) is sufficient. And necessary. But sometimes your dentist may recommend you brush up to three times a day (after every meal). This is in case of specific conditions, like if you have braces or dentures, or some maybe a gum or tooth infection.

Q. How much brushing is too much?

Brushing teeth too much is definitely a concern. Oftentimes, people who are otherwise very particular about their oral hygiene, may show signs of tooth wear. Brushing more than two or three times in a day, or brushing with too much pressure, would definitely wear away your tooth enamel. It could cause ‘wear facets’, which weaken the teeth and may result in sensitive teeth.

Q. Is there a right way to brush one’s teeth?

It’s important to remember that brushing your teeth doesn’t mean scrubbing your teeth. A side-to-side scrub is the fastest way to wear away at your teeth. A circular or up-and-down movement of your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the tooth surface is the ideal way to brush. There are a lot of informative videos on YouTube you can look up in case you want to perfect the technique.

Q. Which is better: brushing teeth right after waking up, or after breakfast?

This is actually an excellent question, and it’s been a topic of debate for years. The simplest answer is: both are correct. But here’s the deal—if you brush at night and don’t consume anything afterwards, then brushing after breakfast the next morning is fine. Since there has been no food intake, there would be minimal plaque formation or acidic food on your teeth all night. That said however, brushing immediately after eating isn’t correct either. Since the acid from the food is layered on the teeth, brushing immediately will cause some tooth wear. Instead, wait for 20-30 minutes after breakfast before brushing.

Those who don’t brush regularly before bedtime, should definitely brush first thing in the morning. As the bacteria in the mouth has been feasting on food particles and sugars stuck in the mouth overnight. 

Of course, there are a few people who need to brush their teeth to wake themselves up in the morning, despite having brushed at night. There’s no harm in that either.

Q. What kind of a toothbrush is better—soft, medium, or hard?

Soft bristles, always! And extra soft if you brush with a lot of pressure. There are very few instances when your dentist would recommend a medium toothbrush.

Q. Are the regular kinds of toothpaste we use harmful to the environment? Should we switch to natural/herbal toothpaste?

Your toothpaste in itself is not harmful to the environment. The plastic tube and the box it comes in is. Also, some toothpastes have granules, crystals or beads for extra whitening. These don’t dissolve in water and end up making their way to the oceans. So, if you are concerned about the environment (as you should be!) then avoid using toothpaste with any added granules or beads. Also, you could consider picking up toothpaste tubes which don’t come in a box. This will reduce the waste.

Herbal toothpastes are no better or worse that non-herbal ones. They pretty much have the same ingredients but with added herbal products.

Q. What is the easiest way to reduce gaps in the teeth?

The two common ways to close gaps in the teeth are:

  1. Braces: They close gaps naturally. Today, there are a number of options for kids and adults, including removable and invisible braces. A qualified orthodontist is the best person to help you when it comes to braces.
  2. Cosmetic procedures: Gaps can also be closed using veneers or resin materials. A cosmetic dentist is the best person to help you decide which treatment works for the results you want.

Q. Sometimes when we floss, our gums may bleed. What is the right way to floss teeth? And how many times, and when should one floss in a day?

If you’ve just started flossing and your gums bleed, it could mean that your gums are already swollen. A teeth clean-up at the dentist’s may help reduce the inflammation before getting into a flossing routine. It could also mean your flossing technique is incorrect and you are unintentionally damaging your gums. Use a waxed floss, and slide it carefully between teeth. Handheld floss or even a water flosser are far easier to use than the conventional thread-spool floss. Flossing once a day before bedtime is ideal, but your dentist may recommend you floss after every meal if you have any underlying dental issue.

Q. Despite brushing twice, we may have bad breath throughout the day. How can we address this issue?

Bad breath is caused by a bunch of different reasons. If you have bad breath after regular brushing, then:

  • Check if your brushing technique is correct, and that you aren’t missing any areas in the mouth.
  • Make sure you don’t have any cavities.
  • Ensure you’re cleaning your tongue. It’s very important.
  • Check if you have tonsillitis, constant acidity or gastritis, sinusitis, etc. All of these cause bad breath.
  • Ensure you’re drinking enough water. Sip water through the day. You can also add some mint leaves to the water.

Q. Which foods generally stain teeth? Also, which foods help promote dental health?

A good rule of thumb to follow to maintain white teeth is—anything that can stain your white shirt can stain your teeth. Tea, coffee (especially black coffee), red wine, turmeric are the usual culprits in yellowing teeth. Nowadays, polishing or bleaching your teeth is quick, painless and the easiest way to brighten discoloured teeth. 

Fibrous foods like apples, celery and carrots promote dental health. Also, fruits like strawberries, foods with good fats like avocados, nuts and green leafy veggies keep teeth very happy. Obviously, sugary and acidic foods like colas should be kept away from your pearlies!

Q. Is it true that if you drink coffee or soft drinks with a straw, it could prevent discolouration?

Yes, there is some truth to this. Soft drinks and fruit juices are your teeth’s worst enemies. High in sugar and acids, they create a feast for the bacteria in your mouth. By using a straw, you’re avoiding contact between the drink and your teeth and guiding it straight to your throat, thereby minimising its effects. 

Coffee isn’t actually harmful to your teeth. It does however stain teeth. A straw could slow down development of stains.

Q. What is the best method to clean one’s tongue?

A tongue cleaner is the best to clean your tongue. Today, a lot of tooth brushes have a rough scrubber at the back to aid in tongue-cleaning. That’s pretty effective too. 

Q. How often should you visit the dentist if there’s no dental complaint?

Visit your dentist every six months. A clean-up can also be done at this visit, and the dentist can thoroughly look to ensure nothing is amiss. At these appointments, small cavities and other minor complaints can be tackled before they grow into bigger and painful problems. Often, you may not realise there’s an issue just because there’s no pain. Gum disease, for example, is completely painless, and often gets ignored until there’s nothing that can be done to save the situation.

Q. After how many years should old fillings be removed and refilled?

Old fillings need not be removed unless they’re cracked or discoloured. In which case, they should be replaced immediately to prevent a secondary cavity or deeper decay.

Q. Could you shed some light on women’s dental health and its impact on overall health?

The list of links between dental health and overall health is endless. Here are some facts and statistics:

  • Your teeth’s blood supply is connected to the blood supply of your entire body. An unchecked bacterial infection in a tooth or gums can grow and spread through the blood to the rest of the body. 
  • The WHO says that 1 in 2 persons has dental disease. Making it the most common disease in the world.
  • Studies have shown that people with increased dental issues are twice as prone to heart attacks.
  • Diabetics are more prone to gum infections, and diabetes itself makes gum infections difficult to control. It’s a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break.
  • Stroke incidence increases in patients with unchecked oral infections.

Q. Do hormones play a role in dental health?

Many studies suggest that despite women being more particular about their dental hygiene as compared to men, they are also more prone to tooth and gum infections. Some part of this is hormone-related.

  • The surge of oestrogen during menarche, pregnancy, menopause and sometimes even during a regular period, aggravates gum issues and causes swollen gums.
  • Up to 70% of women face some dental issue during pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy gingivitis is a common condition too. This is when the gums swell up and may bleed due to hormonal changes.
  • Some women get ulcers in the mouth during their periods. And very often as a symptom of PMS.
  • Women on birth-control pills may experience bleeding gums.
  • As they approach menopause, some women experience multiple changes in their mouth. Including swollen gums, a burning sensation on the tongue and inner cheeks, altered sense of taste, and a dry mouth.
  • Pregnant women must get regular dental check-ups, preferably every trimester to ensure no major dental issues crop up. These are often difficult to treat during pregnancy as there’s only a limited number of medications and procedures that can be tolerated.

Q. Could you suggest any tips or tricks for a brighter smile?

  1. Home remedies like brushing with baking soda and salt occasionally help brighten teeth. Used routinely, they will abrade away your teeth!
  2. Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva flow, keeping your mouth healthy, and also washes away plaque. But chewing gum for hours may cause jaw pain.
  3. Don’t be fooled by those charcoal powder teeth-whiteners available online or those ‘magic’ blue-light whitening gels. They don’t work. They could damage your teeth. Tooth bleaching is a sensitive procedure and must be done under the supervision of a dentist.
  4. To make your teeth look whiter, use blue-tinted lipsticks which nullify the yellow in your teeth. For example, a scarlet red will make your teeth look whiter than using an orangish-red which will highlight the yellow tones.
  5. Eating fibrous food like fruits and veggies, and drinking lots of water will ensure your teeth love you forever.

Do you have any questions related to dental health? Please share with us in the comments below.

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