For most of us, brushing our teeth twice a day with a quarterly trip to the dentist may feel like we’re on top of our oral health. However, it’s not just about the regularity; it’s the process that matters too. Our Food Matters Practitioners have delved deep into the decay, discovering the clues and connections about the relationship between your mouth and the rest of your body, and highlight some tooth tips you may not be aware of.
Let’s Get Brushing
Oral hygiene might have more to do with your health than you think, with recent studies showing direct correlations between our mouth and heart disease, diabetes, kidney health, and dementia – making the relationship with your toothbrush a lot more important. As a gateway to the rest of the body, our mouth can harbour a home for nasty radicals as well as good and bad bacteria. Through the various foods, drinks, products, and medications we consume, bad bacteria can build up on our teeth making our gums prone to infection. Over time, inflammation and chemicals can eat away at the gum and cause problems not only for our mouth, but in the rest of the body as well.
So how do we keep the bad bacteria in-check? By brushing of course!
To understand why it is important to brush our teeth – we need to take a trip back in time, circa WWII, in America. Prior to the 1930s, a mere 7% of Americans brushed their teeth – YUCK! It wasn’t until WWII (after the subsequent release of the nylon toothbrush) that the G.I.’s were ordered to brush their teeth twice a day to keep healthy. A trend that the soldiers brought back home after the war, helping construct the foundation of oral hygiene care as we know it today. This practice followed the shift in our diets, as we evolved from hunters to gathers to grain-eaters, the radicals and starches found in the food we eat led to tooth decay. Whereas early humans, who didn’t have toothbrushes and generally had few cavities, have their diet to thank – their meals were heavier on meat and light on the carbs. Perhaps this might be food for thought when evaluating sugar-rich foods that can make their way into your everyday diet.
Brushing Habits to Quit
Here are some of the common mistakes people are brushing over when brushing, flossing, or washing their teeth.
1. Keeping Your Toothbrush For Too Long
We’ve all been guilty of favouring a toothbrush that’s been worn down to the bristle and, as you’ve probably guessed, frayed or broken bristles won’t clean your mouth properly, accumulating a bed of bacteria and food particles. The American Dental Association recommends changing your toothbrush every 3-4 months or after every season – to ensure you get the most out of your brush.
2. Not Brushing for Long Enough
Now that you’ve got yourself a new toothbrush, just make sure you brush your teeth for long enough! As a rule of thumb, anything shorter than two minutes isn’t good enough as it is important to ensure you get into every nook and cranny!
3. Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard
Although it is important to brush regularly and thoroughly – brushing your teeth is actually more of a delicate process. When brushing with too much pressure, you can actually do more harm than good because it can wear away the thin top layer of gum, leaving the tooth more vulnerable to decay.
4. When We Should be Brushing
We should be brushing our teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. However, it is important to note, cleaning your teeth straight after you’ve had a meal might be doing more damage than cleaning. Certain foods with a high level of acidity in them can soften the enamel in your teeth. Brushing your teeth straight after eating or drinking can damage that softened enamel and can wear away the structure of your teeth. By waiting at least half an hour between eating and brushing, your saliva can neutralise the PH levels in your mouth – that will act as a coat of armour and helps your teeth harden and absorb more calcium.
How to Properly Care for Your Teeth
Although brushing and flossing is an important part of your oral health regimen, your diet, technique and the type of toothbrush you’re using can also attribute to your bright, white smile.
It should come as no surprise that good nutrition and eating habits play a key role in our oral health. We’ve been told for years that sugary foods and drinks are the kryptonite in tooth decay, as their acidic nature sits on top of the teeth wearing away enamel. While this is true, acid-producing bacteria in your mouth feasting on carbohydrates (from sugary foods or starch from bread) causes decay. Foods that cling to your teeth give the bacteria something to savour, but foods that wash away quickly are less likely to cause decay. Eating three meals a day rather than constant snacking is better for your teeth. With fewer meal times your mouth has a chance to wash away food particles with your saliva rather than having constant reintroduction of food.
The proper brushing technique is to place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums and in a sweeping/circular motion, roll the brush away from the gumline to remove plaque and debris. It is important to brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and chewing surfaces of the teeth. But remember, you don’t need to push down hard on your brush. A light pressure is more than enough to get your teeth nice and clean.
Types of Toothbrushes
When it comes to choosing the right toothbrush, most dental professionals agree that soft-bristled brushes are best for removing plaque and debris from your teeth. Small-headed brushes are also preferable, since they can reach all areas of the mouth. Although the verdict is still out over electric vs disposable toothbrushes, a recent study found that a certain type of powered toothbrush called a ‘rotation oscillation’ toothbrush is more effective in fighting plaque than a manual brush.
By supporting your mouth and teeth with good oral hygiene practices and a healthy diet, your mouth has a better chance to support your body’s overall well-being.
Remember, if you notice any unusual changes in your mouth, make sure you book an appointment with your dentist or health professional.