By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell
My top 7 dental tips are the bare-bones essentials to having healthy, attractive and strong teeth. At the same time, you will be helping to protect yourself against osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimers disease.
There can be a lot of confusion about the most important dental issues - the TRUE answers are quite simple, and not disputed by dental professionals. We all agree on these basic truths about teeth.
So read on to discover the Top 7 dental tips!
Top Tip 1:
Brushing your teeth. This may seem obvious, but most people do NOT brush their teeth properly. There are 2 things you need to know;
My advice is to get an electric toothbrush, and my top tips are the Oral B Genius OR the Amden Cybersonic brush. Both these brushes are high-quality without a big price tag, and both will clean your teeth extremely well - but you have to use them correctly!
How to use a brush correctly? There are 2 things you must do to get the benefits of the great brushes mentioned above;
To put your brush in the correct position, you have to look in your bathroom mirror when you brush. The brush head should be at the gum edge, where your gum meets your tooth. This is where the dental plaque collects, and so this is where the brush needs to work.
How long is enough time? More than you think. In fact, it takes 10 seconds of brushing on each tooth surface to remove the plaque there. If you have 28 teeth, then you have to spend 28 times 10 seconds to clean the outsides of your teeth. But then you have the inner surfaces next to your tongue and palate. Another 280 seconds. So in total 560 seconds, which equates to 9 minutes.
There is no other way.
You have to spend the time needed, if you want to clean your teeth properly. And then there's Tip 2 . . . .
Top Tip 2:
Flossing. You were probably expecting this one in my Top 7 Dental Tips! BUT there's no escaping the fact that no matter how well you brush, it's simply not possible to get dental plaque out from in between your teeth without floss.
I recommend Oral B Pro-Expert dental tape, because it slips between your teeth easily, and if it does catch on something it snaps cleanly, without fraying.
To use floss correctly, you have to take off about 18 inches of floss. Then wrap each end around your middle fingers, until you are left with a short section between your fingers.
Then you have to gently slide the floss between your teeth - (the Pro Expert floss is very slippery) - and then pull it gently against the neck of one tooth, and slowly & gently wiggle the floss under the gum edge 1mm - 2mm.
I find that some people are horrified when I suggest slipping the floss gently under the gum edge, but this is exactly where the damaging plaque builds up, and it's totally painless to do this!
If you feel it's painful, you have been a bit heavy-handed. Go more slowly and gently!
If you want to read more about how to tackle gum problems, click HERE.
Top Tip 3:
Avoid acidic drinks. This includes nearly all sodas like Coke, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, and so on. Even the low-calorie and Zero calorie drinks are basically acidic, and this acid will attack your tooth enamel. The same goes for most Sports drinks, which claim to rehydrate you quickly after exercise.
Like most things in life, these drinks are OK in small amounts. But the danger increases rapidly if you are having more than one or 2 sodas a day. This may sound very severe, but the evidence points to acidic fizzy drinks as a cause of cavities.
BUT, even "healthy" drinks can also be acidic, such as orange juice. If you drink several glasses of orange juice through the day, you are increasing your risk of cavities developing in your teeth.
So it's not just how acidic the drinks are; it's also about how much you drink, and how frequently. Drinking a small bottle of Coke every hour through the day is much worse for your teeth than drinking all of them in one go!
My advice? The best drink for your teeth AND your general health is water. Next best option is unsweetened fruit juice that you then dilute with water 50:50.
Top Tip 4:
Avoid sticky, sugary foods. Things that stick to your teeth, like toffee, can provide a feast for the bacteria that live on the gum edges! The stickiness makes sure that the stuff sticks to your teeth, and stays there for an hour or so.
Strangely, something like chocolate is NOT so dangerous because it dissolves relatively quickly in saliva. I'm not suggesting that you should go out and load up on chocolate! BUT it may be a better option for your teeth than sticky toffee candies.
A general rule of thumb for ANY food is that if it sticks to your teeth for more than 5 minutes after you've finished eating it, it's probably bad for your teeth.
On the other hand, foods that leave little trace on your teeth afterwards are more likely to be OK for your teeth.
Top Tip 5:
Don't use your teeth as tools. It's very tempting to use your front teeth to open a plastic bag or a bag of potato chips. Or Sellotape.
OR, even worse, a bottle of Coke or a beer! I have seen plenty of people do this, but it's very dangerous for your teeth. You cab snap off the side of a tooth, or worse, split a tooth in half. This means you may need a cap or a crown, or else need to have the tooth taken out.
I know myself, it's very tempting when you are having trouble trying to open a plastic bag or a bottle to simply use your teeth - but the enamel edges on your teeth are quite brittle, and you run a serious risk of damaging several teeth.
My advice? Just spend an extra minute or two looking for something else to use, such as scissors to open a bag or a bottle opener to open a bottle. Much safer! (And cheaper.)
Teeth whitening. This is something that everyone can do to improve the appearance of their teeth. It is relatively inexpensive, totally non-invasive, and SAFE providing you choose a good quality product.
The best way to whiten your teeth is to get a take-home kit from a dentist's office. You will get some custom-made splints made up, and a few tubes of whitening gel. You must keep this gel cool at all times, otherwise it degrades and will not work.
Once you get home, just follow your dentist's instructions. Normally, you just put a small drop of gel into each tooth section in the splint, and put the splint over your teeth. Then wait 60 minutes to 90 minutes. You can do most things in this time, such as watch TV, check your emails, do some chores; but you must not eat nor drink in that time.
When time's up, take out the splints, and rinse them under COLD water. I recommend using a cotton bud to gently clean each tooth compartment thoroughly. Then put your splints to drain, somewhere cool.
You need to repeat this process each day for around 10 to 14 days for most people. You will see a gradual whitening of your teeth over time. Of course, if your teeth are a bit slow to lighten up, you can just carry on longer, even 30 to 60 days! You will need to get more gel from your dentist to do this, but the cost of the gel itself is quite low.
A CHEAPER option is to order a tooth whitening kit online - BUT YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL. There are some systems that contain tooth-damaging chemicals.
The BEST home whitening system that you can buy online comes from GLO, developed by a New York dentist.
The GLO whitening system is high-quality, safe, and produces great results - I've used it myself, because I believe it offers the best results per dollar.
Top Tip 7:
Don't use mouthwash. You don't need to use any sort of mouthwash, unless you want to "freshen" your mouth a bit. But you can do that by brushing your teeth! Nearly all mouthwashes have little or no effect on the plaque bacteria in your mouth - the bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities.
The ONE exception is the mouthwash from Therabreath, which is designed to help combat bad breath as well as fight plaque bacteria. You can read more about this mouthwash at my bad breath mouthwash page HERE.
Finally - an extra tip - take a look at my page on 5 ways to improve your smile.
I hope you find my top 7 dental tips useful and helpful!