The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) reports that of adults between the age of 20 and 64, a whopping 92% have some form of tooth decay. Of that, 23% leave the problem untreated. This cascades into more problems down the lines, as is obvious in those 65 and over, which have an average of 3.28 decayed or missing teeth and 13.65 decayed and missing permanent surfaces.
Most people are afraid to visit their dentist because, well, it’s scary (and sometimes painful). Some also fear that dentists will lecture and browbeat them because of the bad conditions of their teeth, while others claim dentists are abrupt and unkind, making the whole experience an overall drag.
Whether these claims are true or not, Dr. Igal Elyassi, DDS., suggests that the best way to minimize this is by having a good relationship with your hygienist by practicing good dental hygiene. Elyassi owns the Wilshire Smile Studio in the Los Angeles area and has a degree from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. He says that if you do your part as efficiently as you should, you may not have to deal with the dentist. Well, almost at all.
A good relationship typically involves work and some compromise — and the dentist is no exception. If you keep your hygienist happy by taking care of your teeth properly, they will keep you happy with brief, pain-free appointments, and minimal intervention. Here are 4 things you can do to improve your dental hygiene and reduce your interactions with the dreaded “drill” and its operator, the dentist.
The first thing Dr. Elyassi mentions is the way you brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth is an active way of dislodging any debris in your mouth, while preventing cavities. Seriously, brushing your teeth is not something you should ever skip on.
But there is also some degree of skill to it. A common mistake people make while brushing is what Dr. Elyassi called, “scrub brushing,” or brushing too hard. Too much pressure actually damages the enamel of the teeth. You need moderate pressure with a soft toothbrush and not apply too much pressure.
In addition, the correct way to brush your teeth is to hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle with a medium grip. When stroking your teeth, you should use circular motions. This should be done at least twice a day — preferably once in the morning and once before bed. Using a proper toothbrush also helps.
Flossing should be done daily before you retire for bed. A common mistake that is made when flossing is not flossing beneath the gums. If a person flosses only between the teeth, this leaves leftover bacteria in your gums — where it usually causes the most damage.
Doing this is more important than you probably think. Your oral health is connected to your overall health in more than one way, and improper dental hygiene could even lead to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and premature birth to name just a few. It’s very important to keep up with brushing and flossing daily.
Careful with what you eat
The third thing to keep an eye on is what you eat — and of course, sugar is the biggest culprit. Certain sugars such as glucose, fructose, and most commonly sucrose (which is table sugar) are converted into acids through a process called fermentation. Other things you put in your mouth are more directly damaging to the enamel (like very cold rinks, for instance).
Soda has a pH level of around 2. To demonstrate how low that number is, soapy water’s level of pH is 12, while the acidic, lemon juice sits at a low 2. Gastric fluid has a pH of 1, and battery acid is just below 0.
Soda also has citric and phosphoric acid in it making it one of the most dangerous things you can expose your teeth to. Dr. Elyassi suggests that if you’re going to drink soda, do so sparingly. He also mentions not lingering with the same can or bottle of soda for hours – drink it down quickly to limit how much time you expose your teeth to such an “acidy” liquid.
Fluoride and Mouthwash
If you want to go the extra mile, you can also use fluoride and mouthwash. Mouthwash is best used in unison with the morning brushing of your teeth, which makes your breath fresh and cleans out the loose debris in your mouth. He emphasized that it’s only effective in collaboration with brushing and flossing and absolutely does not substitute for brushing your teeth.
Furthermore, Dr. Elyassi mentions fluoride, which he recommends using in harmony with the nightly flossing and brushing of your teeth. He explains that fluoride helps in preventing cavities by building enamel, and it keeps working in your mouth overnight while you sleep. Most kinds of toothpaste contain a healthy amount of fluoride.
If you do all of the above, you’ll likely be an “A-plus” patient without having to see much of your dentist at all. It’s all in this healthy personal dental routine that will ensure that you have a good relationship with the dentist. Truly, the most efficient way of avoiding your dentist is not by skipping your regular checkup appointments — the more you avoid seeing the dentist, the more time you’ll have to spend with him in the end.
If you are in a situation where your dental health is a bit precarious, you should take care of your problems as soon as possible before they get any worse — and then stick to the routine.