Updated Dental Care – apologies to my children

Like most of us I was taught (and taught my kids) to brush their teeth after meals, at least twice per day. Apparently modern dental science has updated the optimal care and it is no longer necessary and possibly harmful to brush your teeth straight after eating.

Here are new guidelines:

Don’t brush your teeth straight after eating.  Chewing food stresses the enamel coating on teeth and it takes several hours of bathing in saliva for the coating to be restored. Brushing within this time-frame is a second episode of stress on the weakened tooth protection system. Wait at least a couple of hours following eating.

Use a circular action electric toothbrush. Most of us are too vigorous with a manual brush and can damage the gum line.

Apply the toothbrush to the gums not to the teeth. Brushing the gums stimulates blood flow and ensures you access the deeper crevices. The teeth will be flushed with the run-off (like a shower) and be cleaned without insult.

Once a day is enough for brushing. Seriously? Yes. The damage to teeth and gums is due to bacteria on the surface. The bacteria take several days to mature and begin to damage the tooth structure. Provided you brush well within the two to three day window you can remove immature bacteria before damage is done.

Your tooth care routine should take around four minutes. This includes a couple of minutes of picking and flossing followed by two minutes of gentle, circular brushing and rinsing. Dislodge the food scraps first then brush them away.

Mouthwashes (antiseptic or fresheners) are a well marketed but unnecessary part of the dental hygiene routine. Spend your money on a better toothbrush.

See your dentist at least once per year for a super clean and inspection. Then stick to the four minutes per day routine to maintain a quality mouth environment.

Special sensitive toothpaste does work to reduce sensitivity but is often very abrasive. Better to brush with regular toothpaste then when finished apply a small smear of the sensitive past to your gums using a finger. Then rinse.

There you go – an update based on current dental science. So, apologies to my children for being a ‘Tooth Nazi’ – turns out I was a bit over the top.

Craig Allingham
Men’s Health

She Changed My Life

Who would have thought such a trivial, throw-away line could make such a difference. My whole approach to dental self-management was transformed in an instant from a chore to, well, just doing it.

I knew deep down that flossing my teeth was a valuable health routine* but just couldn’t get into the habit of doing it daily after cleaning my teeth. Yes, I read of the short and long term benefits, and tried lots of different flossing apparatus (tape, string, flavoured, waxed, loaded on a plastic stick, tiny bottle-brushes) thinking I would surely find the perfect bit of kit to establish my habit. No luck.

Flossing is a manual skill, it needs to be practiced regularly to become and maintain high performance. The ability to get a couple of fingers and some string or tape into your mouth and manipulate it between each pair of teeth to massage the gum and dislodge food residue is complex and it takes time. Maybe up to a couple of minutes. Time I have not  reckoned into my health/grooming routine because flossing wasn’t invented when I started cleaning my teeth. Not in my world, anyway. In fact teeth brushing was usually the final act before departing for work (in a rush, who can spare extra two minutes) or heading for bed (another activity not to be delayed).

Then she changed my life. My dental hygienist (also not invented way back) was preparing me to see my dentist one day and noted that my flossing needed work as I was missing some gaps and told me it actually works better if you floss BEFORE brushing your teeth. This now was a whole new concept. My habit was to leave the bathroom immediately after brushing, so flossing was just a nuisance, but if I had already flossed….

Then it got even better – Julie (the hygienist) said it doesn’t even have to be immediately prior to brushing!  She changed my life right then.

Now I floss immediately after a shower and it is no longer a chore, just part of the ritual. I shower, I dry, I floss, I shave, I moisturise, I tell the bloke in the mirror he is holding up pretty well and I might brush or I might not – depends what is happening next.

The advantages to flossing after a shower are immediately obvious: you hands are really, really clean. Poking your man-fingers into your mouth is best done when they are clean and after shampooing and soaping they are at their best.

Changed my life and changed my dental health. Double bonus.

*Floss Test – If you are not sold on the value of flossing try this simple test.

  • Complete your normal end of day dental care routine (clean, rinse, spit).
  • First thing in the morning, prior to any eating, floss your teeth thoroughly.
    Any food debris you dislodge has been there at least 12 hours and survived the last brushing.
  • Do this for a few mornings to get an idea of what residue remains overnight.
  • Then start flossing before going to bed AND first thing in the morning.
  • You will see the amount of residue in the mornings will drop considerably, which means your teeth and gums are not exposed to decaying food waste overnight.

It will change your life too.