There are many different options of toothbrushes currently on the market. The most important things to look at before purchasing is: toothbrush head size and bristle softness. Always look for a toothbrush with a smaller head – this will enable you to get to the back teeth and the hard to reach places a bit easier. Soft or ultra-soft bristles are also advisable, anything harder than this could potentially cause damage to the enamel tooth structure particularly if used with the incorrect technique. A powered/electric toothbrush is a good alternative to a manual toothbrush. It can do a better job of cleaning the teeth, especially for those who have difficulty brushing or who have limited manual dexterity.
Charcoal, friend or foe?
A recent trend in oral health has been that of using charcoal to accompany or even replace toothpastes however there are some risks associated with it’s use. Charcoal is very abrasive and as a result can affect the surface of the teeth by beginning to wear away the shiny and protective outer layer (enamel) of the tooth. This damage can lead to abrasion wear facets, a matte/scuffed looking enamel and sensitivity. As well as wearing away the enamel of the tooth abrasion can also wear away the gums and cause recession, making the tooth appear longer and possibly exposing the neck of the tooth which is generally darker in colour than the enamel and more open to sensitivity. In some cases charcoal may have a negative effect in the mouth including discolouration of non-natural material such as filling material. Some people, especially those that experience minor abrasions and ulcers may find that their soft tissue is also affected by charcoal as it may cause some irritation to these areas. Studies are being currently being conducted and early results are showing that on a microscopic level the abrasives in charcoal products are doing significantly more damage to the surface enamel of the teeth than a standard toothpaste. There have been no proven studies to show whether clinically the charcoal in these products are effective in tooth whitening, oral hygiene and prevention.
Why are ‘baby’ teeth so important?
It can be difficult to get kids on board with brushing and taking care of their teeth and while they do lose their deciduous (baby) teeth the early habits and oral conditions can have an effect on the permanent adult teeth that follow them. Teeth aid in a child’s ability to smile, speak, chew and gives structure to the face all of these things can affect a child’s social interactions and self-esteem. They are space maintainers for the permanent teeth so that they may hopefully be guided into the correct position in the mouth and promote correct oral health behaviours that will be used for a lifetime. To aid the baby teeth it is important to look at several factors including: Diet – while diet has an effect on oral hygiene it can also change when a child is severely affected by caries as children may be continuing to eat foods that have a negative impact on oral health or may turn to softer easier to chew foods. Be sure to monitor a child’s sugar intake as sugar is metabolised by the bacteria that is able to create decay. Systemic disease – certain diseases such as diabetes can have an effect on oral health both at a young age and later in life. Building good habits at a young age will aid in allowing children to keep their teeth healthy and hopefully prevent need for major dental work. Brushing and flossing – it is important to brush twice per day (morning and night), when plaque builds up on the teeth for prolonged periods of time it can begin to affect the enamel surface of the tooth. This change will first it will appear as a new white spot on the tooth (at this stage if it is kept clean it may not result in a cavity) and after this may further progress into a cavity. It is important to brush your child’s teeth from the appearance of the first baby tooth up until an age where they have the dexterity to brush alone. Assisted/shared brushing is advised even to the age of 8-9 often with the adult doing the nightly brush and the child being allowed to handle the morning one. After ceasing to brush it is still important to monitor the child/adolescence’s teeth so that a high standard of oral health can be achieved. Behaviour – there are several behaviours that can affect the placement of the teeth and the promotion of jaw growth including sucking on a dummy or thumb, a tongue thrust, clenching and grinding and open mouth breathing. Each of these actions may have an effect on baby teeth but may also have long term consequences and effects on adult teeth that may require intervention at a later point. Taking children for regular dental check-ups (especially when nothing is wrong) is an important step in building trust, pointing out any areas of concern early and creating a good hygiene habit for later life. Early dental visits can make intervention much easier on the child, parent and practitioner as they have previous good experiences to reflect back upon.
Why does my dentist ask for my medical history every visit?
When first attending a new dental surgery, patients will be asked a series of questions regarding their health including things such as allergies, previous dental history, previous and current medical history including conditions and medications, smoking status and even dietary information. All allergies are important to disclose as there may be products that are used in a patient’s mouth that contain surprising ingredients or agents that a patient may react to; this includes food, medication, preservatives, dyes, metals, minerals and compounds. While some questions may seem trivial they play an important role in the dental experience. There are some conditions and surgeries for which a patient may be required to take antibiotic covers before any treatment these may include some heart conditions, joint replacements and prosthetics or as advised by a GP or specialist. Oral disease can be affected by the state of one’s oral health and vice versa, poor oral hygiene has been linked as a contributing factor for conditions such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s and therefore may require some thorough attention. Alternatively, conditions and lifestyle choices such as diabetes, systemic disorders, radiation therapy, diet, alcohol intake and smoking status can affect the teeth, gums and tissues of the mouth and may explain some changes that are observed over subsequent appointments. Medications play a significant role in the treatment of oral disease, there are a high number of medications that cause xerostomia (dry mouth) which can have a significant impact on some patients. Certain medications such as those to treat osteoporosis (such as Prolia) and blood thinners (such as Warfarin) may require treatment such as extractions to be delayed to lower the risk of bone necrosis or excessive bleeding. All medical information is confidential and kept on record for the purposes of dental treatment.