Controlling your Dental Care Costs and Improving your Overall Health
As I was writing this blog on preventative dental care, Ben our principal dentist was cooking up a storm in the kitchen making marmalade and fudge, can anyone think of two more sugar laden foodstuffs? It seemed ironic but in my experience people who work in dental practices, well everyone in ours at least, are prone to a sweet tooth. Nothing causes more excitement in our staff room than chocolate or cake, and the fudge will be short lived (it never made it to the staff room, sorry folks, next batch).
How then do we keep our teeth healthy?
There’s an expression relating to healthy eating which states “It’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Year that matters but what you eat between New Year and Christmas…”
Similarly, it’s is not the brushing and flossing that you do on the morning of your annual dental visit that matters but what you do on the other 364 days of the year. Accidents, such as chipped and broken teeth from that un-popped popcorn kernel, are unfortunately always going to happen. At the same time, while acknowledging the effects illness and genetics can have, for most people dental disease is largely preventable. Taking the time to keep your mouth clean and healthy is now well recognised as a positive contribution to your overall health but can also have benefits in terms of cost, comfort and confidence.
Be Proactive about your dental health
Preventative Dental Care involves taking a proactive approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy mouth. We are here to help but a large part of it is down to you. We don’t have any secret weapons in our own fight against dental disease we just use the ones we have often and well. This, because sadly we are reminded on a daily basis of the implications of poor dental hygiene. Unfortunately, many patients who tell us they are cleaning their teeth properly simply aren’t, remember our dentists see approximately 10 sets of teeth per day so have a pretty good idea of what constitutes a good oral hygiene regime. When they discuss brushing and interdental cleaning with you it is with the intention of helping you improve your oral health. There is nothing more frustrating for them than seeing preventable dental issues such as decay and gum disease arise for the want of a good oral hygiene regime. Thankfully, as with physical fitness, we can work on our dental fitness, and happily, it takes much less effort than washboard abs 😉
The starting point of any good oral hygiene regime is a basic toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste. Some of us in the practice use and recommend an electric toothbrush, not least of all for their built-in timer functions, (more of which later). Others happily use a manual brush, this is a significantly cheaper option and perfectly acceptable if the correct technique is applied for the correct length of time. If finances allow, we’d say go electric, remember we are trying to make this easy.
The accepted wisdom is that two minutes of brushing twice a day alongside 1 minute of interdental cleaning is enough to keep most mouths healthy. Unfortunately, it is also recognised that while 2 minutes at a time is ideal, the reality for most people is around thirty seconds or less. This of course brings us back to the timer on electric toothbrushes which makes you more mindful of the two-minute mark. You can of course just as easily use the timer on your phone, or brush along to your favourite song. Bringing these two options together Brush DJ is a British designed App which allows you to set timers, select your favourite tunes and provides useful oral health information. It may be particularly useful in helping to get children into good brushing habits (link to Beth’s blog post).
Regarding interdental cleaning, there are several products on the market which can make this easier. We stock Australian brands Man Floss and Piksters in the practice and are also happy to discuss the use of various other tools such as water flossers. The important thing is to find something that works well for you personally making it easier to integrate into your daily routine. For example, why not floss at night before bed when you are generally under less time pressure than in the morning. This also means you go to bed with your teeth at their cleanest. The decay causing bacteria residing in your biofilm are active 24/7 so give them less to work on.
Finally consider the implications of your diet on your oral health, as stated earlier we are no strangers to a sweet tooth but there are some simple steps you can take in addition to brushing and flossing to reduce the impact of sugar and acid on your teeth. Drinking water after sugary snacks and drinks is beneficial. Similarly eating cheese can neutralise acid in the mouth and crunching on a raw carrot, cucumber or some other sugar free snack can serve both a mechanical function, regarding cleaning the teeth, while also helping in the production of saliva which has protective benefits. The perfect excuse for a cheese board after dessert.
If you would like more information on preventative dental care the West Australian branch of the Australian Dental Association has some great fact sheets in its “Your dental health” section.