BY RICK VOAKES, MD
Evolving Preventive Practices in Dental Health
It used to be "brush brush brush" for good dental health, but now we are hearing that brushing actuallydamagesyour teeth! What are we to do?
For young children, brushing is still the best prevention, so I still recommend using a smallsofttoothbrush with a small dab of toothpaste, twice a day starting at age 12 months. When children are able to use dental floss, usually before age 8, they should begin the adult routine:"Never use a toothbrush to clean your teeth!"(Use the toothbrush only to gently brush away what you flossed out.)
Brushing can damage your teeth!
Scrubbing with a brush damages the enamel of your teeth, and can push down the gums causing them to recede. Instead, usedental flossto clean your teeth, then use asofttoothbrush to gently brush away what you pulled out with the floss. A little toothpaste is OK and can provide some extra fluoride. Flossing efficiently takes some training and practice, so get some lessons from your dentist at your next check-up. You should see your dentist every 6-12 months.
Flossing will cause your gums to bleed at first. This means your gums are not in good health, but continued flossing will make them stronger. When you get more skilled at flossing, and your gums improve, you will no longer have any bleeding. If there is a gap between two teeth, be sure to floss each side of the gap. Keep in mind that you are cleaning off every surface of every tooth. Develop a routine that gets all your teeth completely clean, and stick to this strategy every time until it becomes automatic. Then you will never skip any teeth. I start on the uppers in the middle and go all the way to the back on the right then left, then repeat this on the lowers.
Flossing might make your gums bleed at first, but this is good because it makes them stronger!
Getting daily fluoride is another very important preventive measure. All municipal water supplies in Kentucky (and most other states) contain fluoride. Bottled water and spring waterdo nothave fluoride. Ready-to-feed formuladoes notcontain fluoride, so use either powder or concentrate mixed with fluoridated tap water.
Does eating sweets make your teeth rot? In a word, YES! Sugar is food for bacteria on your teeth that cause tooth decay. The longer you keep sugar in your mouth, the more decay you get. Unfortunately, the sugar stays on your teeth for many hours after you eat it, especially if it is sticky or gummy candy. Foods with sugar and high acid content, such as honey or coke, are the most damaging to your teeth. Gently brushing after sweets would be a good strategy, and try to avoid eating between meals. Another danger is sugar drinks, like pop, gatorade or fruit juice, especially between meals.
In children under 8 years old, brushing twice a day is effective prevention. After 12 months, a bottle should never be used. Bottles are very damaging to teeth because the nipple holds harmful bacteria and milk sugar or juice sugar against the surface of the teeth and causes cavities. Switch to a sippy cup, but only for mealtimes! Between meals, a child needs normal saliva in the mouth which kills harmful bacteria that cause cavities.
Limit the use of sippy cups!
Constantly drinking from a sippy cup between meals washes away saliva and replaces it with sugar! The same applies to drinking and eating snacks during the night, which removes your protective saliva.
Flossing makes you live longer!
Dental health is an important part of your over-all health, so much so that flossing increases your life span by at least 2 years. Plus you will be able to enjoy eating with your own teeth (without pain) for your entire life.