Dr Ben Atkins BDS


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Brushing your teeth all wrong?

14th March 2018

A recent article in The Telegraph saying we are brushing our teeth all wrong, made fascinating reading. I was delighted to go on Love Sport Radio to talk about some of the points raised in more detail. If anyone is still confused about how and when you should be brushing your teeth, I hope this helps.

Go electric?

While electric toothbrushes may be more effective at cleaning our teeth, the main thing is brushing twice each day, last thing at night and at one other occasion during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste. A manual toothbrush is just fine if that’s what you prefer to use, as long as you’re spending the right amount of time on your teeth (two minutes) and making sure you clean each surface.

Should I use a fancy toothbrush?

This one comes down to personal choice and budget, if you want a ‘fancy toothbrush’ with bells and whistles its entirely up to you. We recommend that you use a small to medium sized brush head. The head needs to be small enough to reach into all parts of the mouth: especially the back of the mouth where it can be difficult to reach. Children of course need to use smaller brushes but with the same type of filaments.

Additionally, it depends what you mean by “fancy toothbrushes.” For example, there are now toothbrushes which have large handles and angled heads to make them easier to use for people with a physical disability that might hinder their ability to hold a toothbrush.

Mouthwash or not?

There are mouthwashes on the market that can help people who smoke or have sensitive teeth but on the whole, it isn’t an essential part of your oral health routine. The problem that sometimes arises with mouthwash use is that some people make the mistake of thinking that it can replace brushing. Tooth brushing is absolutely essential, whether you use mouthwashes or not but they can provide significant additional protection. The antibacterial element will help control plaque and the fluoride it contains will help prevent decay.

Never brush your teeth straight after a night out!

After you drink something acidic, the top surface of your teeth will be temporarily softened, and you don’t want to brush it away. It takes about an hour from the teeth to recover from this softened state and after this time it is safe to brush your teeth. So instead of brushing straight away or not brushing at all, try to wait an hour after you’ve had your last drink of the night before picking up your toothbrush.

Flossing

The key to using floss is to make sure you do it properly. This can be taught by your dentist but the best way to clean interdentally is using interdental brushes. With regard to regularity, you should definitely aim to clean the space between your teeth at least once a day. I wouldn’t encourage people to not do it at all but if you don’t do it every day then try to as often as you can.

Check your toothpaste contains enough fluoride

It is so important to use a toothpaste that contains the right amount of fluoride, no matter what age you are. Fluoride helps to strengthen and protect teeth, which can reduce tooth decay in adults and children.

All children up to three years old should use a smear of toothpaste with a fluoride level of no less than 1000ppm (parts per million). After three years old everyone should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm.

Try not to brush straight after breakfast

Brushing straight after any meal tends to be a bad idea because, depending on what you eat or drink, your enamel is temporarily softened. Brushing when your teeth are in this state can result in that protective enamel being brushed away and that’s the last thing you want. Brush last thing before you go to bed and at least one other time during the day and always wait an hour after eating or drinking to brush your teeth.

Use sugar-free gum

Chewing sugar-free gum helps protect your teeth and gums between meals when it may not be possible to brush with a toothbrush, as it helps the mouth to produce more saliva – the mouth’s natural defence against acid.

 

Comments

  • Jeanett
    Posted at 7:04 am 22/03/2018
    Jeanett
    Reply Author

    No, I don”t think fluoride is a some pinko conspiracy, but I”ve always kind of felt the dental profession pushed tooth health over anything else. “You need fluoride in your toothpaste, fluoride in your water, fluoride treatments every 6 months. And then there”s the x-rays, tooth sealants with BPA, plus the other stuff mentioned in the article. We”ve just had to tell our dentists no” sometimes, it gets ridiculous (and I haven”t even mentioned the price of all that stuff). That said, they”ve tried to made some progress on some of these points. IIRC, the current x-ray exposure is something like a tenth of what it used to be. But while there are now sealants without BPA, they just replace the BPA with some other untested plastic so it”s unclear if that”s an improvement. 0 0

    • Ben Atkins
      Posted at 10:14 am 22/03/2018
      Ben Atkins
      Reply Author

      I often feel like the message is a confusing one, so thanks for the comment, it means a lot. Fluoride is a wonder chemical and has really improved our nation’s teeth. In the short time I have been practising (20 years is a short time in health change terms), the average oral health of our population has dramatically and visibly changed. This is mostly down to oral health improving and this is linked to fluoride.

      Our legislation in the UK is brilliant and sets fantastic guidelines for radiation (Faculty of General Dental Practitioners). This reduction in radiation can and is attributed to my profession striving for improvement in equipment and implications. Regarding the cost of radiographs, within our NHS system they all fall into the lowest band of treatment, so whether you have them or not you still pay £20, so there is no real cost implication.

      You mention ‘untested’, within the UK we have to have a CE mark to bring anything to market, these are stringent tests and prevent products coming to the market which are harmful.
      The document Delivering Better Oral Health really supports the general population in guidance and keeps us up to date.


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