Tooth Truths and Troubles

Medieval dentist removing tooth

Image via Wikipedia

If you are anything like me then there are a couple of things that you dislike doing:

  1. Visiting the dentist
  2. Flossing
  3. Getting fillings
  4. Spending a fortune on oral care and oral health products

Yesterday I went to a new dentist for a routine scale and polish. I’ve been to a variety of dentists in my life and they all have their 2 cents on the dos and don’ts of dentistry.  This guy was a little different though and I learned so very many things from him that I felt compelled to write this article simply because there are a couple of things he mentioned that dentists and ads generally DON’T mention that EVERYONE should know.

Firstly, I have always been obsessed with white teeth.  Teeth so pearly white they sparkle.  As my teeth are regularly exposed to tea, coffee and nicotine I’ve overcompensated generously with a thorough brushing.  This however IS BAD.

Now while it might seem that the best way to get your teeth white is by a good brushing, the truth of the matter is that the more and the harder you brush the more YELLOW your teeth are going to get!! Why? Because beneath the enamel of your teeth is a little something called dentine.  Now we have to go to the biology of it.  Our teeth have a thick layer of enamel on the outside which is about as hard as hard can be, this enamel is what gives our teeth their white appearance.  The dentine beneath is yellow. If you scrub hard and brush too regularly you are literally removing the enamel from your teeth, kinda like the bird who moved the mountain one grain at a time, wearing it thin slowly but surely over the years until eventually your enamel layer will be so THIN that your teeth appear yellow. Enamel doesn’t grow back so you have to be VERY careful with it.

What to do now?!?! Simple.

  1. VISIT YOUR DENTIST. Plaque builds up on your teeth and eventually leads to tartar which is a hardened calculus build up and can range in color from light yellow to brown.  The BEST way to remove this is to go to your dentist for a scale and polish.  This is your top choice for removing general staining and to restore colour.
  2. DON’T SCRUB YOUR TEETH. Invest in the softest toothbrush you can find and perhaps a good whitening toothpasteBrush your teeth as softly and gently as you can in slow circular movement. Rather brush softer for longer.  That way you are removing the stains without removing the enamel.
  3. DON’T BE A CHEAPSKATE.  Your teeth are a lifelong investment.  Get yourself the best toothbrush you can, one with soft bristles and a small head and use this with a good toothpaste.  It will cost you a fortune if you mess your teeth up with cheap hard brushes.  Ditch those immediately.
  4. IF YOU’VE WORN OUT THE ENAMEL and reading this you realise that the damage you’ve done is irreversible and that your teeth is pretty much all dentine now, then you can choose to have your teeth whitened professionally, over the counter stuff and home whitening kits on their own won’t help you now.  If your stumped as to the hows and whys and whos then simply do a bit of a google.  A chair session with a professional of about 36% of hydrogen peroxide and a home kit of about 15% is recommended.  This will work for the worn through teeth because the whitening process bleaches the dentine and will give your teeth their dazzling appearance again.  The procedure will cause your teeth to be more sensitive so I advise that you take good care of your teeth before and after the treatment by using a product for tooth sensitivity. My dentist (who I now think is a dentistry god) says that sensodyne is actually junk and that you should rather invest in a product like Colgate Sensitive Pro-relief.
    Cross section showing parts of tooth.

    Image via Wikipedia

  5. OTHER OPTIONS include veneers.  This is recommended for when your teeth are too sensitive for bleaching or if you’ve just had it with the struggle of trying to keep your dentined out teeth looking pretty. Basically they cap the tooth with a nice porcelain or ceramic layer.
  6. FLOSS. I know, I know, I hate flossing too but have decided that it really is in my best interest to do so.  If you aren’t motivated by the fact that NOT flossing will make your breath smell funky (and not in a good way) or by the fact that you’ll have to get more fillings (and uncomfortable ones at that) because you’ll have more cavities between your teeth.  Then remind yourself that you are NOT JUST REMOVING FOOD. A toothpick or mouthwash will cover that.  You floss because you are removing plaque, tartar and build-up from between your teeth.  The added bonus is that it will also remove the small stains that start building up between your teeth as you age and your smile will love you for it. If you don’t floss you are only cleaning your mouth 65% of the way.
  7. DON’T BRUSH DIRECTLY AFTER ACIDIC MEALS!!! That’s right, I said it, and I mean fruit and anything else with acidic contents or containing lots of bubbles, i.e. soft drinks and juice.  Use a mouth wash if you have to.  Use a toothpick if you have something stuck in your teeth.  Brush either before the meal or20-30 minutes after, you don’t want to leave it too long cause then bacteria starts building up.  When you eat acidic things it SOFTENS YOUR ENAMEL and if you brush directly after, especially with force, then you will wear away the enamel more quickly.  Stomach acid is even worse – so if you get sick you really should NOT brush your teeth, again opt for a mouthwash or something non-abrasive instead. If you simply have to brush then use a soft bristle brush and do so as gently as you can.
  8. TAKE CARE OF YOUR GUMS. Bad oral hygiene will lead to your gums pulling back from your teeth.  This can be caused by overbrushing or not flossing.  If this happens your roots start getting exposed. They are much more delicate than the rest of your teeth and the layer of enamel is thinner so you will have horrible yellow roots sticking out if you don’t take care of them. If they have only pulled back slightly then you are in luck and changing your habits now will give them the opportunity to reaffix themselves.  If however you neglect them further you will have to have invasive surgery done to get it fixed as they will keep on receding until the damage is irreversible and will even lead to bone loss of your jaw.

That’s all from me for now kids.  Hope you’ve learned a couple of things and that you’ll be taking better care of your teeth.  The world needs more bright smiles.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: