20 Jun 2015
Think about that. Isn’t that what toothpaste is supposed to do? Prevent cavities? And yet, even if you brushed faithfully, it didn’t prevent them very well.
By the time I was 18, I had a cavity (with a shiny silver filling) in every single molar. And I was pretty consistent with my tooth-brushing: at least once a day, and generally before I left the house to go to school. I think. I actually lost a tooth in my early teens because it was so rotted, it had to be removed.
My brother (now 53), on one memorable occasion, had the dentist announce to my mother that he had SEVEN cavities. My brother was not a fan of tooth-brushing and it showed. It cost quite a lot of money to fill all those cavities, at a time when my mother didn’t have cash to spare.
Now, my three kids (from 16 to 25) have a grand total of one cavity among them. One. Was their oral hygiene that much better than mine? Not at all.
A few things have changed. Toothbrush technology is better. Hard toothbrushes did some damage to teeth in a way that soft brushes don’t. You can still buy them, but save them for scrubbing the grout between your tiles. Don’t use them on your teeth.
Toothpaste has vastly improved. Better mild abrasives, better fluoride, better everything. Find a brand you like and use it consistently and you’ll be fine.
Fluoride in the water. I know that many people hate fluoride in drinking water but it really does make for harder tooth enamel. The key is getting enough, but not too much.
Flossing. Nobody ever flossed when I was growing up. I don’t think even dentists flossed! Yet flossing is what saves the enamel between your teeth. You’ll never get a toothbrush to go where the floss goes.
Rinsing. You can do this with plain water (which I do,) with water with a touch of salt or baking soda or peroxide mixed in or you can spend good money on fluoride products. This isn’t necessarily the best choice.
There is even a specific order to brushing your teeth, which will vastly improve your oral health. It also shows why you don’t need to rinse with a fluoride product.
What do you do? You rinse first. This removes all the loose junk from your teeth. Warm water is fine.
You floss. The rinsing removed all the bigger bits so the floss can now reach into the narrow crevices and get the other, finer sludge that builds up. Floss every tooth you would like to keep. In other words, floss all of them. Be thorough.
You can floss with those little floss sticks, with floss holders, or hold the floss in your fingers. Use whatever method works best for you. As with everything else, practice makes perfect.
You rinse again, removing the sludge from your mouth that the flossing kicked up.
You brush the now much-cleaner surfaces on your teeth, cleaning, polishing, and adding that microscopic layer of fluoride. If you floss or rinse AFTER you brush, you remove the layer of fluoride you just put onto your teeth. So don’t do that. When you brush, take your time. A lick and a promise won’t do the job nearly as well as taking several minutes of careful work, getting every tooth surface you can reach. Swish the fluoride foam around in your mouth when you finish, but don’t swallow it. Rinsing with water at this point will rinse some of the fluoride off that you just carefully applied.
So, rinse, floss, rinse, brush. Do this after every meal and before you go to bed every single day of your life and you’ll have a fighting chance of having your teeth outlive you. Start today. If you’re out in public and you can’t brush your teeth, you can still rinse your mouth in the bathroom. That will at least remove some of the food particles and the sludgy film from your teeth until you can brush them.
Next Week: Advanced Dental Care