New Orleans Dental Center Newsletter
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A NEW YEAR, REVIEWING OLD HABITS AND A NEW DENTAL HOME!
We are so pleased to be able to start the New Year in our new dental office. For the past few months, we’ve been enjoying showing it to our patients who have followed us from our old location. Now that we’ve settled in well, we are announcing that we will be having an Open House on Friday, February 3, 2012, 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm. We are inviting you to come visit, have a tour of the beautiful facility, and meet us and our staff. We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
At this “resolution” time of the year, we thought it might be beneficial to remind you to review some of the basics in your home care, for example, simple tooth-brushing. We’ve all been brushing our teeth since we were little children, but few adults were actually taught how to brush and floss as children. Nowadays, in the dental office, we give “oral hygiene instructions” to children and adults alike, regarding brushing and flossing techniques. We are often asked by patients which toothpaste they should use. Actually, we feel that the type of toothbrush is important, and the way in which you use your toothpaste is much more important than the type of toothpaste used. Here are our thoughts and some information of which you may not be aware.
Toothpaste is made up of several ingredients, each of which has a purpose. It has detergents for cleaning and foaming, thickeners for helping it stay on the toothbrush, water softeners to make the detergents work better, flavorings and sweeteners to hide the taste of other ingredients, abrasives to help in removal of plaque and the tiny beginnings of tartar, and (usually) fluoride to strengthen teeth against decay-causing bacteria. Many toothpastes also have “tartar control,” “whitening,” and/or plaque bacteria-killing ingredients.
Considering how sophisticated advertisements can be, it’s easy to forget that they are sometimes misleading, and toothpaste ads are no exception. For example, “tartar control” toothpaste needs some explanation. Tartar occurs when dissolved minerals in the saliva precipitate (come) out and become incorporated into the soft plaque that’s on the teeth. The minerals harden the plaque into tartar, which sticks to the teeth very tenaciously, almost like cement. That’s why you can brush and floss to remove plaque but not tartar; tartar has to be removed by instruments at the dentist’s office. “Tartar control” toothpaste has an ingredient such as tetrasodium pyrophosphate, which removes calcium and magnesium from saliva, so they can’t contribute to tartar formation. It won’t remove tartar that already exists! It simply helps decrease the amount of tartar that forms on teeth.
In our opinion, “whitening” toothpaste ads can also be misleading. Whitening toothpastes usually have an ingredient such as sodium carbonate peroxide, which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide in the mouth. Hydrogen peroxide does have some bleaching properties, but the concentration in the toothpaste is very weak, and the amount of time the toothpaste stays on the teeth probably won’t cause any noticeable bleaching. If you look at the “fine print” on the TV commercial or the toothpaste box, you’ll often see a disclaimer like “whitens by removing surface stains.”
We find that most people could improve their toothbrushing techniques. If you “scrub” when you brush, you will cause the gums to recede (move up the root of the tooth), which will tend to lead to sensitivity of the exposed root surfaces of the teeth (like when you drink something cold). Think about it—if the gums have receded, that is an area where bone has been lost. Your body won’t allow you to strip the gums off and leave the underlying bone exposed, so it will cause the bone to be “dissolved” away as the scrubbing pressure causes the gums to recede. That bone loss is permanent damage.
Toothbrushing should be a very gentle motion. Remember, teeth aren’t flat. The harder you scrub a flat surface, the cleaner it tends to be. But teeth are round in shape, and delicate gum tissue surrounds them. The motion to use when brushing is SLOW, GENTLE CIRCLES, aiming toward the gums, and NEVER SCRUBBING. We tend to brush too fast (with too much pressure), usually because we’re thinking of the million other things we need to do. We suggest training yourself to think only about brushing while you’re brushing. You will do a better job and not take any more time than before, if you are mindful of your technique. We know it feels as if you’re doing a better job when you’re scrubbing, but actually, you’re doing a worse job! When you scrub, you don’t give time for the bristles to “walk” around the cheek sides of the teeth, so you’re missing some of the surface area.
Not only that, but when you place pressure on the toothbrush, you are “laying” the bristles down on the teeth, so the sides of the bristles rub against the teeth and gums. If gentle pressure is used, the tips of the bristles are used, which are the part of the bristles that do the cleaning! That’s why it’s recommended to get a new toothbrush every three months—the tips of the bristles become frayed and don’t do as good a job of cleaning after that much use. We recommend using toothbrushes of the “soft” variety—this actually means that the bristles bend easily and can therefore move well around the contours of the teeth. The “harder” the bristles, the stiffer they are. Again, it feels as if they clean better, but they’re actually doing a worse job. If you’re using a medium or hard toothbrush, changing to a soft brush will take a little getting used to, but we think it’s worth it.
Or better yet, invest in a sonic toothbrush. It’s been proven with studies that sonic toothbrushes are better at cleaning then manual toothbrushes. We highly recommend them for two reasons. First, they really do clean better, because of the technology in the brush. Sound waves come out of the brush head and travel through whatever liquid (water, toothpaste, saliva) is on the teeth and “blast away” the bacteria that the waves touch. Your teeth can feel cleaner than after using a manual toothbrush because the sonic vibrations go under the gums and actually in between the teeth, where bristles can’t reach. Sonic brushes therefore can help reduce surface staining of teeth (which is actually an extremely thin layer of tartar that becomes stained from foods or cigarette smoke) and to help decrease the severity of periodontal (gum) disease. Second, we prefer the sonic toothbrush because it can’t damage the teeth or promote gum recession, like improper manual toothbrushing can. If you already have areas of recession of the gums (or abfractions—“dug-out” areas of the root surfaces on the cheek sides of the teeth), it is very important to prevent further damage. A friendly warning—sonic toothbrushes can tickle at first, but that sensation usually goes away after a few uses. Do not confuse sonic toothbrushes with regular electric toothbrushes. Many electric toothbrush bristles that we’ve seen are too stiff and could therefore cause damage.
If you’re using a manual toothbrush, here is a recommendation for brushing your teeth to help prevent recession or abfraction areas from having increased damage from toothpaste:
1) Place a green pea-sized amount (not more!) of toothpaste on your soft toothbrush.
2) Brush the chewing sides and the tongue/palate sides of your upper and lower teeth.
3) Brush your tongue well.
4) Rinse your mouth, brush your tongue with water a few times, and rinse all the toothpaste off of your brush.
5) With your wet toothbrush, GENTLY AND SLOWLY brush the cheek sides of the teeth (with water only), using small circles aimed at the gums. You can re-wet the brush as needed.
6) Rinse your toothbrush well.
Following these steps can help prevent further damage to the roots of your teeth.
What resolutions will you make in 2012? We looked at different lists of the most common resolutions people make, and these were the ones seen most often: go on a diet, quit smoking, exercise, spend more time with family, stop procrastinating, get out of debt, quit drinking, wake up early, stop cursing and go to church. While we did not see “take care of your teeth” make the top 10 list of resolutions, we encourage you to make it one of yours!
We wish you a happy and prosperous New Year, and look forward to seeing you at our Open House!
Drs. Landry and Maes
CLICK HERE for a Map to our New Office.
Please call New Orleans Dental Center today at 504-347-6000 to schedule an examination.
Past New Orleans Dental Center Newsletters