So New Year’s eve was over a month ago and already so many of our resolutions for the new year have been broken. Those daily gym visits have dwindled to weekly ones, and we have the cold weather to blame for breaking the alcohol moderation resolutions right?
This article’s aim is to gently remind us all of the importance of maintaining the new year’s resolutions regarding our health specifically the ones relating to our oral health.
Here is a list of the most common resolutions people make (and hopefully not break) when it comes to oral health:
I promise to brush my teeth better!
Effective cleaning of the mouth is a complex procedure which needs to be constantly reviewed and modified to adjust to our changing mouths. The type of brush, the amount of time spent on brushing and the method of brushing as well as using cleaning aids all play a role in how effective our cleaning is.
Electric tooth brushes have been proven to be far more effective at plaque removal than manual toothbrushes. In fact, a study1 carried out in 2014 by the Cochrane study group (a global independent network of researchers and healthcare professionals) concluded that electric toothbrushes (without specifying brands) were far more effective at cleaning and plaque removal than manual toothbrushes. The study showed that there was an 11% reduction in plaque at one to three months of use, and a 21% reduction in plaque when assessed after three months of use. For gingivitis, there was a 6% reduction at one to three months of use and an 11% reduction when assessed after three months of use.
Modern electric toothbrushes also have timers which allow us to brush for the correct amount of time (2 minutes in the morning and 2 minutes in the evening before sleep). The direction of brushing and the angulation of the bristles is also important so as not to cause trauma to the teeth or gums by over-brushing. The brushing should be carried out using a round or circular motion, and around the gum area in a sweeping motion.
I promise to floss more!
Most of us have the best intentions at heart when it comes to flossing, but we can never manage to find the time, can we? Flossing should not be thought of as an adjunct to brushing but is as important as brushing itself if not more so. Flossing or interdental cleaning (using small brushes or floss between the teeth) aims to clean the areas your toothbrush just doesn’t reach. The areas of contact between the teeth are known as the “interproximal” or “approximal” areas and these tend to be more susceptible to decay and cavities than other tooth surfaces as they are rarely ever cleaned by brushing alone.
A study carried out in 2010 concluded that “Approximal surfaces of incisors, canines, premolars showed the highest caries rates in the studied teeth”2. It is therefore important to floss straight after brushing as this pushes the fluoride we get from the toothpaste in between the teeth hence adding extra protection from cavities and decay.
I am stopping smoking!
Smoking cessation resolutions are one of the most common resolutions worldwide.
It is one resolution that needs to be adhered to specifically owing to the extremely detrimental effect of smoking on the overall health and specifically on oral health. Smoking has the following effects in the oral cavity:
- Bad breath
- Tooth discoloration
- Inflammation of the salivary gland openings on the roof of the mouth
- Increased build up of plaque and tartar on the teeth
- Increased loss of bone within the jaw
- Increased risk of leukoplakia, white patches inside the mouth
- Increased risk of developing gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss
- Delayed healing process following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery
- Lower success rate of dental implant procedures
- Increased risk of developing oral cancer
Smoking cessation is usually very difficult to adhere to and there are many ways your healthcare professional can help you. Seek the advice of your dentist or your family medicine doctor who can help you in keeping this resolution.
Well maybe not a full year, but most people resolve to having a dry January following indulgences over the festive period. Alcohol intake in moderation is not in itself contraindicated, however we need to make sure not to take it in excess. Alcohol is acidic in nature (ethanol acid) due to the fermentation process and this acid can demineralise the enamel on the teeth causing wear patterns known as erosion. This can have the detrimental effect of weakening the teeth and causing sensitivity. The teeth can also become effectively more susceptible to decay. We should try to counteract the acidity of alcohol with drinking still water to neutralize the pH in the mouth.
Alcohol when consumed with tobacco smoking (or chewing) can lead to an increased risk of oral cancer, and hence we should always try to limit our alcohol intake.
I will see my dentist more regularly!
This resolution is a sure way to help you prevent oral diseases as a visit to the dentist is not simply to carry out treatment when necessary but can also act as a way to keep diseases at bay. Remember lack of symptoms does not indicate good health as underlying dormant problems may be lurking and these can only be picked up by your dentist.
The dentist will not only diagnose early problems which may not yet need treatment and give advice on how to prevent these issues from becoming bigger problems that need treatment, but they can also give advice on how to look after your oral and general health better. Prevention is always better than cure and without seeking the advice of a trained medical professional we run the risk of compounding small problems into bigger ones which may need more complex treatment. A regular cleaning is always needed to help keep gum disease at bay and this is usually carried out by your dentist or hygienist at your regular checkup appointment.
Dr. Marwan Al-Obeidi, BDS
Clinical Head & General Dentist, UK
BDS (London), MFDS RCS (England)
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Cochrane study group: Powered/electric toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes for maintaining oral health
Published: 17 June 2014.
Authors: Yaacob M, Worthington HV, Deacon SA, Deery C, Walmsley A, Robinson PG, Glenny A
Prevalence of Caries on Individual Tooth Surfaces and its Distribution by Age and Gender in University Clinic Patients.
European Journal of Dentistry, July 2010, 270-279.
Authors: Mustafa Demirci, Safa Tuncer, and Ahmet Ayhan Yuceokur