Spring is a great time for a fresh start – not just for your garden and closet, but your teeth as well. Especially with the pandemic, it’s been easy to relegate dental health to the back of your mind – and mouth. However, that can have serious health consequences. Here are the Top Three things nationally-recognized oral health expert Dr. Charles Sutera, FAGD, says you should remember for your Oral Health Spring Cleaning:
There are countless options and even more promises. But Dr. Sutera says all you really need is a toothpaste that contains fluoride, a good electric toothbrush, and the floss of your choice.
Dr. Sutera’s notes about your oral health tools:
“Fluoride is the most important ingredient in a toothpaste,” he says. “Everything else is a simple matter of taste.”
Floss is also a matter of personal choice and personal particulars. For example, if you have wire braces, your teeth are very close together, or arthritis makes it difficult to floss, a water jet may be a good option. “But it’s not necessarily better than floss,” he notes. “The water jet may not remove as much plaque as floss.”
He recommends an electric toothbrush because they truly do a better job of cleaning away plaque. His top choices are the grandaddy of electric toothbrushes – Sonicare – and Oral B Genius.
Stick with the basics. “I always try to simplify success. If a patient brushes twice a day and flosses once, that’s a success,” says Dr. Sutera. “Everything else is a bonus.” He says brush once in the morning, once at night, and floss thoroughly once, whenever you choose. “The timing doesn’t matter as much as just making sure you floss.”
For best oral health, it really is a good practice to see your dentist once every six months. That’s because a lot of damage can happen at that time. Our mouths are full of bacteria that doubles in population every eight to 12 hours, so minor oral health issues can escalate quickly without proper daily care and fast intervention. Also, that sticky stuff on your teeth, tartar (or plaque), can’t always be removed with even the best toothbrush. Your dentist has special tools for that.
Beyond the Basics
Spring is also a time many people start to think of looking better. If you’re itching to go beyond the basics of oral health care, Dr. Sutera has a few reminders:
Teeth whitening is all about hydrogen peroxide concentration and how long it’s in contact with the tooth. All teeth whitening products must be in stable contact with the teeth for at least 15 minutes without getting diluted or washed away. While using a tooth whitening product, avoid foods and beverages that stain your teeth. They’re more susceptible to staining while you’re using whitening solutions. Also if organic is your thing, there are quite a few natural teeth whitening options with varying results.
Teeth straightening is really best handled by a dentist or orthodontist. If you’re tempted to go the DIY route, Dr. Sutera has three words for you: “proceed with caution.” Okay, he has more words, but they all boil down to the same thing. The trouble with DIY straighteners is that they don’t allow adjustment of the teeth the same way that the professional aligners do and increase the risk of TMJ disorder and other oral health issues.
Natural remedies are very popular among Instagram influencers, but after a thorough review of the available studies, Dr. Sutera doesn’t put much stock in them. At best, they won’t do any damage, he says, but some are actually dangerous (think: anything with a high acid content, especially combined with an abrasive).
If he had his druthers, Dr. Sutera says he’d advise everyone to stick to the basics. “If you can focus on those, you’ll prevent the lion’s share of problems that can impact your oral health,” he says. “When it comes right down to the basics, it takes just five minutes a day and you’re set.”