We spend hours in the salon getting our hair cut to fight those pesky split ends, hours getting overpriced facials to prevent those skin breakouts, but do we give our teeth enough attention? Can you honestly say you visit the dentist enough? What can we do day to day to keep those knashers in good nick? Here’s some top tips from Dr. Victoria Sole, General Dentist from newly launched The All England Practice, Business Bay.
Over to Victoria;
Dental care is one of the most important, yet overlooked, aspects of healthcare in this day and age. Unfortunately, despite the majority of people in Dubai having health insurance packages, Dental is often not included or is of very limited cover, which can put people off their recommended bi-annual visits. Let’s not beat around the bush here, great dentistry doesn’t come cheap. Most people associate dentistry with two things – pain and expense. What they may not realise, however, is that prevention is always better than cure. Although putting off your six monthly check-up and clean may save you in the short term, letting your oral health slide is going to cost you in the long term, and not just financially! Here are my top tips for healthy, beautiful teeth and actually enjoying your visits to the dentist!
1. Stick to your six monthly appointments!
Our aim as dentists should be to see all of our patients twice a year for a check-up and professional scale and polish. Believe it or not, we’d rather not be drilling away and injecting anesthetic into you every time you visit us, fixing problems and dealing with grumpy patients in pain! As previously mentioned, prevention is always better than cure, and early detectionmeans minimally invasive treatment can be performed. A comprehensive bi-annual check-up should not only check for tooth decay, but should include examination for signs of bruxing, grinding and subsequent TMJ disorders; signs of potential oral cancers or soft tissue and/or salivary gland issues; signs of dehydration and of course the health of your gums.
It is also important to have your professional scale and polish every six months to remove the buildup of calculus (also known as tartar), to maintain healthy gums, preventing bleeding gums and gum disease. By sticking to six monthly appointments, the treatment will be quick and painless and we can avoid any unexpected tooth ache or dental disasters! It will also give us dentists a chance to remind you of the importance of brushing and flossing daily and the correct skill and techniques!
2. Make floss your friend
On that note, let’s talk about floss! If you were to only ever brush your teeth, you would essentially be cleaning only 60 – 65% of your teeth. Flossing is imperative to oral health. The areas between our teeth account for 35 – 40% of our tooth surfaces. Flossing helps to mechanically break down the bacterial colonies that like to reside between our teeth and within our gum pockets. If these colonies are left to develop and thrive, they cause a world of problems, starting with gingivitis and bad breath, and ending with periodontal disease and tooth decay. Never mind the detrimental effects on the rest of your body – gum disease has been linked to heart disease and stroke.
Some dentists would go as far to say that if you picked only one oral health habit (brushing vs. flossing) then choose flossing. There are so many new developments in oral hygiene nowadays, from mouthwashes to electric tooth brushes, when in reality all you need is a soft tooth brush, some fluoride toothpaste and a piece of string to achieve optimum oral health (plus a couple of visits to your dentist every year!). For some (and by some I mean very few), flossing every other day is adequate. What I like to tell my patients is this – if you floss every other day and your gums DO NOT bleed then great, you’re doing it right. But if they are bleeding, then up the frequency to daily and make sure your technique is correct! The sign of healthy gums is NO BLEEDING. There’s a famous saying in dentistry – you don’t have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep!
3. Fluoride for the win
There has been a lot of speculation around fluoride lately. Like everything, in large doses fluoride is not great for you.
However, what constitutes ‘large doses’ is the equivalent of eating approximately 50 tubes of toothpaste a day, far more than we could even dream of consuming. All we ask is that you use toothpaste containing fluoride. Why? Fluoride is bactericidal, which means it kills the bacteria that specifically cause tooth decay, and has been proven to arrest decay (stop the progression of holes in our teeth). Fluoride will essentially help to strengthen your teeth. Brushing with non-fluoridated toothpaste is like showering without soap – you might get wet but you’re still going to be grubby and smelly once you’ve dried off again. There have been numerous studies done in countries such as Australia, where some states’ water contains fluoride and others do not. The states with fluoridated water have significantly less tooth decay in children than those without. The facts speak for themselves – fluoride helps fight tooth decay.
4. Whitening – the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth…
If you’re looking for a way to instantly knock off a few years and brighten your smile, teeth whitening is perfect. There are many over-the-counter options for teeth whitening these days, with lots of pop-up companies on social media producing ‘at home’ whitening kits with little blue light bulbs designed to trick you into thinking you’re whitening your teeth (side note – they don’t work).
Professional teeth whitening can be done in one of two ways; in-chair or a take home kit with custom fitted bleaching trays. The hydrogen peroxide in whitening gel oxidizes deep stains and essentially ‘bubbles’ them away, a lot like when you bleach a white shirt to remove a stubborn stain. Teeth whitening does not damage your teeth. The temporary sensitivity that sometimes follows whitening is due to deep stains being extracted from the surfaces of your teeth, leaving behind tiny tubules that access the deeper layers of your teeth allowing cold air in. In order to re-block those tubules, we advise the use of sensitive toothpaste topically for a few days, and of course to avoid any staining foods, drinks and habits such as smoking.
The latest dental whitening in-chair procedures are best done following scaling and polishing, take only 30 minutes and cause minimal to no sensitivity. The results vary from person to person, but as a general rule you can expect your teeth to return to their freshest shade, as they were when they first erupted as a child! No Ross from Friends teeth around here!
5. Straight up
There is more to straightening your smile than just looking good. Straight teeth allow for ease of oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing. They also incur a reduction in the build-up of calculus and may reduce your predilection to bruxing and grinding too.
The good news is straightening your teeth doesn’t have to take a lifetime any more, and doesn’t necessarily have to involve attaching metal to your teeth. Modern dentistry has provided us with the tools to easily (and almost invisibly) straighten our teeth within an acceptable time frame, and the best part is it’s relatively easy! If you missed out on braces as a teenager, or your dog ate your retainer (it happened to the best of us!) then you may find yourself with a crooked smile that picks up stains more easily and doesn’t always look fresh. Treatments such as Invisalign are designed to easily correct the misalignment and create a beautiful, healthy smile!
6. The daily grind
Despite the beautiful beaches and year round sunshine, Dubai can be a stressful place to live. Young professionals living in Dubai work very hard, and play even harder. Although this makes for some great Insta opportunities, it can also put a lot of stress on our bodies. Stress manifests itself in many ways, and one of the most unnoticed is through our TMJ (temperomandibular joint), also known as our jaw joint. Stress induced bruxing and grinding of our teeth not only damages the teeth themselves, but leads to a range of problems such as TMJ dysfunction, persistent headaches and migraines and sore neck and shoulder muscles. The reality is that the majority of people grind their teeth at night doing serious damage, and have absolutely no idea. Luckily, with proper dental examination, bruxing and grinding can be identified early on, and procedures can be put in to place to reduce the unconscious habit, while resolving many of the ailments. Sufferer’s better halves also report a reduction in their partner’s snoring, so that’s a win!
7. Find a Dentist you can trust
Finally, it’s important to feel comfortable with your dentist, just as you would with your GP or your Gynaecologist. We are aware that many people are afraid of our profession, and have previous bad experiences. But nowadays, with a combination of modern technology and a gentle touch, we’re not all that bad! In fact, some people actually come to enjoy their dental appointments. Plus, it’s always a bonus if you can lay back and watch TV while we’re working away, still insisting on asking you questions while our hands are in your mouths! #NetflixAndDrill