Dental Care

The Truth About Tooth

How should you take care of your pearly whites? Dental Surgeon Dr Anthony Goh answers your FAQs.

Q: What is the correct way to brush teeth?

A: The correct way that is taught by dentists today is to first get a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head and a straight handle. The softer the better, as they can bend more and fit into the differently-shaped curved surfaces between teeth.   People who use hard bristles may think that their teeth are cleaner but in reality they are only scrubbing at the most bulbous parts of the teeth, and gradually sandpapering down their teeth (usually at the root). Large-headed toothbrushes are more appropriate for horse-sized mouths!

Hold the bristles at a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface and allow the bristles to reach under the gum collar that fits around each tooth. Keep movements small and circular where the tip of the bristle just jiggles in the gum collar; no large sawing strokes that are more apt to damage the gums and teeth.

Be systematic and don’t miss spots. After brushing, give each tooth a run-through with floss. Flossing gets to the hard-to-reach-with-a-toothbrush bits of a tooth where gum disease usually starts. This is especially true for the wider back teeth as the bristles of the toothbrush cannot reach in between to effectively clean off the plaque.

How often should we change our toothbrushes?

A: Once the bristles look less-than perfectly straight, it’s time to replace it. This varies from a few weeks for the really hard brushers (highly discouraged!) to a few months for the gentler ones. However, a toothbrush tends to collect colonies of the bacteria that grow in the mouth, and are kept in damp places. It may be wise to change it, even if it’s not frayed, after three to four months to maintain good hygiene.

Q: Can oral gurgles rinses replace brushing?

A: How we all wish we can do away with the tedium of brushing teeth! Unfortunately, there are no mouthwashes, rinses, gargles, gurgles, nor tonics that can replace the mechanical removal of the layer of plaque that forms in the mouth. Most of these solutions have a psychological effect because they smell good! It’s like not bathing and hiding the smell with lots of perfume. If one brushes properly, there is no need for any oral rinses.

Q: When should we start practising good dental care?

A: Dentists recommend the first dental visit at age 12 to 18 months. This is when the first teeth have started cutting through and before the child develops stranger anxiety. It’s good for spotting any early decay, for example, from Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, and for any growth disturbances. As the child gets familiar with the dentist, there is less fear and the visits are not associated with discomfort nor pain.

I always beg parents never let our own dental anxiety cloud the child’s experience. And never, never, never use ”If you don’t behave, I’ll take you to the dentist and ask him to pull all your teeth out” as a threat. It breaks my heart to have to re-train children not to be afraid of dentists because of ‘faulty programming’.

Article contributed by Dr Goh Sze Chern Anthony, an accredited doctor of Mount Alvernia Hospital.

Note : Please note that health information is provided to supplement the care provided by your doctor. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.   Always seek the advice of your physician if you have any questions regarding a medical condition.