For anyone answering in the positive, chances are you are following the steps to good dental health: brushing, flossing, and visiting their dentist. Bonus points if you understand the value of fluoride. Our daily dental activities were in the news a few months ago with new research that suggested flossing is a waste of time. We will come back to that, but for now, let’s stick to the basics.
Brushing is the fundamental task for maintaining good teeth. It not only removes tiny bits of food but also the bacteria that promote tooth decay. More importantly, brushing removes the plaque that can cause gum disease. Ideally, brushing should come after every meal because the bacterial attack on teeth begins right after eating. At the very least, brush once a day and always before bed.
Now to flossing. First, let’s put aside the apparent support for avoiding it. That research focussed on 25 studies that compared brushing with and without flossing and found that there was weak or unreliable evidence that flossing was helpful. Without going into the particulars, let’s consider the challenges. When they know someone is watching, people will take better care of their teeth. Next, many will not be flossing effectively so the benefits will be less likely — yes, read up on how to floss properly, or ask a dentist. And now to a most simple argument: How does it not harm teeth to have little bits of food pinched between teeth?
Despite the contrary findings on flossing, professional groups such as the Canadian and American Dental Associations and others strongly support flossing and cite other evidence that it prevents plaque buildup, early gum inflammation called gingivitis and tooth decay. Perhaps the simplest and best argument in favour of flossing is that it is both low cost and low risk, so why not floss — ideally after every meal, but certainly once a day before bed.
You brush your teeth as you should, and yes, you floss, so why would you need to visit a dentist? How often you visit depends on your own oral health. The goal is to catch small problems early which means, for many people, twice-yearly visits. In addition to brushing and flossing, other factors can come into play: smoking, a history of cavities or gum disease, and poor overall health can all contribute to problems with your teeth and gums so may mean more visits to the dentist.
As a parent or guardian, it’s up to you to help your children to learn good practices and develop healthy dental habits. You have a big role to play in keeping your child’s teeth healthy and clean. Prevention starts at home with good eating habits and daily cleaning of the teeth. Once a child has teeth they become susceptible to tooth decay so be on the lookout for any signs of it. If you see any, head to the dentist right away; early childhood tooth decay must be treated quickly. If not, your child may have pain and develop infection.
Good dental health does not need not be a complicated or difficult process. Brush and floss regularly — make sure you know how to do both effectively — and see your dentist twice a year. That’s it, pretty much.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for the Sunshine Coast and Powell River.