Getting Back to Basics

800px-ToothbrushesHealthy Smiles By Rita Tempel, DDS – This article was published in The Gettysburg Times, August 17, 2016

How much time do you spend brushing your teeth? (Be honest!) See how your answer compares with American statistics:

Nearly seven out of 10 Americans say they brush their teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and again at bedtime. The other 30 percent confess they brush less frequently—once a day or less. This is according to a study provided to the American Dental Association. Your brushing habits are the very foundation of your dental health.

Many patients, especially those experiencing numerous cavities, tell me they have “soft teeth.” While some people have enamel abnormalities and are prone to decay, the underlying issue is that most people have a home dental routine that is too soft or lax. Today’s column will review basic ways to prevent future cavities and keep your smile healthy!

So if you’re in the first group, within the 70 percent that brushes twice a day—that is wonderful, but it leads to another question: How long are you brushing? Brushing twice a day, for two minutes at a time, is one of the best safeguards against cavities. Watch the clock and be sure you’re brushing for two full minutes!

Some of my patients tell me they regularly brush once a day. So if you fall into that category, here’s some food for thought. There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Just think—assuming you are brushing the recommended two minutes, doubling your efforts and brushing twice a day only takes two additional minutes and still leaves you with 1,436 minutes of time. It’s a small investment with valuable dividends!

The type of toothpaste you choose is important too. When choosing toothpaste, look for low-abrasive toothpaste such as ProNamel. Consumer marketing makes whitening toothpaste look appealing, but my advice is to avoid them because they often contain abrasive particles which can actually remove tooth structure and cause sensitivity. For example, two of the most popular whitening toothpastes on the market have Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) levels of 189 and 200, while ProNamel measures 25. What do those numbers mean? Toothpaste measuring between 100-150 is considered “highly abrasive” with 150-200 considered “harmful.” The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) limit is 200. These are eye-opening statistics!

Diet is often an overlooked factor contributing to oral health. Keeping with our “back to basics” theme, avoid or limit acidic beverages such as sodas, and minimize snacking. Following those two healthy rules can greatly reduce your risk of decay.

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to see your dentist at least twice a year for checkups and professional cleanings; tartar that forms on teeth can only be removed in a dental office.

Maintaining all of these healthy habits in harmony with each other is your best defense against cavities. It is all very practical advice—probably things you have heard before, but we all need reminders to stay on track.

Speaking of reminders, I will close with a personal story. When I was a little girl, my mom constantly asked me, “Did you brush your teeth?” This reminder, every morning and every evening, helped me establish good healthy habits. Today I can proudly say I have never had a cavity—and I have my mom to thank! So parents and grandparents, remember to ask this question and reinforce all of these practical, healthy habits in your children and grandchildren. You’ll be giving them the precious gift of a happy, healthy smile for years to come.

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