You’re Brushing Your Teeth Wrong, And Other Dental Hygiene Mistakes

You do it twice a day (we hope), and it’s been a habit for years, but you might be brushing your teeth all wrong.

According to Dr. Timothy Chase, a dentist and oral health expert based in New York City, people don’t always go about their dental hygiene routines properly. Mistakes can be anything from brushing too hard to using the same toothbrush for years.

Staying on top of the health of your mouth doesn’t just impact your smile or breath — it can also prevent more serious diseases, like cancer. One U.K. study associated using mouthwash instead of brushing your teeth put people at an increased risk for cancer.

Brushing Too Much (Or Too Long)
According to Dr. Chase, a dentist and oral care specialist in New York, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you brush your teeth too often or too long by eroding the enamel on your teeth. His suggestion is two to three times a day at the most. Most dentists recommend brushing for two minutes.

Going At It Too Hard
Though your teeth are strong, your gums are sensitive. Brushing them too hard can cause damage, for example, by pushing back the soft tissue and exposing the root area. Dr. Chase recommends using gentle pressure, brushing with bristles angled toward the gum line and using small circular motions. He also suggests electric toothbrushes, which evens out the pressure.

Brushing Right After Eating
Don’t necessarily reach for the toothbrush after every meal, particularly after you’ve eaten something acidic. Acids can eat away at the enamel on your teeth, so let your mouth do what it does naturally and give saliva a chance to neutralize the acids for approximately 30 minutes after eating.

Sticking To Just Your Teeth
The bacteria that gives you bad breath (and potentially bad health) doesn’t just stay on your teeth — it’s sitting there on your tongue and cheeks as well. Make sure to take a swipe of those areas when you’re doing your brushing.

Using The Wrong Toothbrush
Even though they may be sold in stores, you don’t want to be using a medium or hard brush, says Dr. Chase. Look for toothbrushes that are labelled soft or extra soft, so as not to contribute to gum recession.

Keeping Your Toothbrush For Too Long
Dr. Chase suggests changing your toothbrush every three months, as that’s approximately the time it takes for bristles to lose their flexibility and wear out. But don’t worry — scientists say you don’t need to replace it after you’ve been sick, since it’s just your own germs on there.

Not Flossing
Flossing at least once a day will help get at areas your toothbrush doesn’t reach (like, well, between your teeth). Dr. Chase says you should floss at least once a day, and more often if you tend to get food stuck in your teeth. Again, you’ll want to do this gently, so as not to damage the gums.

Not Drinking Water
Drinking water throughout the day can help get rid of food particles in the mouth. As well, says Dr. Chase, water keeps you hydrated, which helps in the production of saliva that keeps the mouth healthy and clean.

Not Getting Check-Ups
Sure, it might feel like you’re constantly going to see your dentist, but given that it could help diagnose anything from oral cancer to TMJ, it’s important to stay on top of your appointments. The Canadian Dental Association suggests an appointment every six months, but notes that depending on your oral care habits, your dentist may suggest coming in more or less.





Link between Vitamin D Level in Pregnant Women and Baby’s Dental Health

A recent research conducted shows that there is a link between mother’s vitamin D level and cavities in babies. Study named ‘Prenatal Vitamin D and Dental Caries in Infants’ was published in the Paediatrics.

Babys Dental Health

Vitamin D is a very important nutrient which plays an important role in bone health. Pregnant women who do not get enough vitamin D poses risk for their future babies. The recommended dosage is 4000 to 5000 units per day of vitamin D3 for all women who are pregnant or nursing.

Apart from this study also states that pregnant women who have the requisite amount of vitamin D reduces their risk of premature delivery, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, few respiratory infections and even birth defects, which include autism. This information was provided by William B. Grant from The Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Centre in San Francisco to an interview with Reuter’s Health.

134 pregnant women who had an average age of 19 were included in the study. Information regarding their lifestyles, health habits and social economic status was collected. Blood samples were taken to measure the level vitamin D. Year after the delivery; the infants were put to dental examinations. Simultaneously, mothers were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their breastfeeding habits, health and behavioural tendencies of the baby and solid consumption.

Research report showed that about one third of mothers subjected to these tests had lower vitamin D levels. This reflected in the negative dental health of the babies with 23% of infants having cavities and 22% having deficient or thinning enamel.

Robert J Schroth, the senior author of the study and a professor at the University of Manitoba, Canada stated that though there is an association, it is not very strong. But the study proves that prenatal nutrition is very important and the mothers should have their vitamin D levels as per the recommendation as a preventive measure.



Good dental hygiene can improve overall health

Illustration: Corbis

We know the basic rules of good dental hygiene: daily brushing, frequent flossing and regular visits to the dentist.

Apart from keeping cavities and other dental problems at bay, good dental hygiene could keep your heart healthy and prevent cancer, too.

“The presence of inflamed gum tissues is associated with poorer overall health,” says Dr David Paquette, professor and associate dean for education at Stony Brook University’s School of Dental Medicine in New York State, US.

“Patients with periodontal disease and diabetes have poorer glycaemic or blood sugar control. Likewise, patients with periodontal disease are at higher risk for developing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.”

Paquette was among the international dental experts who spoke at the eighth biennial International Dental Exhibition and Meeting in Singapore this month. He describes studies which indicate there is a consistent and significant association between periodontal disease and future cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, stroke, or atherosclerosis.

With atherosclerosis, the walls of blood vessels thicken, restricting blood flow and increasing blood pressure. It’s a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and death.

Tender, red or swollen gums are indications of periodontal, or gum, disease. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that attacks the gum tissue and the bone supporting the teeth.

“The odds for periodontal disease and cardiovascular events or atherosclerosis are modest, but this is magnified by the high prevalence of periodontal disease in populations, where up to 50 per cent of the population may be affected,” he says.

“Other studies have isolated periodontal bacteria in atherosclerotic vessels and have implicated periodontal bacteria in triggering inflammatory events and atherosclerotic changes in vessels.”

A new study published last week in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology – the largest of its kind, assessing dental disease in nearly 16,000 chronic coronary heart disease patients from 39 countries – identifies periodontal disorders such as tooth loss and gingivitis as potential risk markers for cardiovascular disease.

A lower prevalence of tooth loss is associated with lower levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including lower glucose levels, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure, and waist circumference. Diabetes and smoking are also less prevalent among patients with more teeth.

In another study that appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association in October, researchers at Columbia University reported that improving gum health slowed the progression of atherosclerosis.

They followed 420 adults over three years and found that even subtle changes to dental health had a clinically significant result on artery thickness. This highlights the importance of treating of periodontal disease.

Poor oral health has also been linked with oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which causes about 40 per cent to 80 per cent of mouth cancers, according to a study in Cancer Prevention Research in August.

Researchers from University of Texas’ School of Public Health studied data from nearly 3,500 people in the US and found those who reported poor oral health had a 56 per cent higher prevalence of oral HPV infection.

Thanh Cong Bui, one of the researchers, says that because HPV needs wounds to enter and infect the mouth, poor oral health resulting in ulcers or inflammation might create an entry portal for HPV.

Infection with low-risk HPV types can cause benign tumours or mouth warts, while infection with high-risk HPV types can cause oropharyngeal cancers.

Another study published in February in The Journal of Virology links gum disease to another type of oral cancer known as Kaposi’s sarcoma. Products in the form of small fatty acids from two bacteria prevalent in gum disease were found in high levels in the saliva of people with periodontal disease.

The researchers say this discovery could lead to early saliva testing for the bacteria to monitor signs of cancer so it could be treated before it develops into a malignant form.

One bacteria implicated in the study – Porphyromonas gingivalis – also produces a protein which other studies have found triggers an immune response that leads to chronic inflammation that causes bone and cartilage destruction.

A pregnant woman’s dental health can also have an impact on her baby. Several studies indicate that women with gum disease may be at risk of giving birth prematurely or having a baby with a low birth weight.

These babies may be at risk from long-term health problems, such as respiratory problems, vision and hearing loss.

“Routine brushing and flossing, and seeing a periodontist, dentist, or dental hygienist for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation during pregnancy may decrease the chance of adverse pregnancy complications,” says Dr Nancy Newhouse, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Men should also take note. Researchers from Turkey’s Inonu University have found that men in their 30s with inflamed gums caused by severe periodontal disease were three times more likely to suffer from erection problems.



South China Health Post

10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

  • Wear oversized sunglasses to block airborne pollens and molds.
  • Wear a hat, preferably one with a wide brim.
  •  Avoid outdoor line drying of clothing and bed linens on a high pollen day.
  • Consider exercising indoors on very high pollen days. Pollen levels may peak during the mid-day and afternoon, and are generally higher on warm, dry, windy days.
  • Get confirmation that you have seasonal allergies, with simple in-office tests.
  • Begin treatment with medications such as nasal antihistamines, oral antihistamines, steroids and eye drops even before symptoms start.
  • Talk to your doctor about allergy shots, which can slow the progress of allergic disease.
  • Shower and shampoo nightly to rinse pollens from skin and hair. Change clothes before entering your bedrooms to keep pollens out.
  • At home and in the car, keep the windows closed and set your air conditioner to “recirculate.” Clean filters in room air conditioners frequently. Do not use fans that suck outdoor pollens into your living area.
  • Eliminate weeds from your yard and plant allergy-friendly greenery such as azaleas and begonias, palm, pine, fir and dogwood trees; hibiscus, boxwood and yucca shrubs.



Mouthwash And Poor Dental Hygiene May Up The Risk Of Oral Cancer

Image via iStockPhoto

Recent research on oral cancer made headlines — and raised concerns — when scientists reported that poor dental hygiene and excessive use of mouthwash containing alcohol could increase the risk of the disease.

Each year, some 40,000 Americans — and upward of 640,000 people worldwide — are diagnosed with oral cancer, which can occur in the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the gum and the cheek. Deaths from oral cancer in the U.S. last year were estimated at 7,890.

The findings, published in Oral Oncology, came from work conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology with help from Glasgow University’s Dental School.

Do the results mean you should cut back on mouthwash swilling? To learn more, we spoke with Bhuvanesh Singh, a head and neck cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Here are highlights from our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

What are the known risk factors for oral cancer?

Tobacco and alcohol. Independently they have a carcinogenic effect. The effect when used in combination is multiplicative rather than additive. Smokers and drinkers get a big jump in risk for oral cancer.

A man prepares betel leaves to sell at his roadside stall in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2009.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

The other major factor is betel nut. The most common cancer in young men in countries like India and Pakistan is oral cancer, attributed to chewing betel nut or paan [a preparation that includes betel nuts and betel nut leaves].

Should poor oral hygiene and mouthwash be added to the cancer risk list?

Once you get beyond those three factors, the other ones are more difficult to link causally. Poor oral hygiene and use of mouthwash certainly may be contributing, but the extent is difficult to define.

People who tend to be smokers or drinkers are the ones who tend not to take care of hygiene in general. That’s not a universal statement, but in general. Whether poor oral hygiene caused the oral cancer is a little more difficult to define. Studies say the bacterial population in the oral cavity may be contributing to development of oral cancers, but these aren’t large enough to establish a definitive association. I would call this a soft factor. The same goes for mouthwash use. There is a potential association there. I tell my oral cancer patients to not use alcohol-containing mouthwashes — the alcohol is probably the main carcinogen to worry about. But I don’t tell them not to use mouthwash at all. There is no known harm to non-alcohol-containing mouthwashes.

Is there any advantage to a mouthwash with alcohol compared with one without it?

I don’t believe so.

Getting back to betel nut, do we know why it’s carcinogenic?

We don’t know the exact carcinogenic agent. There’s still debate about the exact carcinogenic agents in tobacco and alcohol as well. Tobacco has about 400 known carcinogens. It’s probably a combined effect.

Has betel nut chewing crossed over into American immigrant communities?

Betel nut chewing requires a lot of spitting. The social acceptance [of spitting] in the United States is not the same as in other countries. That may be a limiting factor.

How difficult is it to treat oral cancer?

The earlier it presents, the easier it is to treat. More advanced tumors are difficult to treat, but we certainly still have the ability to cure them. So the key for oral cancer is early detection. A good dentist should perform an oral cancer screen.

And that’s done by feel?

Oral cancer is a surface cancer. Early [tumors] often won’t show up on any imaging study and are best identified by clinical exam.



Chewing gum is the world’s most common habit. If you were ever scolded in school for chewing gum, your teacher may have been doing you a disservice according to recent studies. Chewing gum might actually be beneficial to both your mental and oral health.

Chewing gum stimulates saliva, which is a powerful protector of the oral cavity. It contains buffers, minerals, and antibacterial components that help flush sugar and food debris out of the mouth. Increased saliva flow also improves digestion by promoting more frequent swallowing. This helps aid with acid reflux by preventing acid from the stomach from rising back into the throat. Chewing gum also freshens breath and whitens teeth by reducing staining.

If that were not enough, recent studies also show that chewing gum actually boost brain activity and enhances memory. Scientists have linked the chewing motion of the jaw with the stimulation of a part of the brain called the hippocampus. This part of the brain plays a big role in memory. Not only does chewing gum boost your memory, it also increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain enhancing cognitive function. The act of chewing gum also increases alertness and concentration.

Feeling stressed or irritated? Grab a stick of gum. A recent study, presented at the 10 th Annual International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, concluded that chewing gum reduced anxiety and stress among individuals participating in the study. During the study, participants were assigned multi-tasking activities designed to induce anxiety and psychological stress. The use of chewing gum during these tasks was found to reduce the anxiety and stress levels as well as improve the overall performance of the participants.

The next time you want to pop that piece of gum; do it guilt free. Improve your oral health while relaxing with your next stick of gum!


Axiom Dentistry