World Oral Health Day - Five things dentists wish we knew about our oral health.

With Tuesday 20th March marking World Oral Health Day, we recently ran a survey and discovered some interesting insights into how the nation feels about their smile and oral health.

The survey revealed that three quarters (75%) of the nation’s adults are conscious of their smile, with the majority worrying about tooth loss and yellowing.1

But as Brits become increasingly conscious of their pearly whites, is it just down to vanity or are we forgetting how to brush?

Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer at Simplyhealth, reveals the five things dentists wish we knew about our oral health:

1. It’s not about what you brush with, but how

“The age-old argument of manual versus electric toothbrush is still rife. Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes with rotating heads can provide a slightly more effective clean, but there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t achieve the same results with a manual toothbrush if you have the right technique. Therefore, it’s much more about HOW you brush, not so much what with.”

Henry recommends a step-by-step routine

2. When it comes to your teeth, natural doesn’t always mean better

Every time we have something sugary to eat or drink, bacteria in our mouths feed on this sugar and produce harmful acids, which can cause tooth decay. It then takes our saliva around an hour to neutralise these acids and return our mouths to normal. This means the more times a day you expose your teeth to sugar, the more you increase your chances of tooth decay.

According to the research, a quarter (24%) of 18-34 year olds have a fruit smoothie for breakfast regularly.2

"While fruit smoothies can seem like a good idea for nutritional benefits, the higher concentration of sugar and acids that come from blending fruit means that they can do real damage to the teeth, especially if sipped throughout the day. 

"Every time you sip on a fruit smoothie your teeth are placed under acid attack for up to an hour, so constantly sipping on these drinks can cause the protective enamel to erode, causing pain and sensitivity. It can also lead to tooth decay."

3. Your mouth can be the gateway to a host of other, more serious health ailments

“According to the survey, almost half of Brits (42%) don’t know that your oral health is linked to diseases including dementia, kidney problems and diabetes3 , which is a worrying statistic.

“Although a dry mouth can often be down to simple dehydration, a lack of saliva can actually be one of the earliest symptoms of diabetes. 

“The condition causes blood vessels in the salivary glands to thicken and slows down the natural production of saliva, making the gums more prone to infections. Other symptoms include excessive thirst, tingling in the hands and feet, frequent urination and blurred vision. 

“Bad breath can also be a sign of something more serious, including stomach disorders such a coeliac disease, and even occasionally liver disease. While some people do suffer worse due to differing bacteria levels, if you’ve tried brushing your teeth and tongue as well as flossing regularly and using breath fresheners, be sure to visit your dentist for advice. They may suggest visiting your GP for a check-up.”

4. Beware of fads

According to our study, the biggest oral health trend of 2017 was charcoal toothpaste4  alongside oil pulling and whitening strips. But despite celebrity fans including Nicole Scherzinger, a host of reality TV stars, and the trend even making it into the Oscars goody bags last week, Henry says there is little science behind the charcoal hype.

“The rise of products such as these are due to celebrity endorsements, often through social media, but most of the time they have had whitening treatment with a professional and so the results can be misleading. 

“But while there may be some anecdotal evidence of charcoal’s health benefits, these toothpastes can be very abrasive and many aren’t able to provide the same level of protection against tooth decay as traditional toothpaste if they don’t contain fluoride. 

“The toothpaste you choose should contain the right amount of fluoride for you, as this will help to fight against tooth decay. For most adults this should be between 1350 and 1500ppm (parts per million). Many toothpastes also help to protect against enamel erosion which can be beneficial for some patients. Always speak to your dental team to find the right products for you."

5. Yes, you SHOULD still floss 

Despite recent contradictions in research, flossing is still advised by most dentists.

“Using an interdental brush or floss can clean the tight spaces between your teeth and gums that your toothbrush can't reach. This helps to remove plaque and bits of food that may otherwise remain in your mouth and lead to tooth decay or gum disease.

“You should clean between your teeth at least once a day, either in the morning or the evening. Some dental professionals recommend cleaning between your teeth before you brush, to dislodge particles of food and get rid of plaque, while others suggest doing this after brushing, so anything left can be removed. 

“If you suffer from sensitive or bleeding gums, you may be tempted to skip brushing or cleaning between your teeth for fear of making this worse. However, regularly cleaning between your teeth can actually improve your gum health, and with perseverance and the correct technique, any bleeding should subside.” 

If bleeding continues after a week or so of thorough daily brushing and cleaning in between all your teeth, you should speak to your dental team.

[1]3Gem survey of 2,000 UK adults, for Denplan from Simplyhealth Professionals, March 2018

[2]3Gem survey of 2,000 UK adults, for Denplan from Simplyhealth Professionals, March 2018

[3]3Gem survey of 2,000 UK adults, for Denplan from Simplyhealth Professionals, March 2018

[4]3Gem survey of 2,000 UK adults, for Denplan from Simplyhealth Professionals, March 2018

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5 things dentists wish we knew