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15 Mistakes People Make in Looking After Their Teeth

Updated on September 23, 2010

We all know that we have to look after ourselves if we’re going to be healthy. What tends to get overlooked is the fact that different parts of the body require different degrees of maintenance and most of us underestimate the amount of attention we need to pay our mouths.

See how many of the following mistakes you make.

1. You don’t go to the dentist often enough. This means that when you do go, any gum disease or cavities are more advanced and, therefore, need more extensive treatment than they would have needed if you had gone sooner. It may even be that a tooth that could have been easily repaired will now have to be lost. This makes for a more traumatic appointment, which in turn makes you not want to go back, which... you get the idea. Regular routine maintenance really does make life easier all round.

2. You presume that if you haven’t got any pain there’s nothing going wrong. Well, that idea is wrong for a start. Tooth decay and gum disease are usually quite advanced before they cause any discomfort – and ‘more advanced’ = ‘more treatment required’.

3. You don’t understand that tooth decay and gum disease are progressive – you can’t let things slide and then pull it all back to be just as good as it was before. That is not a reason to do nothing. However bad things are now, they can only get worse unless you take action.

4. You underestimate the role of the hygienist. If you think she just gives you a ‘polish up’ to make your teeth look better, you are very, very wrong. This is a topic for another article but I’ll say now, speaking as a dentist, that in many fundamental ways, the hygienist’s work is more important than mine.

5. You have an ‘It can’t happen to me’ attitude – ‘Yeah I’ve seen all the stuff on TV about various things disintegrating if you soak them in Coke but it doesn’t do anything to MY teeth.’ I suppose we’re all guilty of that one in some area of our lives.

6. And, speaking of fizzy drinks, you assume that the diet varieties are safe because they don’t contain sugar – but they are acidic, and acid dissolves teeth. Fruit juice is also very acidic.

7. You try to reduce the harmful effect of acidic drinks by brushing your teeth immediately afterwards – when the enamel has just been softened by acid and is easily worn away! You should rinse thoroughly with water immediately after an acidic drink but don’t brush for at least half an hour.

8. You don’t clean in between your teeth. You might brush for the prescribed time but you never floss or use interdental brushes. So you leave plaque undisturbed between the teeth – and plaque bacteria are never idle.

9. You don’t appreciate the nature of plaque. Essentially, it’s a jelly-like slime that coats your teeth and is teeming with potentially harmful bacteria. In fact, plaque has a higher concentration of germs than faeces! So, which would you rather have in your mouth – the safer one, or plaque?

10. You don’t brush your tongue. A lot of bugs – especially those that cause bad breath – live on the surface of the tongue. A good antiseptic mouthwash will help but you should brush as well.

11. You use a manual toothbrush with a horizontal scrubbing motion. Not only does this fail to remove plaque in the ‘nooks and crannies’, it can damage your gums and wear groves in your teeth so that they become sensitive and more prone to decay. Correct brushing technique is the subject of another article but the simplest way to avoid these problems is to use an electric brush.

12. If you use a manual brush, you choose one with a head that is too big. If the brush is too large, it contacts 2 or more of the prominent tooth contours and doesn’t get into the recessed areas in between. You need a brush with a small head so you can winkle it into the difficult areas. Yes it will take longer – because you’re being thorough.

13. You open your mouth too wide when brushing your back teeth. This makes it difficult to get at the surfaces on the cheek side of these teeth.

14. You think that because bleeding gums are common, they’re normal. They’re not. Bleeding is an early sign of gum disease and if you ignore it, it will get worse and eventually your teeth will get loose – and all sorts of other problems in between. Trust me, doing nothing is NOT the easier option here.

15. You feel embarrassed about going to the dentist because you’ve left it so long and you think your mouth is in a shocking state. This is totally unnecessary. In the first place, you’re probably being unduly pessimistic – and even if you’re not, I guarantee we’ve seen worse, and we have no interest in making moral judgements about people; all we want is to help everyone be as healthy as possible. And, however bad things are, unless you take action, this is the best they will ever be.

So, do any of the above apply to you? If so, you know what to do.

Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.

If you found this article useful, you should check out his book

Watch Your Mouth – An Owner’s Manual.

Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.

You can get in touch via Tom's practice: The Dentist in Town.


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