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The most common bad habits in dental hygiene – Myth busting!

by Mark Nolan
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Millions of bacteria enter our mouth every day; therefore, being constant and responsible with oral hygiene is essential to be able to have good health in general. Many of the most common bad habits in dental hygiene come from false myths, can prevent it. Let’s have a look at some of those myths.

The more toothpaste, the cleaner the teeth will be:

False. Much of the blame for the habit of covering the entire surface of the toothbrush with paste lies with advertising. The amount that shows us in it is excessive. How much is enough?

Adults only need the amount of pasta equivalent to one chickpea.

Children between three and six years old, to a pea.

Children under three years, a grain of rice.

Mouthwashes replace brushing:

False. The use of mouthwashes is always complementary and never replaces brushing. Within the profession, there are dentists who believe that they are unnecessary, since they hardly have an effect on the bacteria that cause bad breath and, furthermore, their effectiveness with respect to pathologies that arise due to dental plaque is also highly questioned.

Those containing chlorhexidine are usually prescribed for gingivitis because they are the ones that have shown the greatest antibacterial effect. These rinses must be used under the prescription of the dentist and for a limited period of time (weeks), since they can cause some side effect, such as staining of the teeth.

​Bad breath is always due to a bad brushing:

False. In 80% of cases, halitosis is produced by intraoral causes, that is, by poor oral hygiene that causes bacteria to proliferate in the mouth and on the tongue. It can also be caused by cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis (inflammation of the gums), dry mouth or tobacco, since nicotine adheres to the mucosa of the mouth, tongue and teeth. In these cases, reinforcing cleaning (brushing your teeth and tongue correctly), having good hydration and going to check-ups are key to solving it. But it can also have extraoral causes, such respiratory problems (sinusitis, laryngitis, bronchitis), stomach (poor digestion), hepatitis, diabetes or the intake of certain drugs.

Always brush your teeth immediately after eating:

False. Depending on what we have eaten, sometimes it is better to wait. The mouth has a neutral acidity (pH 7) and when taking certain foods (such as lemon, orange, sugary drinks, soft drinks, wine, coffee, tomato sauce or ketchup) the acidity rises and, consequently, the enamel softens. Although saliva neutralises this acidity and the enamel hardens again in 20-30 minutes, brushing our teeth when it is still soft can be harmful, since it can accelerate enamel wear that would result in dental sensitivity or demineralization. That is why some specialists recommend waiting. If you follow a diet without so many sugars and your enamel is healthy, you don’t have to wait before brushing your teeth.

It is normal for gums to bleed:

False. It is thought that minimal bleeding after washing is normal, due to the friction we exert with the brush. But a healthy gum never bleeds when we brush it, so it will be necessary to go to the dentist to have it checked out. Gum bleeding is usually due to periodontal disease (gingivitis or periodontitis). It is generated when bacteria accumulate at the margin of the gum, which inflames it and makes it more sensitive. If it is detected in time, it is not usually a problem.

Electric toothbrushes are more effective:

False. As long as the proper brushing technique is used to remove plaque debris well, an electric toothbrush and a manual toothbrush are just as effective. However, for most people it is easier to achieve that good technique with electric ones thanks to its shape, with a long handle and narrow head, which makes it more manageable and makes it possible to reach all the nooks and crannies; a head that can surround the entire dental piece, and the movement made by the bristles.

But they are more expensive and for people who have just undergone an intervention in the area and who have stitches they are not recommended. In addition, sometimes people with orthodontics are also recommended to only use a manual toothbrush.

Minors, for their part, can use both the manual and the electric, but in very young boys or girls the manual can help them get into the habit of oral cleaning, since there are more manual models (shapes and sizes) adapted to them.

So they are some of the false myths, now let’s look at some habits which are true.

Dental floss is essential:

True. Faced with rinsing, which is dispensable, dentists consider dental floss as mandatory. Whether it’s dental floss or interproximal brushes (or oral irrigators), their use is necessary to reach the food debris that remains between the teeth and that is impossible to remove with the brush. The usual technique and one that dentists most recommend is to floss after brushing, since it drags what the brush has not been able to remove.

The most expensive toothpastes do not have to be the best:

True. The key is not in the brand and how expensive the toothpaste is, but in the right amount of fluoride, in addition to the technique and duration of brushing. From the age of six we all have to use a toothpaste with 1,450 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride (1,000 ppm is recommended for children). Below that concentration it is as if we did not use toothpaste.

In cases of diseases, such as gingivitis (with bleeding and inflammation of the gums), the specialist can prescribe a paste that, in addition to fluoride, contains an antiseptic, although normally they cannot be used for more than two weeks at a time. There are pastes of 2,500 and 5,000 ppm only reserved for people who have a special risk of caries.

Brushing technique influences cleaning:

True. Brushing should be done for two minutes, with a brush that is not damaged (it must be changed every 3-4 months) and at least twice a day.

The technique should be simple and efficient, with straight movements. To eliminate bacterial plaque, it is important to always start from the same place and follow the same order, clean all the faces of the teeth (external, internal and masticatory), also brushing the gum vertically towards the tooth and go over the tongue and mouth.

By the way, the brush does not need a cap. The cap prevents the air from drying out the brush after each use, therefore, with humidity, bacteria proliferate. That is why it is important not to cover it and always leave it with the head up.

Chewing sugarless gum helps clean teeth:

​True. When we finish eating, the bacteria take advantage of the remains of food that remain in the mouth to feed themselves. If this bacterial plaque is not cleaned correctly, cavities or other oral diseases may appear. Therefore, the less time this plaque spends in contact with the teeth, the greater the possibility of keeping the mouth healthy. Plaque is removed with thorough brushing, but sometimes we don’t have a toothbrush, toothpaste or floss on hand. In these cases, and never as a substitute for brushing, we can use sugar-free gum, since it favours the formation of saliva, which has a protective effect by neutralizing acids after eating carbohydrates.

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