This article from The Guardian, “Can’t visit the dentist? Here’s how to take better care of your teeth” contains some useful information from a series of Q&As. Here are some of the selected Q&As from the article that dentists usually get asked :
“What kind of toothpaste should I use?
Any toothpaste with fluoride will do. Not only does it help to prevent tooth decay, but it slows down the rate of progression of any existing decay. Carter is concerned by the increasing availability of “natural” toothpastes without fluoride. Water fluoridation is not widespread in the UK, “so we really do need that protection”, he says.
Is it a good idea to switch to an electric toothbrush?
What you brush with is less important than brushing. Walmsley says a manual toothbrush is just as effective as a powered one if you brush for two minutes, twice a day. Some electric toothbrushes, however, have a timer – or even an app – to help you to be more thorough. “I can say from personal experience that it’s moved me from 1.5 minutes to 2 minutes,” says Carter of his electric toothbrush.
How often should I replace my toothbrush?
Dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush or brush head every three months. Very few people do. “As a nation, we use 1.2, 1.3 heads a year,” says Carter. “There are a lot of very old, scraggy toothbrushes out there.”
What else can I do apart from brushing thoroughly?
If you already floss regularly, stick with it. If you have yet to make it a habit, pick up some interdental brushes, which are easier to use than string floss. Interdental cleaning is especially important if you have a history of gum disease. Do it before you brush.
What else should I be mindful of?
“Being conscious of what you’re eating and when is also vital for a healthy mouth,” says Nyree Whitley, group clinical director for the the dental care provider mydentist. Many people have been consuming more sugar and alcohol during the pandemic, which is detrimental to oral health over a prolonged period. Whitley suggests limiting snacks and consuming sugar only as part of a meal.
My gums bleed after brushing and flossing. Should I be worried?
People can be put off by this, especially when starting a new oral care regimen, but Carter’s advice is to persevere. “It’s not an indication you’re brushing too hard: it probably means you haven’t been brushing well enough.” The bleeding indicates some level of gum disease, and will probably stop as your gums become healthier.
Whitley says that dentists reported patients’ gum disease had got worse in the months between the first lockdown and practices reopening mid-year: “It’s a good reminder of just how quickly gum disease can worsen.”
Can I replicate a professional hygienist’s clean at home?
This is “straying into DIY dentistry,” says Walmsley. Even with his expertise, he knows better than to attempt dentistry on himself. “You could easily get yourself into trouble,” he says. If there is visible plaque or tartar (calcified plaque) around the necks of your teeth, talk to your dentist about the possibility of booking in for a scale and polish.
I think I am grinding my teeth. What can I do?
This has reportedly become more prevalent during the pandemic, due to rising stress levels. If you know you are inclined to clench your jaw while concentrating or stressed during the day, becoming aware of it may be enough to break the habit, says Carter.
Sleep grinding, known as bruxism, is harder to tackle. You may not even know you do it unless you share a bed, but it can cause sleeplessness, facial pain and headaches. Your dentist will be able to tell if you are doing your teeth any damage, and suggest possible treatments.
I have knocked out a tooth. What do I do?
This is also high priority: a knocked-out adult tooth can usually be reimplanted if a dentist can get to it quickly. “The longer the tooth is out of the mouth, the higher the chance is the body will reject it,” says Walmsley.
Holding the tooth by the crown, not the root, try to put it back into the hole in the gum. Bite down gently on a clean cloth to hold it in place. If the tooth does not go in easily, put it in a container of milk or saliva (adults could also hold it inside their cheek). “Don’t wash it under the tap – you want to keep all the little cells and bits of body around it,” says Walmsley. If you cannot find the tooth, still seek emergency care.
What else should I look out for?
The symptoms of mouth cancer can be “annoying but manageable”, warns Whitley, who suspects that, because people’s perception is that they have only a minor problem, they “are simply putting off getting help”. If you have mouth ulcers that do not heal within several weeks or unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth or lymph glands (in the neck), contact your dentist or doctor.”