5 things your dentist wants you to know

From why paying attention to your mouth is so important to when to start dental care, here's what your dentist wishes you knew.

02 September 2014
by Annie Brookstone

Day in and day out, dentists deal with dozens of patients whose concerns range from minor niggles to serious issues – many of which could have been prevented with adequate oral hygiene, or even just a healthier lifestyle. Cape Town dentist Dr Mariam Bedford says that these are her five pieces of practical advice for better dental health that she wishes every patient knew.

1. Regular check-ups

“The oral cavity is a good indicator of the overall health status of an individual. Ulcers, white patches, excessive bleeding of the gums and so forth could be a reflection of an underlying systemic condition,” says Dr Bedford. This highlights the importance of regular check-ups with your dentist, with most professional dental organisations recommending that you have your pearly whites looked over twice a year.

2. Brush your tongue too

So you brush your teeth twice a day? There may still be something that you’re overlooking. “Brushing the tongue should form part of the daily brushing routine,” explains Dr Bedford. “The tongue harbours plaque and bacteria and could play a significant role in contributing to halitosis (bad breath).” Clicks stocks a wide selection of toothbrushes with tongue scrapers to help you get into the habit.  

3. Baby teeth are important, too

It’s never too early to start taking care of your baby’s teeth. “In the case of moms and babies, brushing should start when the first tooth erupts in the mouth. There is no need to delay brushing until more teeth are evident in the mouth,” says Dr Bedford. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small enough head to fit into your baby’s mouth, and speak to your dentist or Clicks consultant about an age-appropriate toothpaste.

4. Flossing

“Daily flossing is as important as brushing. Studies have indicated that daily flossing decreases the risk of developing inter proximal caries (in other words, tooth decay between adjacent teeth),” says Dr Bedford. Set a reminder on your phone, leave a note on your bathroom mirror, or keep the floss with your toothpaste and toothbrush: your dentist – and your teeth – will thank you.

5. What's the deal with fluoride?

Flummoxed by the selection in the toothpaste aisle? Dr Bedford has good news for you. “The selection of toothpaste brand is not the important factor,” she explains. “What does matter is the fluoride content in the actual toothpaste, as fluoride is known to have a positive effect on dental caries. We receive fluoride from the toothpaste itself, as well as from the water we use. In Cape Town, for example, our flouride levels are low in comparison to other provinces, therefore it is important to use a toothpaste with sufficient fluoride content to compensate for the decreased amount present in the water.”

September is Oral Health Month. Always remember that your oral hygiene says a lot about how you take care of yourself, and a fresh breath and healthy smile are important factors in creating a good first impression! Spare a thought for your teeth and stock up on your dental essentials at Clicks.