Oral Health – Prevention is Always better than Cure

Recent research from Sweden suggests very strongly that our dental health is literally in our own hands. Diseases of teeth and gums could be a thing of the past if we cleaned our teeth better and more frequently. However, the routine needed for perfection is beyond the discipline, let alone the patience, of most people. In the real world other factors such as a job, family and socializing will always reduce the time available to reach dental nirvana. However, this does not mean that we cannot improve both our mouth hygiene and our diet so that we minimize, if not banish, tooth decay and gum disease.


Most people want their teeth to look good, so they clean them. They also use mouthwashes to sweeten the breath. It is a huge commercial market. In recent years traditional new flavors and products have replaced toothpastes aimed at different sections of the teeth-cleaning public. People with sensitive teeth, people bothered by plaque or gum trouble, people who want whiter teeth and troubled smokers are all catered for. We spend a lot of money on these products, yet the general standard of teeth cleaning leaves a lot to be desired. It tends to be superficial. It needs to be thorough.


In mouth terms it is an assassin first class – the ‘Jackal’ of the dentition. But it is aided and abetted in its work of destruction by foodstuffs and drinks that are converted into acids in plaque. So the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease depends on a double-pronged defense. The first prong is to remove plaque before it has a chance to do any damage, and the second is to cut down on acid-generating food and drinks.


Plaque is removed by the proper cleaning of teeth. Indeed, the major purpose of teeth cleaning is to get rid of plaque, not to remove bits of food, or even to have a sparkling smile, although this may be a delightful by­product of good cleaning. It is worth repeating that the main thing to remember about cleaning teeth is that every tooth has five surfaces, and each surface should be cleaned. Just using a toothbrush, be it ordinary or elec­tric, can only clean the front, the back and the tips and tops. It cannot clean between the teeth. And this is where so much dental trouble starts, and finishes.


Not only are there increasing numbers of toothpastes and mouthwashes on the market, there are also various implements with which you can clean your teeth. Before moving on to actual tooth and mouth cleaning, we out­line the more common available implements:


– Interdental (bottle) brushes

– Medicated gum massage sticks

– Dental floss

– Water picks

– Mouthwashes


Medicated gum massage sticks

These are small pieces of wood, triangular in cross-section, one or both ends of which have been tapered along one surface to make a sharpish wedge. They may be medicated and are intended to clean away the plaque from the gums and between the teeth. They are often sold under proprietary labels in packet form, like books of matches. They can also have fluoride additives.


Dental floss and tape

Floss is a thin twine-like cord that is manipulated between the teeth. Again it is designed to clean away the plaque from the gums and between the teeth. It comes in reels or boxes and can be waxed or un-waxed. Dental tape, which is becoming more popular, is flatter and wider and has similar uses. Furry floss (also known as super floss) may also be used, especially to clean under sections of bridgework. Both floss and tape can be bought with added fluoride.


Water picks

These are electrically driven appliances that direct a variable strength jet of water. There are various size nozzles for access to between the teeth, and mouthwash can be added to the water if required.



Most mouthwashes promise to give sweet breath. While many have disappointing dental results – not to mention downright counterproductive high acidity, which could actually lead to increased tooth decay -those containing chlorhexidine help to control gum dis­ease and control inflammation under dentures. As they have a demonstrable anti-plaque effect they are also of use for the young, the elderly and anyone else who is caries prone. They may also be bought in spray form, and in both forms aid the healing of mouth ulcers. Many mouthwashes contain added fluoride.


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