Your teeth and your health: Fact and fiction

tooth brushing

Oral hygiene forms an integral part of our daily routine which is a good news as this shows that levels of dental health awareness among UK adults are high. We brush and floss our teeth on a regular basis to preserve the body’s natural defences in the mouth and to avoid local bacterial infections, tooth decay, gum disease and more.

But did you know that brushing your teeth and looking after your gums can have consequences that go far beyond problems in the mouth? In fact, oral health has been linked to many serious diseases that seem to have no obvious connection with the mouth, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer’s. This makes it even more imperative that you take good care of your teeth.

Unfortunately, there are a number of outrageous myths still circulating far and wide about what constitutes the best way to brush your teeth. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular dental myths and sort the fact from the fiction.

The more you brush, the healthier your teeth will be.

Brushing twice a day, plus flossing, is the recommended oral hygiene technique. This contrasts sharply with a lot of advice out there that says you should brush your teeth vigorously ‘1000 times a day’ to eliminate plaque, while others advocate brushing after every meal.

Toothpaste contains abrasive agents to help scrub plaque off teeth. Forceful, frequent overbrushing can contribute to accelerated wear and tear by slowly ‘grinding down’ your enamel, leaving tiny microscopic scratches on the surface of your teeth that’s perfect for plaque to latch onto and penetrate.

Instead, you ought to be gentle with your teeth. Use a small headed toothbrush to make sure you’re spending enough time on each tooth or invest in an electric toothbrush. Now take a look at the correct tooth brushing technique as demonstrated here:

If you feel the need to clean your teeth more often than in the morning and at night, say after a meal, a much better idea is to rinse your mouth to clear away any food debris and chew sugar-free gum to keep your saliva production strong.

Brush your teeth with lemon juice and baking soda to make them whiter.

In recent years, teeth whitening treatments have soared in popularity. We see celebrities on TV and social media and we all want to have a bright white, dazzling smile. But while whitening toothpastes and home teeth whitening kits are not particularly effective, professional teeth whitening treatments carried out by a dentist can be expensive.

Here are your main options:

So, could lemon juice and baking soda – trusted, natural ingredients that are safe to use around the home – be a cheaper alternative? Dental experts agree that the clear answer here is: no, don’t do it.

Baking soda is abrasive and lemon juice is highly acidic. Together, they form a potent mix that will undoubtedly remove surface stains, but it’s a dangerous and destructive combination of ingredients that will damage the protective layer of your teeth, causing permanent tooth enamel corrosion.

The job of tooth enamel is to defend your teeth but once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Thinning enamel means that your dentine starts to show through. Dentine is yellow, so your teeth may actually look even more discoloured than before. Worse still, with your enamel damaged or thinning, you may experience higher levels of tooth sensitivity and be more prone to tooth decay.

If you are thinking of having your teeth whitened, the sensible suggestion is to talk to your dentist about the best and safest options for treatment. You can also look at natural options such as oil pulling with coconut oil.

If your gums bleed, brush your teeth less frequently.

It’s a perfectly normal reaction to feel alarmed when you brush your teeth and see blood. However, bleeding gums don’t necessarily mean that anything is majorly wrong. This kind of bleeding may be caused by plaque having built up along the gum line.

Contrary to what many people will tell you, the answer isn’t to brush less, since this will only add to the plaque problem. Instead, you should be brushing more frequently and give your gums time to adjust – after a while the bleeding will stop.

It’s also possible that your gums are bleeding simply because you’re brushing your teeth too hard – see the dangers of overbrushing above – or that your toothbrush has bristles that are too hard for your gums. Switch to a softer toothbrush, adopt the correct brushing technique and brush twice a day, and the problem of bleeding gums should resolve pretty quickly. Here are 5 quick tips to help prevent bleeding gums.

If the problem persists for more than a few weeks, do the sensible thing and visit your dentist just to check that there isn’t an underlying medical cause. If your immune system is compromised, you suffer from a chronic illness such as diabetes or have a serious disease like leukaemia or HIV, swollen, bleeding gums may be a symptom.

Flossing is overrated and totally unnecessary.

Flossing between your teeth isn’t anyone’s favourite occupation. In a 2017 survey, the over 55s were the most diligent, but still, only 37% said they flossed their teeth regularly. By contrast, only 18% of 18-24-year-olds were regular flossers. Those are not great statistics. Perhaps too many people are believing the myth that flossing isn’t important?

Unfortunately, the argument is completely wrong. Flossing as a complement to brushing teeth is vital for a healthy mouth. It’s an interdental cleaning method for the surfaces between your teeth – the floss reaches the parts your toothbrush cannot reach.

In fact, proper flossing stops plaque building-up in those hard-to-reach places, which is key for a healthy gum. Daily flossing is recommended, ideally in the evening before you go to bed. Getting the right technique may take a little practice but it’s really not that difficult once you get the hang of it. Here’s how to floss your teeth properly:

Learning to look after your teeth properly is clearly important for your oral health, but it doesn’t stop there. With problems in the mouth often affecting the rest of your body too, effective dental hygiene is one of the best ways to protect your general health for the long term.

Author’s Bio:
Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer. Annie likes to share her experiences and knowledge through her articles and has written for a variety online and print publications. When she’s not writing Annie likes cooking healthy new recipes and relaxing with a good book.

3 Comments

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing the article and clearing out some common misconceptions!

    What are your thoughts on oil pulling? I’ve been doing it for a while and I feel it has greatly contributed to my oral health.

    Best wishes!

    1. I am yet to try oil pulling but I will no doubt be trying this very soon as I just bought myself a big jar of coconut oil! The coconut oil is supposed to whiten the teeth so I cannot wait to give this a go.

      1. You’re gonna love it! In the beginning, you may find it hard to do for more than 5 mins but aim for 10-15 mins for the best results. I usually do it while preparing breakfast or stretching.

        Best wishes and let me know your impressions! 🙂

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