Health & Wellbeing

ASK AN EXPERT: All your burning questions about your teeth answered

Your go to guide for taking care of your pearly whites!
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It’s easy to prioritise trips to the doctor, the chemist, or the physio to name a few, but what about booking in for a check-up with your dentist? 

Whilst a yearly appointment is recommended for a routine checkup, accessibility to the rising cost of living crisis has made it more difficult than ever to Aussies to book in, at the expense of their oral health. 

But not to fear, New Idea has interviewed Principal Dentist Dr. Rick Iskandar to unpack all the burning questions you may have about taking care of your teeth in between dental appointments. 

WATCH NOW: Is sparkling water bad for your teeth? Article continues after video. 

Is there one best way to brush your teeth? 

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush: Medium and hard bristles can scratch and damage your enamel, leading to a dull, scratched tooth surface, increased staining, and a greater likelihood of sensitivity. 

Brush for a full two minutes: This ensures adequate time to cover all areas of your mouth and all surfaces of the teeth. 

Avoid brushing immediately after meals: Research showed that 58% of Australians brush after breakfast, however brushing should ideally be the first thing you do after waking up, and the last thing before going to bed. This ensures your saliva has enough time to neutralise the acids from our foods and decrease the potential for toothbrush abrasion. 

Consider an electric toothbrush: Plenty of research now exists to show that a good quality electric toothbrush is vastly superior to a manual toothbrush when comparing the amount of plaque they can remove. 

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Maintaining good oral hygiene is easier than you think! (Credit: Supplied)

How often should you brush your teeth?

Twice a day, as soon as you wake up in the morning, and once immediately before bed.

Once you have brushed your teeth, you should not rinse out with water, just spit out the excess toothpaste so you can maximise the remineralisation power of your fluoridated toothpaste and strengthen your enamel.

How long should you brush your teeth? 

It takes, on average, two minutes to adequately clean all the teeth in your mouth. Spending the right amount of time brushing is important as leaving areas inadequately clean, increases the likelihood of decay and gum disease in that area. 

Worryingly, only half of Australians brush for the recommended two minutes, and only one in three floss daily. 

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Dr Rick recommends the Sonicare Cordless Power Flosser (Credit: Supplied)

How often should you floss? 

You should floss every day, but you don’t necessarily have to use string floss. The rule I give my patients is that something should get in between every tooth once a day.

Many of my patients will use a powered air or water flossing device and this can be just as effective if used regularly. I use the Philips Sonicare Cordless Power Flosser 3000. 

What are the benefits of using a tongue scraper?

Sure, there is some evidence that adding tongue scraping to our oral hygiene practice can improve your breath, reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and improve your overall oral hygiene, however, it should not be used as a replacement for the heavy lifters of oral hygiene – brushing and flossing!

For those wanting to try out using an electric toothbrush, Dr Rick recommends using the Philips DiamondClean 9000 (Credit: Supplied)

Should you use mouthwash? 

I’m not convinced that there is some significant advantage to using it [mouthwash] to improve your overall oral health.

Keep in mind that mouthwash will not prevent dental disease like brushing and flossing will and it is certainly not a replacement for either.

If you are still interested in using mouthwash regularly, make sure you use one that is alcohol-free and unmedicated. 

Is teeth whitening safe? 

Whitening has become a very popular and lucrative procedure and is often promoted by non-dentists either by whitening technicians or as direct-to-consumer products.

While there is nothing wrong with whitening your teeth if the product is safe and effective and you know your teeth are healthy, it is difficult to ascertain whether the process being performed on your teeth, or the products being used are safe and effective. 

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Never, ever, EVER share a toothbrush! (Credit: Supplied)

Should you share a toothbrush? 

The amount of bacterial, viral, and fungal microorganisms that are present on a toothbrush is significant and can be transferred in large quantities when sharing a toothbrush. Dental disease carries with it a particular set of microorganisms that should not be shared with others. 

Even if you don’t suffer from any dental disease that you know of, introducing novel microorganisms to your partner’s mouth can disrupt the balance of their oral flora and lead to oral fungal infections, bacterial infections or weaken their immune system. 

What are the links between oral hygiene and overall health? 

There have been several strong direct and indirect links between oral health and systemic health. The most notable of these are: 

  1. Gum disease is correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular deaths, including atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke
  2. Gum disease and pregnancy complications including increased incidence of the birth of pre-term, low birth-weight babies
  3. A two-way connection with diabetes: There is an increased incidence of dental disease from poorly controlled blood sugar, but ALSO severe gum disease has been implicated as a contributing factor to increase blood sugar levels and further progression of diabetes. 

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