Erected as a model, the Hollywood smile makes more than one dream of it. Having beautiful and healthy teeth begins with rigorous daily oral hygiene. The advice of two specialists.
“Showing a nice smile contributes to comfort, well-being and self-esteem”, declares Dr. Olivier Marmy, dentist in Lausanne and former lecturer at the University of Geneva. Having healthy teeth allows them to carry out their own functions (eating, speaking, smiling, communicating), which are also socially important. But it is also a question of health. “Although there is a lack of irrefutable evidence to establish causal links between the two, there are correlations between oral health and health in general”, believes the specialist. Either way, an active infection in the mouth is never a good thing, as it generates inflammation and stimulates the immune system.
At the local level, taking care of your teeth is essential to minimize the occurrence of oral pathologies. The most common of all: tooth decay. But this is not inevitable. To prevent its appearance, nothing better than careful oral hygiene, an adequate fluoride intake, a diet not too rich in sugar and regular professional checks and cleanings (according to the four pillars of prophylaxis recommended by the Swiss Society dentists * ).
Let’s go back in detail to the right gestures, thanks to the advice of specialists in dentistry, Dr Olivier Marmy and Dr Jean-Pierre Chung, dentist, former lecturer at the University Clinic of Dental Medicine and clinical manager at the Higher School of Dental Hygienists in Geneva.
Tooth brushing in 5 points
- Choose a soft toothbrush (manual or mechanical).
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Two to three minutes each time, the important thing being above all to have gone everywhere. At noon, rinsing the mouth with clean water or chewing gum bearing the “sympadent” logo can replace brushing.
- Make small rotational movements (gum-tooth) and avoid horizontal brushing.
- Always make the same journey in the mouth so as not to forget any teeth.
Brush all sides of the tooth without forgetting the interdental spaces.
The purpose of brushing is to remove dental plaque. Plaque is the accumulation of bacteria that together form an organized colony. The mechanical action of the toothbrush is the only way to disrupt this “biofilm”. By eliminating it regularly, we also minimize the formation of tartar, which retains dental plaque. Tartar being plaque that has mineralized under the action of saliva. It is he who makes the surface of the teeth rough. Don’t forget to brush your tongue to preserve your breath.
How often should you brush your teeth?
It is customary to say three times a day, but the answer must be nuanced, as Dr. Chung explains: “It depends on the patient’s age, lifestyle (diet, number of meals and snacks) , and his dexterity. But reasonably, brushing your teeth twice a day is a good compromise as long as the brushing is well done and effective”. Better indeed one or two good brushings than three sloppy ones. If there is one that should not be forgotten, it is certainly the evening one. Because at night, the self-cleaning of the mouth, under the action of chewing and saliva, is no longer guaranteed.
The toothbrush must be flexible, so as not to damage the gums and to spare the teeth in the long term. The choice between a manual or mechanical brush is very individual. It depends on the skill and preferences of each. Rotary models or those that vibrate (so-called “sonic”) offer very good results. Likewise, toothpaste should not be too abrasive. An RDA (understand “ relative dentin abrasivity”) average of 60 (+/- 20) is a good option. A less abrasive toothpaste is recommended in case of wear at the level of the collar, place of junction between the enamel and the root. Nevertheless, to control the abrasiveness of the toothpaste, it is necessary to ensure a non-aggressive brushing so as not to further damage the fragile areas. “Sensitive” toothpastes, used in this case, are on the other hand less effective against discoloration.
The fluoride contained in toothpastes protects against cavities. To reinforce prevention, one can resort to a fluoridated mouthwash once a day. There are also fluoride gels, more concentrated than toothpaste, to be applied to the teeth once a week. If necessary, this application can be more frequent.
Diet plays a key role in prevention. The acidity contained in certain foods (citrus fruits, sodas, fruit juices, etc.) and of course sugar are the main enemies of the teeth. The more sugar you give to the bacteria, the more acid they produce. However, the acid accelerates the wear of the teeth. In other words, it is the door open to cavities. The frequency of sweet snacks is also important. If sugar is frequently consumed, the natural defense processes of saliva do not have time to take place. We are all the more vulnerable to acid attacks on the enamel of the teeth.
A consultation with the hygienist or dentist is useful for diagnosing cavities and other problems, for professional cleaning (scaling, etc.) and for receiving personalized advice. The frequency of checks should be assessed directly with the specialist, who will take into account your personal characteristics. Once a year is a reasonable rate, but more sustained checks will be recommended if you are at risk (speed at which dental plaque forms and its degree of aggressiveness, diet, dental hygiene, presence of cavities, implants, crown, etc.).
Aids for interdental cleaning
Dental floss, interdental brushes, special toothpicks or single-use rubber tips are all ways to clean hard-to-reach areas. The goal is to disorganize the biofilm and limit the formation of dental plaque. Ideally, it should be used once a day or every other day. It’s up to everyone to choose the right way, depending on their dexterity and the space between their teeth. In this regard, it is useful to seek advice from a professional.
X-rays: “As much as necessary, and as little as possible”
Oral X-rays are a diagnostic tool for detecting the presence of cavities, gum pathologies and evaluating bone loss. But how often should you submit to it? As a standard, if the mouth is healthy, every two years. Depending on the case (average oral hygiene, diet high in sugar), it may be useful to do it more often. In the future, this type of examination could be done using promising new methods such as the laser probe or transillumination by infrared camera.
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Tobacco, a major enemy
Tobacco is harmful to the tongue, teeth and mouth as a whole. Take the gum: smokers are five times more prone to gum disease than non-smokers (inflammation for example). And for good reason, the smoke locally releases harmful substances and increases the temperature of the mouth. The mucous membranes also bear the brunt of it, since tobacco influences microcirculation, disturbs healing and the physiology of the latter, which then become whitish. Tobacco also modifies the bacterial flora and increases the occurrence of cavities. Even more serious, the risk of cancer (carcinoma of the palate, tongue or mucous membranes) is increased in the event of smoking. On the aesthetic and social level, even if it is a lesser evil, tobacco stains the teeth and gives bad breath.
The secret to white teeth
Tooth color varies depending on different individual parameters, including the thickness of the enamel and dentin as well as the anatomy of the tooth. With age, teeth stain naturally. Tea, coffee, tobacco and tartar can also change their color.
On the market, several methods exist that promise white teeth. On the toothpaste side first: some products, very abrasive, remove stains. But they also scratch the tooth, which is why they should only be used once or twice a week at most. Too regular use is counterproductive. The stains will return all the more quickly as the surface of the tooth is scratched. Grandma’s recipes combining baking soda and lemon are very harmful to the tooth and should therefore be avoided. Whitening for cosmetic purposes with a professional is a valid option, provided it is carried out on healthy and clean teeth. Talk to your dentist!