“Odontophobia” is the technical term for an irrational, uncontrollable fear of a visit to the dentist’s chair. This type of fear affects a large number of people to some degree. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of “odeontophilia”. Nobody likes having to lie backward, staring into a bright light, while a stranger tells you about his last camping trip and pokes around your molars with pointy objects.
The good news is that dentist visits can be made much less painful by making a few changes in our daily habits. A regular checkup every six months or so is really no more uncomfortable than an appointment with a hairdresser unless a problem is found, in which case remedial action has to be taken before things take a turn for the worse. It is only at this point that the whining pneumatic drill comes off the tray.
Bacterial plaque is constantly building up in our mouths, especially where the teeth meet the gum tissue. Preventative oral care is all about limiting the rate of this buildup, protecting the enamel surface of your teeth and keeping microbial levels below the point where periodontal disease becomes a possibility.
Eat less Sugar
Recently, in an upscale bakery that prides itself on its flavorful but low-sugar desserts, another patron felt the need to tell me that sugar is unhealthy because it is chemically similar to cocaine. This just isn’t true: If it were, it would be possible to make a lot of money with a factory where white powder goes in at one end and different white powder exits at the other.
However, there is indeed growing evidence that sugar can be physically addictive, triggering a neurochemical effect similar to that of several illegal drugs. In another sense, eating sweet treats can become behaviorally addictive. That is not quite as bad as an addiction that causes physical changes in the brain, but still more than a habit.
As far as dental health is concerned, the trouble with sugar is that it is an excellent foodstuff for the bacteria that naturally live in everyone’s mouth. As these digest, they secrete acidic chemicals that can harm the teeth’s protective enamel. Eating too much sugar also increases the total number of microorganisms living in the mouth, which may lead to a variety of problems.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to brush your teeth soon after eating something sugary or highly acidic (think citrus). Also, digesting refined sugar depletes the body of minerals needed for healthy bones and teeth. Therefore, cutting out sugar is simply a good idea in general, especially for those with chronic gum and tooth problems.
It’s all in the Wrist
Regular brushing and flossing take no more than a few minutes per day, yet this is nearly all that’s needed to maintain lifelong oral health. The main problem is that most people, even with the best of intentions, simply don’t know how to do this correctly. Expensive toothbrushes advertising made-up features on the packaging are completely unnecessary for most people, but none of these can compensate for poor brushing technique.
When brushing, it is important to remember that toothpaste by itself helps little. The front, rear and biting surfaces of your teeth all need to be mechanically scrubbed. The best way to do this is to develop a system and make it a habit you can follow even at bleary-eyed o’clock. Holding the brush at a 45° angle and using small circular motions is the best way to make sure the bristles get into every portion of the teeth’s surface. It’s important to use light, but not forceful pressure and pay particular attention to the line where the teeth and gums meet.
Flossing is something many people find uncomfortable, but periodontal disease often first makes its appearance in the gaps between the teeth, where no toothbrush can reach. If your gums tend to bleed when flossing, the most likely explanation is that either your gum health has already been compromised, or that you are simply not flossing regularly enough. Waxed floss makes this process easier, and remember to use an up and down motion instead of pulling the floss laterally. Rinse out your mouth after flossing to get rid of any dislodged particles.
Bad breath can be a pernicious thing when the owner doesn’t realize he has it. One common cause of bad breath is bacteria building up on the grooved and ridged surface of the tongue. Simply brushing your tongue along with your teeth can solve this problem. You can also keep a packet of aniseed, a natural antiseptic, handy and chew a pinch every few hours.
Harsh chemical teeth whiteners are probably a worse option than simply rinsing out your mouth after drinking coffee or giving up smoking. Remember that the natural color of a healthy tooth is ivory, not airliner white. Though, if you still feel that your smile should be brighter, an option such as tooth soap, apple cider vinegar or baking soda can be tried before brand-name products or specialist cosmetic treatments. Simply brush your teeth as normal with one of these, then rinse naturally.
A pretty smile is an asset in every social situation, but good oral health also has an impact on overall well-being. As with so much having to do with the body, good health is a question of doing those things that keep your system running smoothly, not trying to fix what has already gone wrong.