Trish Walraven RDH, BSDH has worked full-time as a dental hygienist in private practice for over 20 years. She is owner of dentalbuzz.com, a humor and dental trends website, and a co-developer of the BlueNote Software intra-office dental communication programs.
Bullying doesn’t get your teeth clean - friction does!
by Trish Walraven, RDH, BS
Because it’s both National Dental Hygiene Month and National Anti-Bullying Month, you deserve to know the truth about caring for your smile. You have a right to be positive about your teeth, to not be fear-bombed about every little thing that can go wrong with them, or made to feel ashamed of their color by TV advertisers promising to make your teeth whiter.
Now that you can relax, knowing that you have entered a bully-free zone, there’s an essential question you might find yourself asking:
"Exactly why do I have to clean my teeth?"
It’s kind of like the teenagers that backtalk. They all want to know why. You can’t just tell them to do something anymore. They need to know why they have to do it. Before we get to that, though, here’s one big secret about daily dental hygiene that is true for most healthy people:
You only have to clean the gum line.
That’s it. Just the line where your teeth end and your gums begin. As long as you have normal tongue and chewing functions, the rest of your mouth is pretty much self-cleaning. And so here is the answer to Why You Have to Clean Your Teeth: the germs that harm our teeth can only grow on hard surfaces, but because the gum line is warm and juicy, that’s their beach. It’s awesome. They thrive there, untouched. Yet every other part of the tooth is more like inland desert and so it’s pretty inhospitable to bacteria. Who knows why we’re this way? Gum lines don’t clean themselves like the rest of our mouths do. But it’s a fact we have to manage, or else we’ll be led to believe that we can take shortcuts.
So how do you "go all tsunami" on these beach-loving bugs? The inside gum line and outside gum line areas of each tooth are less rounded, so that you can take the tips of a soft brush, like Sunstar GUM’s Technique? Deep Clean Toothbrush and mash them against the teeth. Seriously, insert those bristles into the gums and then once they’re dug down into the gum line, give ‘em a good massage with small strokes. That will scrape off the goo pretty painlessly. Plaque isn’t hard; it looks like cottage cheese when it’s older or cloudy mucus when it’s fresh, so it should come off easily.
You don’t want any of this plaque in the oval areas between your teeth either, so the best thing that will dig circularly into the gum is a thin, flexible piece of string, wrapped around the tooth and scraped just under the gum line. Dental floss is the easiest to control and use gently, but if the logistics of holding it elude you, try a right-angle floss pick like the GUM Eez-Thru Angled Flossers. Keep a few in your car to use on your daily commute and that’s it! If your gums are healthy you’ll keep them that way by only having to do a full plaque removal once per day.
Toothpaste is still important for fluoride delivery, and keeping your mouth acid-free will cut down on cavities, but just know that you no longer have to be bullied by oral product advertisers that feed off of your vanities or fears. Friction is the key to a clean mouth, and using good tools that create enough friction to release the goo from your gums will free you from the bullies that use dental doubt to make you believe that your mouth is a scary place that you can’t understand or control without their products.
And if you need help with any of these techniques - know you will totally make your dental hygienist’s day if you ask for a demonstration. They aren’t bullies. At all. Except maybe against the plaque in your mouth.
Dental Hygiene Tips for the Modern Family
by Trish Walraven RDH, BS
The modern family is a busy family. Insert into this space all of the activities that keep your multitude of eyes, legs, hands, and elbows flailing in all directions and it’s a wonder that you have time to read this article, much less the time to apply any of the advice offered here.
But your attentions persist, and so we must turn them to your teeth. These suggestions may help make caring for you and your family’s smile more efficient, more consistent, or maybe just make you smile a little more broadly.
Brush your teeth in the shower.
This is not good if you’re rationing the hot water or trying to speed up your teen’s tub time. It is, however, excellent for allowing the free expression of foamy mouths.
Buy interactive toothbrushes.
Who gets excited about a brush with a lifeless color that just sits there and says "meh?" Instigate flashy battles with GUM? Star Wars™ Lightsaber™ Toothbrushes when you plunge your kids into sheer bathroom darkness by slamming the door shut. Just kidding. Leave the lights on when they brush or they might miss their mouths.
Keep floss in your TV room.
After dinner, make it Family Flossing Time! Lay your younger children with their head on your lap and floss their back teeth especially well. Just make sure that the remnants don’t land on the floor and wind up (literally!) in your dog’s tummy.
Recognize that anything you drink that isn’t water is either acidic or will turn into acid.
Basically what this means is that if it’s liquid and it tastes good, it’s probably bad for your teeth. Teach your kids to swish with water after every beverage, or at least suck on the ice from a fountain drink afterwards, and hopefully you’ll reduce the amount of big black holes that will form in your bank account if you end up having to pay for cavity repairs.
Own your children’s teeth.
Until your kids are eighteen, you can pretty much treat them like property, and this includes their teeth. If they give you any lip, pull theirs back and remind them that you are responsible for their teeth and if they aren’t cleaning them, then you will. It’s funny to find yourself scrubbing yellow rings from around a twelve-year-old’s gums as they bellow, "why me?" And if they are under eight, you should already be brushing for them at least once per day.
Since you’ve stayed with us enough to get to the end of the article, that means that you’re probably up for something fresh, novel, untried. Give one of the above tips a concerted effort. And if that’s too much to ask, let’s go for tangible, something you can hold in your hand. Poke, poke. GUM? Soft-Picks?. Now those are modern family tips.