The electric toothbrush has become very popular in recent years — some even say it provides superior dental care. But how does it actually compare to manual brushing?
“The idea of a toothbrush is to remove plaque and to stimulate the gums,” explains John Ictech-Cassis, DDS, DMD, clinical associate professor at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. “Most toothbrushes will keep the teeth clean if you know how to use them.”
Manual Toothbrushes: A Classic Route to Good Dental Care
“There are many advantages to the manual toothbrush,” says Dr. Ictech-Cassis. “We’ve been using this toothbrush for many years. It has a good track record.” Advantages include:
- Cost and availability. “It’s inexpensive and accessible,” says Ictech-Cassis. “This is the toothbrush that the majority of dentists give away.” Electric toothbrushes may simply be too expensive for many people, so it’s nice to know that you can do a great job brushing with a manual toothbrush.
- Easy to travel with. “It’s easy to take a manual toothbrush with you when you travel. It’s not bulky like
It’s probably no surprise that a bright, white smile can make you appear younger and more attractive. In fact, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a whopping 96 percent of respondents surveyed believe an attractive smile makes a person more appealing.
But good dental health goes beyond the way you look. The mouth is the gateway to the body, which means the state of your teeth and gums affects your overall health. By following these steps to a better smile, you’ll be taking important strides for the rest of your body, too.
1. Brush regularly. Brushing is the cornerstone of dental hygiene. It removes food particles that bacteria feed on, cleans teeth, and freshens breath. A toothpaste with fluoride helps strengthen teeth, but you must brush for at least two minutes to allow it to do its work, says Jonathan Abenaim, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Hawthorne, N.J. Many electric toothbrushes have a built-in two-minute timer, which can make brushing for the full amount of time easier, he says.
2. Floss daily. Flossing removes
Brushing your teeth regularly is key to maintaining healthy teeth and gums and preventing periodontal (gum) diseases, but it’s also important to make sure you choose the right toothbrush for your teeth and use proper brushing techniques. Done correctly, brushing your teeth at least twice a day — in the morning and in the evening before going to bed, for at least three minutes — can help ensure long-termdental health.
“It takes time to brush effectively,” says Richard H. Price, DMD, spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA) and a former clinical instructor at Boston University Dental School. “Most people just rush through it.” Dr. Price suggests setting a timer for three minutes and brushing and flossing until the time runs out.
How to Choose a Toothbrush
Although some ancient civilizations used frayed twigs to clean their teeth, these days toothbrushes come in a variety of manual and powered forms. And the first step to taking good care of your mouth is to choose a toothbrush that’s right for you.
“Choose a brush that has the ADA seal on the box to be sure the
The practice of brushing your teeth hasn’t changed much since 1938, the year that the modern toothbrush was introduced. But the toothbrush itself has evolved quite a bit. Stroll through the oral health aisle at your local drugstore and you may be surprised by the number of toothbrush styles available and the claims made by manufacturers about the effectiveness of their toothbrushes.
The key, toothbrush manufacturers say, is ergonomics — the science of improving the ease and efficiency with which people use products. So-called ergonomic toothbrushes sport specially designed handles or brush heads to help get teeth cleaner.
Whether manual or electric, these ergonomic toothbrush designs are marketed with the promise that their shape can help you perfect the proper brushing angle and feel more comfortable during the brushing process. Some are even said to brush teeth and massage gums simultaneously — and last much longer than run-of-the-mill toothbrushes.
Do these promises hold up? According to dentist Catrise Austin, DDS, of VIP Smiles in New York City, the handles of ergonomic toothbrushes are often lighter and include grips to help people hold their brushes more easily. The heads serve different functions, too — the
The condition of your mouth is closely tied to your overall health. Find out how oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.
Taking care of your teeth isn’t just about having a nice smile and pleasant breath. Recent research has found a number of links between oral health and overall health. While in many cases, the nature of this link still isn’t clear — researchers have yet to conclude whether the connections are causal or correlative — what is certain is that the condition of your mouth is closely tied to your overall physical health.
Oral Health and Diabetes
Doctors have known for years that type 2 diabetics have an increased incidence of periodontitis, or gum disease. In July 2008 the connection was further highlighted: Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health followed 9,296 nondiabetic participants, measuring their level of periodontic bacteria over the course of 20 years.
“We found that people who had higher levels of periodontal disease had a twofold risk of developing type 2 diabetes over that time period compared to people with low levels or no gum disease,” explains Ryan Demmer, PhD,
There are many times in your life when you want your smile to be at its absolute best — and maybe you even want it to work a little harder for you. According to a recent psychology study at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, smiling can increase positive behaviors, instill confidence, and even make you appear more youthful and attractive, according to a recent Berlin-based study at the Max Planck Institute. So whether you’re going on a first date, scheduling a job interview, planning your wedding, or attending a graduation or reunion, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make the most of your smile.
There isn’t always a lot of lead time when it comes to preparing for a first date or interview, so in this case, the biggest bang for your buck is bleaching, and you have two options. You can schedule an appointment with your dentist for professional, in-office teeth whitening, or get an over-the-counter whitening product and do it yourself.
Teeth Whitening in a Pinch
If you can get a last-minute appointment with your dentist, the professional bleaching that she provides will be a quicker (and more impressive)
The busy holiday season may disrupt many people’s daily routines, but at this time of year it is especially important to remember to look after your teeth, an expert advises.
“Holiday get-togethers tend to lead people to consume sugary treats and drink alcoholic beverages more than usual,” Dr. George Shepley, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, said in an academy news release.
“Additionally, with their busy schedules and increased stress levels, I’ve noticed that my patients’ oral hygiene suffers. They forget the most basic of oral hygiene tasks that can counteract the effects of sugary snacks and drinks,” he pointed out.
Shepley offers suggestions on a number of ways to protect your teeth during the holiday season.
To reduce the risk of damage from drinking red and white wines, which are highly acidic and can eat away at a tooth’s enamel, refrain from swishing wine around in your mouth and drink water between glasses of wine to rinse acid from your teeth.
And, while holiday goodies such as cookies, chocolate and candy canes are tempting, the sugar in them promotes the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. If you can’t brush or floss
Dental cleanings and X-rays are safe for pregnant women, a U.S. obstetrician/gynecologist group says.
The group also advised ob-gyns to perform routine dental health assessments at women’s first prenatal visit and to encourage their patients to see a dentist during pregnancy.
“These new recommendations address the questions and concerns that many ob-gyns, dentists and our patients have about whether it is safe to have dental work during pregnancy,” Dr. Diana Cheng, vice chairwoman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, said in a college news release.
Dental health problems are associated with other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and respiratory infections.
“We want ob-gyns to routinely counsel all of their patients, including pregnant women, about the importance of oral health to their overall health,” Cheng said.
The college noted that 35 percent of all women say they haven’t seen a dentist in the past year and about 40 percent of pregnant women in the United States have cavities or gum disease. Physical changes caused by pregnancy can cause changes in teeth and gums. Dental problems during pregnancy are most
Poor oral hygiene may be associated with increased risk of cancer and premature death, researchers found.
Among healthy adults in Sweden plaque build-up increased the relative risk of premature death 79 percent, Birgitta Söder, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Huddinge, Sweden, and colleagues reported in BMJ Open.
The finding, the authors wrote, suggests that increased plaque and associated toxins and enzymes, may be released from the built-up biofilm and enter the bloodstream through the gingival crevice, thus increasing the risk of malignancies.
In 1985 Söder and colleagues initiated a longitudinal study of 1,390 randomly selected, healthy Swedish adults ages 30 to 40, who had no signs of periodontitis at baseline. The participants were followed with periodic checkups including smoking habits and oral health through 2009.
Dental plaque measures were taken at baseline and in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2009.
Over the 24-year study period, 58 patients died, including 35 deaths due to malignancies.
Individuals still alive at the end of follow-up had a significantly lower dental plaque index than those who died.
After multiple logistic regression analysis, Söder and colleagues found age, male gender, as well as the
If you’re looking for an easy way to look younger without breaking your piggy bank, a recent study conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin suggests that all you have to do is smile. Researchers found that strangers are more likely to underestimate a person’s age if she is smiling, and it doesn’t get much easier than that! However, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), a smile soured by damaged or yellow teeth has the exact opposite effect and tends to make you appear even older than your years. Fortunately, there are many ways — both low- and high-tech — to achieve a beautiful, white smile. From eating crunchy fruits and veggies to selecting certain shades of lipstick and bronzer, here’s what leading cosmetic dentists recommend to make your smile sparkle — and look younger while you’re at it!
1. Focus on Flossing
What is the No. 1 way to a bright, white smile? “It sounds boring, but plain-old basic oral hygiene is where one starts,” says Thomas Connelly, DDS, New York City-based cosmetic dentist and weekly contributor to the Huffington Post. Dr. Connelly recommends brushing your teeth after every meal —
You’ve heard about fluoride from your dentist — there are fluoridated toothpastes, mouth rinses, even supplements. But do you know what fluoride is?
Fluoride is found naturally in water (rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans) and in many foods, such as grapes and tea. It’s also added to certain processed cereals and infant formulas. And this mineral has a big benefit: It protects your teeth from the plaque bacteria and sugars that hang around your mouth after you eat, preventing tooth enamel from being eaten away and cavities from forming.
In fact, evidence suggests that fluoride not only prevents decay, but also reverses it by enhancing re-mineralization, the rebuilding of tooth enamel that has begun to decay. That’s why the American Dental Association (ADA), as well as most dentists, believes that small amounts of fluoride should be added to water supplies so that everyone gets an adequate amount.
The scientific evidence is quite clear, says Howard Pollick, BDS, MPH, a professor in the department of preventive and restorative dental sciences at the School of Dentistry at the University of California in San Francisco, and a spokesman for the American Dental Association. “Fluoride prevents tooth decay,”
Does drinking an ice cold beverage cause dental discomfort? Or do you find yourself wincing when you brush or floss? You could have what’s known as tooth sensitivity.
You don’t have to put up with the pain, however. There are things you can do to lessen tooth sensitivity and improve your oral health, says Leslie Seldin, DDS, a dentist in New York City and an associate professor of dentistry at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.
Here’s why you could be experiencing this mouth malady — and steps you can take to find relief for sensitive teeth:
1. You brush with too much gusto. Sometimes tooth sensitivity comes from brushing with too much force or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. Over time, you can wear down the protective layers of your teeth and expose microscopic hollow tubes or canals that lead to your dental nerves. When these tubes are exposed to extreme temperatures or acidic or sticky foods, tooth sensitivity and discomfort can result. The simplest solution is to switch to a toothbrush with softer bristles and to be gentler when brushing.
2. You eat acidic foods. If the pathways to your nerves are exposed, acidic foods such as tomato
Awareness of the oral-health conditions you are likely to face at different stages of life can help you stay a step ahead of potential dental problems, and build a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Dental Health: Pregnancy and Children
Expectant mothers can give children a head start by eating an array of healthy foods and taking calcium supplements while pregnant. Also, taking folic-acid supplements decreases the risk of a baby being born with a cleft lip and palate. After the baby’s birth, parents should wipe the infant’s gums with a soft, damp cloth after feedings, as this helps prevent the buildup of bacteria. When teeth come in, typically at six months old, parents can use a soft children’s toothbrush twice a day to clean the teeth and gum line, where decay starts.
Dr. Mary Hayes, a pediatric dentist in Chicago and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, tells parents there is a risk for tooth decay even in children as young as nine months. “Parents need to pay attention to baby teeth — they aren’t disposable,” says Dr. Hayes, who also recommends parents brush their children’s teeth until they are six years old. “This
What you eat affects your mouth not only by building healthier teeth and gums, but also by helping prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Learn how to eat the best diet for your teeth, including the foods to eat, beverages to drink, and what to avoid.
What you eat affects your mouth not only by building healthier teeth and gums, but also by helping prevent tooth decay and gum disease. While a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and unsaturated fats will benefit your overall oral health, there are a few standout foods and nutrients that can really boost it.
Teeth and Calcium
Mom said it when you were in grade school, and she was right on this one: Drinking milk builds strong bones and teeth. Calcium is vital in childhood and through your teens, when teeth are formed, but the value of this nutrient doesn’t stop once you get your wisdom teeth. A diet with adequate calcium may prevent against tooth decay, says Dr. Leonard Anglis, DDS. When a diet is low in calcium, as a majority of Americans’ diets are, the body leeches the mineral from teeth
Keeping your teeth strong, your gums healthy, and your smile bright is not just a day job; your mouth needs protection at night too. Donna L. Zak, D.D.S., of Zak & Frankel Dental Associates in New York City, explains: “Nighttime oral hygiene is important because while we’re sleeping, we’re not swallowing, so the bacteria in our mouths increase throughout the night. The nighttime goal is to avoid giving the bacteria anything to break down and feed off.”
There are three basic steps to nighttime hygiene: brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. Dr. Zak says the order doesn’t matter, as long as the food particles and plaque are removed. However, she adds, “My preference is for brushing, flossing, and then mouthwash because I feel that brushing first makes it easier to floss.”
Steps for Basic Nighttime Oral Hygiene:
Brushing your teeth helps protect them from plaque buildup and tooth decay. Using a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste that contains fluoride, start brushing your teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gums. The correct method, according to the American Dental Association, is to brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes. The ADA suggests
Anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis, alcohol-free — your pharmacy’s oral health section has dozens of mouth rinse products to choose from, all promising to protect your teeth and gums and freshen your breath.
But how can you know which claims are true? And do you really need to use a mouth rinse — or is good brushing and flossing enough?
“There are three major categories [of mouth rinses], from a consumer perspective,” says Michelle Henshaw, DDS, MPH and assistant dean for community partnerships and extramural affairs at Boston University, Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. These include mouth rinse products that contain fluoride, anti-gingivitis and anti-plaque mouth rinses, and cosmetic mouth rinse products. Some of these mouth rinses are available over-the-counter; others will require a prescription.
Here’s what you should know when shopping for a mouth rinse.
Fluoride-Containing Mouth Rinses
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by helping your body strengthen enamel — the white, harder-than-bone substance that covers teeth. But most people will not require fluoride-containing mouth rinses, says Dr. Henshaw. “You pretty much get that from your fluoridated toothpaste,” she says. But, there are some exceptions.
“People with xerostomia (abnormal dryness of
In addition to affecting your overall health, tobacco use and smoking can cause a number of oral health issues, ranging from oral cancer to discolored teeth.
“You can get yellow teeth [and] a yellow tongue,” says Thomas Kilgore, DMD, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and associate dean at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. “You see a lot of staining on the tongue.”
Smoking and tobacco use can lead to more serious oral health complications as well, including gum disease and oral cancer.
Smoking and Oral Cancer
“The most serious issue is mouth cancer,” Dr. Kilgore says. “It’s hard to say what percentage of people who smoke will get mouth cancer, but the death rate of those who do get it is high — between 40 and 50 percent of all cases, and that hasn’t changed over the last few decades.”
The American Cancer Society estimates that 90 percent of people with oral cancer (cancer affecting the lips, tongue, throat, and mouth) have used tobacco in some form. Likewise, the risk of oral cancer is six times higher among smokers relative to non-smokers. Your individual risk of
How well you care for your teeth and gums has a powerful effect on your overall health. Neglecting your oral health lead to more than just sore teeth and bad breath — it can open the door to all sorts of health problems, including some pretty nasty diseases like oral cancer. Researchers have found possible connections between gum problems and heart disease, bacterial pneumonia, stroke, and even problem pregnancies.
“You cannot be healthy with an unhealthy mouth any more than one can be healthy with an infected foot,” says Richard H. Price, DMD, spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA) and a former clinical instructor at the Boston University Dental School.
The Role of Diet and Lifestyle in Oral Health
A number of dietary habits and lifestyle factors can affect oral health, including:
Sugar consumption. “Having a sugar-laden diet will contribute to tooth decay and gum problems, as the bacteria in the mouth thrive in this environment,” producing tooth and gum-destroying enzymes and acids, says Dr. Price, who retired after 35 years as a dentist in Newton, Mass.
- Smoking. Dental care experts have long known that smoking cigarettes and cigars and using
Taking care of your teeth at home can help you maintain your dental health and prevent periodontal, or gum, disease from developing.
Richard H. Price, DMD, spokesperson for the American Dental Association and a former clinical instructor at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, says regular home care should include daily brushing and flossing. “My advice is to brush thoroughly, at least twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening before going to bed,” says Dr. Price. “Be sure to floss at least once a day. I do it after every meal when I can.” Proper dental care at home, combined with seeing your dentist regularly, is your ticket to good dental health, says Price, who is retired from a 35-year private group dental practice in Newton, Mass.
Dental Health at Home
“Use products that have the ADA (American Dental Association) seal,” says Price. “This means that the products — toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, etc. — are safe to use as directed and will keep your mouth healthy — no gum disease, no cavities.”
Here are some basic principles to follow:
- Spend at least three
Your mouth is made up of more than just teeth, so good oral health goes beyond simply brushing and flossing. In addition to your teeth, your mouth is made up of gums, oral mucosa, the upper and lower jaw, the tongue, salivary glands, the uvula, and the frenulum. All of these structures play an important role when it comes to good dental health and are routinely examined when you receive dental care.
The Oral Mucosa
When you open your mouth and look in the mirror, everything that isn’t a tooth is covered by a protective lining called the oral mucosa, which is a mucous membrane similar to the mucous membranes that line your nostrils and inner ears.
The oral mucosa plays an essential role in maintaining your oral health, as well as your overall health, by defending your body from germs and other irritants that enter your mouth. A tough substance called keratin, also found in your fingernails and hair, helps make the oral mucosa resistant to injury.
Your gums are the pinkish tissue that surrounds and supports your teeth. Also covered by oral mucosa, gums play a critical role