Daily habits that might seem look like no big deal add up over the years, setting you up for bad breath, gum recession, and sensitive teeth in the long run – but don’t worry, many of these are reversible or involve a simple change in your oral care routine!
Here are the top five mistakes I see all the time, along with how to fix them so you can be well on your way to better dental health.
1. Using Mouthwash
Despite what a lot of advertising would have you believe, mouthwash actually isn’t all that great for your dental hygiene. It disturbs the natural flora in your mouth and can even be drying, thus promoting the growth of the very bacteria you’re trying to kill!
In fact, you want to nourish and promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth for great breath, cavity prevention, and even overall health. Ever heard of taking probiotics for gut health? The same principle applies for your mouth.
If you’ve been using mouthwash for a long time or have taken antibiotics at any point in your life (that’s most of us!) you can help restore this balance by including probiotic-rich foods in your diet like cheese and taking a probiotic supplement.
2. Brushing Too Hard
Harder isn’t better when it comes to brushing. In fact, if you brush your teeth too hard, you could be causing damage to your mouth, specifically, your gums.
When you brush your teeth too hard, your gums will begin to recede up and away from your teeth. This leaves sensitive parts of the tooth exposed, and it can also make you more susceptible to gum infections.
This problem is compounded when you’re brushing too hard with an old toothbrush. When nylon toothbrush bristles are first made, they are rounded into little domes to make them less abrasive to your teeth, but as they wear away with use, they become sharper, like little knives.
This can cause damage to tooth structure and enamel, literally wearing your teeth away and making them susceptible to damage and cavities. I recommend replacing your toothbrush every four weeks if you’re brushing twice a day.
All of these problems are even further compounded if you’re also brushing too hard. Brushing too hard not only contributes to tooth enamel being stripped away, it also doesn’t clean teeth effectively. When you brush hard, you usually have less control over where your brush is going, meaning you’ll clean the outside of each tooth quickly, but you won’t get into the spaces between teeth.
3. Ignoring Pain
Mouth pain is a sign that something’s wrong in your mouth, and that should never be ignored.
While some pain can be easily soothed at home with oil pulling or painkillers, most mouth pain requires a visit to your dentist. Some pain can be caused by an infection or abscess, which can be quite serious if not treated. Other tooth pain can come from grinding or clenching your teeth, which should prompt your dentist to screen you for sleep apnea or another sleep breathing disorder.
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Other pain, such as increased sensitivity to food temperatures, pressure sensitivity, or general dull aches in your teeth and jaw can mean that your teeth themselves have been damaged, and to fix this, you’ll definitely need the help of a dentist.
The reason not to wait and see is simple: once the damage is done to a tooth, it never gets better. Yes, teeth do heal themselves, but the pain is an indicator that you’re past the point of the tooth healing itself and waiting only leads to further damage.
The sooner you make an appointment, the smaller the problem will be (and the easier it will be to fix).
4. Brushing at the Wrong Times
You were always told to brush after every meal, right? Well, the truth is a bit more complicated than that. While certain foods and drinks—especially ones high in refined carbohydrates—spur the growth of bacteria in your mouth in as little as 20 minutes, requiring immediate brushing afterward, if you brush after other foods, especially acidic ones, you might be doing more damage than good.
Brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods can damage tooth enamel. Acidic foods weaken tooth enamel for about 30 minutes after eating,
so brushing up to 30 minutes after meals will actually strip away the enamel in its weakened state, leading to an increased susceptibility to cavities.
This is why I like to say it’s better to brush and floss before breakfast, rather than after!
Instead of brushing after eating acidic foods, swish with water or chew gum to neutralize acid in the mouth. Once 30 minutes have passed, you’re free to brush.
And as for the debate over whether to brush or floss first, it isn’t actually all that important. While there’s a case for both side, what matters is that you’re doing both.
5. Being Afraid of the Dentist!
Have you ever been scolded or felt humiliated at the dentist? Unfortunately, it’s common to not only fear the pain and discomfort of going to the dentist but also the shame—and this is simply unacceptable.
Going to the dentist shouldn’t be painful or anxiety-inducing at all…if you’ve chosen the right practitioner, that is.
Finding a shame-free dentist is one of the best investments you can make not just in your dental health, but your overall health as well since dental health impacts virtually every other system in the body.
The right dentist will take the time to explain every procedure, put you in the driver’s seat, and will put you at ease.
There should be zero tolerance for dentists who make insensitive remarks or shame their patients. The right dentist should make you feel good, not ashamed!
Selfie addiction ‘may be a sign of mental illness’
Taking selfies and uploading on social media is very popular and there doesn’t seem to be an issue with it. However, before you take that next selfie for the gram, two psychologists say selfies may be a sign of mental illness.
In 2014, a news article used the word ‘selfitis’, saying that the American Psychiatric Association was going to start recognising it as a real disorder.
In a paper published in the International Journal of Mental Health, Mark D. Griffiths and Janarthanan Balakrishnan argued that selfitis is a real condition and can be diagnosed as excessive selfie taking.
They also developed a “Selfitis Behaviour Scale” by surveying the selfie behaviour of 400 participants from India. The scale assesses the severity of the condition, of which there are three levels.
A borderline case is when someone takes selfies at least three times a day but they don’t post them on any social media platform.
The next level is acute, which means they post the selfies and the chronic stage is when people cannot control the urge to take photos of themselves — snapping up at least six selfie posts a day.
“Typically, those with the condition suffer from a lack of self-confidence and are seeking to ‘fit in’ with those around them, and may display symptoms similar to other potentially addictive behaviours,” Balakrishnan said.
“Now the existence of the condition appears to have been confirmed, it is hoped that further research will be carried out to understand more about how and why people develop this potentially obsessive behaviour, and what can be done to help people who are the most affected.”
Experimental drug ‘may prevent’ stillbirth, premature birth
Scientists from the University of Adelaide, Australia, believe that an experimental drug may ultimately prevent the most common cause of premature birth.
The drug, naloxone, has shown considerable success in early animal trials, according to the team’s findings which were published in Scientific Reports.
A series of experiments were conducted by researchers on pregnant mice with a non-opioid form of naloxone.
This non-opioid form, (+)-naloxone, was found to drastically reduce the rate of mice delivering their young prematurely or stillborn when they were exposed to a substance found in bacteria that causes inflammation.
The drug also prevented newborn mice from having low birth weight when their mothers were exposed to E. coli bacteria late in their pregnancy.
“We found that by treating pregnant mice with (+)-naloxone, it provided complete protection against pre-term birth triggered by bacteria,” Sarah Robertson, senior author and professor at the university’s Robinson Research Institute, said in a statement.
“It also protected against stillbirth and infant death shortly after birth, and led to a correction in birth weight among infants that would otherwise be born at very low birth weight.”
Inflammation is a key component of what stimulates a normal delivery process, however, bacterial infections, stress, or other damage to the placenta during pregnancy can also ignite an inflammatory response which leads to premature births, the authors said.
Although naloxone is already used to reduce inflammation, the version created by Robertson’s team specifically inhibits a receptor that signals this sort of inflammation called Toll-Like receptor 4 (TLR4).
“TLR4 is a trigger of spontaneous pre-term birth. For this reason, we wanted to test a drug known for its ability to block the actions of TLR4, to see if that would also prevent pre-term birth.
“Our studies give us some encouragement that it may be possible to prevent many pre-term births, by using drugs that target the body’s inflammatory mechanisms, probably in combination with antibiotics as well,” Robertson added.
Hot tea increases cancer risk, study warns
Drinking hot or burning hot tea is associated with an increased risk for esophageal cancer when combined with excessive alcohol or tobacco use, a recent study showed.
The study, published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine, was conducted by Chinese researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Peking University.
The study collected data from a total of 456,155 Chinese participants aged between 30 and 79 and lasted for an average period of more than nine years.
By 2015, it found that 1,731 people who didn’t have cancer at the initiation of the study were diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
“High-temperature tea drinking combined with either alcohol consumption or smoking was associated with a greater risk for esophageal cancer than hot tea drinking alone,” said the study.
People who drank both burning hot tea and more than a standard serving of 15g of alcohol daily were five times as likely to develop esophageal cancer than those who drank tea and alcohol less frequently, the study showed.
Likewise, it said, current smokers who drank burning hot tea daily were twice as likely to develop cancer.
Hot beverages at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius could impair the barrier function of the cells lining one’s gullet, or food pipe, thus making it more vulnerable to cancer-causing agents or existing inflammation, CNN quoted Neal Freedman, a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, as saying.
However, the study said no increase in esophageal cancer risk was seen among participants who drank hot tea if they did not drink more than 15g of alcohol daily and smoke tobacco.
In fact, early clinical studies suggest that polyphenols, the natural plant compounds found in tea, may play an important role in the prevention of cancer, as researchers believe that polyphenols help kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
In that sense, tea lovers need not give up their hobby so long as they consume tea at temperatures below 65 degrees Celsius and avoid excessive alcohol or tobacco use.
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