On Oral Hygiene: Ramadan Series #2

Maintaining healthy oral hygiene is important to maximize your overall health. In this second post of our Ramadan series, we spoke with our dental hygienist, Rebecca Aleaddine, about frequently asked questions in the dental chair and common misconceptions when it comes to dental health.

Oral Hygiene: What are we doing wrong when it comes to our teeth and gums

For brushing, the two most common things I see as a hygienist is plaque being left along the gum line (where the gum meets the tooth), or that brushing is being done too aggressively, causing gum recession (gum loss).

It is very important to ensure that the brushing technique is done properly and that we are brushing at least 2 minutes each time.

Proper brushing technique is to place the toothbrush along the gum line at a 45-degree angle and make circular sweeping motions. This technique will remove harmful plaque and bacteria from both the teeth and gums and at the same, it is a gentle technique that is not too abrasive on the gums. While brushing, make sure to not put too much pressure and to not “scrub” the gums roughly in a back and forth motion.

Not sure if you should use an electric or manual toothbrush? Check out this blog post.

What are the biggest problems when it comes to oral hygiene?

Gingival and periodontal (bone) disease, caused by:

  • lack of flossing
  • improper brushing technique
  • lack of regular hygiene appointments

*It is important to understand that these are not the only causes of gingival and periodontal disease. Other factors would include genetics, environment, diet, smoking, etc. However, the 3 factors mentioned above are preventable factors that we can work on to reduce our risk of these diseases.

What do you wish people knew about oral health?

I wish people were more aware of how oral health directly affects your overall health and well being. Bacteria in the mouth that is not cleaned out leads to inflammation, gingivitis (gum infection/disease) and periodontitis (bone disease). Periodontal disease has been proven to be linked to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

Keeping your mouth free of plaque on a daily basis reduces inflammation, which reduces the risk of bone disease and bacteria growth that affect your overall body health.

Another thing I wish my patients knew is that blood during flossing or brushing is not a sign that you need to stop flossing and brushing – it is a sign that you should keep going. Blood occurring while flossing and brushing is due to the gums being inflamed and infected, and the only way to reduce the infection is to continue to floss and brush to remove the bacteria that is causing the said infection – and to see your hygienist for a cleaning as well.

How do we take better care of our teeth?

Flossing is something that many people can improve on. Flossing removes the plaque between the gum and the tooth that the toothbrush cannot reach. Without flossing, this plaque stays between the teeth and gums and causes cavities and gum disease.

Mouthwash — improve or detract from oral hygiene?

Mouthwash is an additional way to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth, however, it should only be used as an additional process to brushing and flossing, not replacing it.

I recommend a mouthwash that is alcohol-free so that it does not dry the mouth with daily use.

Floss – waxed or unwaxed?

Waxed floss makes flossing a smoother process as it is less likely to shred or break and the wax also acts as a lubricant to guide through tighter spaces. Waxed floss can also provide freshness as most of the time the wax is mint flavoured.

Unwaxed floss, however, has no added artificial flavours which means there are fewer chemicals unnecessary chemicals.

Both types of floss are effective in removing plaque.

Coffee and tea — how do we feel about them?

It is okay to enjoy the things we like to eat and drink. The most important thing is to reduce sugar when we are drinking tea or coffee, as constant exposure to sugar causes cavities. Try your best to not have sugar with your coffee or tea.
A good way to reduce the sugar exposure and even staining from coffee and tea is to swish and/or drink water while enjoying these beverages. The water will help reduce the stain sticking to the teeth and it will also neutralize the pH level of the mouth, making it less acidic and overall less prone to cavities.

Lemon water — is it good for oral health?

Although lemon water is said to have health benefits for the body, it is in fact very erosive for the teeth. Since lemon is very acidic, it is harmful to the enamel and makes it weaker, therefore putting the enamel more at risk for wear and cavities. Drinking lemon water can even cause sensitivity as the erosion caused by the acidity removes the strong protective layer of enamel, making the inner, more sensitive layer of the tooth more exposed.

What are most people like in their cleanings? Are they scared?

Most are not scared but do not enjoy the process either. I realize that dental cleanings are not the most favourite thing for people to have done, but it is important to know that the more regularly you come for your cleanings, the easier they get. This is because the overall health of your teeth and gums improve with regular hygiene, and there is less inflammation and pain in the gums when they are healthy.

For patients that are scared or nervous, it is helpful and encouraged for some to ask questions during the appointment and be aware of every step that is taken during the cleaning to help put their mind at ease.

What about miswak?

Photo of Miswak on white background

Miswak (مسواك) also called siwak (سواك‎)  is a twig made from the arak tree that is used for teeth cleaning. Miswak is mechanically effective in removing harmful bacteria due to its naturally occurring bristles that sweep away plaque from the teeth and gums. Miswak also has naturally occurring ingredients that have antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-cariogenic, and anti-plaque properties. Miswak is very commonly used during Ramadan as an alternative to a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Miswak versus toothbrush

Miswak is a more environmentally friendly option because it is a naturally occurring product and is not made from plastic like a toothbrush is. Also miswak eliminates the need to use toothpaste, which means less overall chemical exposure to the body.
While using either a toothbrush or miswak, we have to take care to not be too abrasive on the gums as both can cause a reduction in gum tissue if used too roughly.

Only a professional can give you the thorough cleaning that will remove the most hard-to-reach plaque and stubborn tartar. With a check-up, our dental hygienists for cavities, gum issues, teeth crowding, or irregular bumps, and help you with bad breath and staining so your mouth is healthy and your smile is genuinely happy.

In today’s age, it is crucial to develop and maintain good oral hygiene, and visit your hygienist for a cleaning twice a year. Have you booked your 6-month dental appointment yet?

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