Oral Care

 

Dental experts explain how the new technology in electric and sonic toothbrushes can help keep your teeth clean....

Elizabeth Turkenkopf has been using an electric toothbrush for more than seven years, and has been impressed with the results -- cleaner teeth and minimal plaque build-up, which translates into less scraping at her regular dental check-ups.

She hasn’t had a cavity since she made the switch from a hand-powered toothbrush, and her gums are in good shape. Although she can’t say for sure her pristine oral health is the result of her electric toothbrush, she’s not messing with success.

It’s your technique -- not the toothbrush -- that makes the difference. It’s really a matter of preference. And, of course, no matter what brush you use, you still need to floss properly, use a mouth rinse each day, and see your dentist every 6 months. 

“Power toothbrushes have come a long way,” says Terrence Griffin, DMD, an associate professor and chair of the department of periodontology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.

Your personality, your teeth, or your affinity with technologies may make one type more appealing to you.

Power Toothbrushes: Electric and Sonic

Electric toothbrushes were first introduced in the U.S. in 1960 by a company called Squibb, and marketed under the name Broxodent. Today, there are dozens of different brands available, with a myriad of features, including re-chargeable batteries, compact designs, and bristles built for optimal cleaning.

The two main types of power toothbrushes are electric and sonic -- the difference between the two really comes down to numbers.

Electric Toothbrushes: With 3,000 to 7,500 rotating motions a minute, electric toothbrushes are powered to replicate the motion of your hand -- doing the muscle work for you. The bristles on these toothbrushes either rotate or move back and forth to help remove plaque and reduce gingivitis.

Sonic Toothbrushes: Offering 30,000 to 40,000 strokes per minute, sonic toothbrushes rotate in a back and forth vibrating motion. The rapid motion is the sonic toothbrushes' claim to fame. But ultimately, it also aims to remove plaque and keep teeth and gums healthy and clean.

For a little bit of perspective, the old-fashioned way of brushing your teeth rings in about 300 strokes per minute -- if you brush properly. So over the two-minute recommended brushing time, your teeth are hit with 600 strokes … a far cry form the thousands you might get with the high-tech variety.

 

 

Do you floss? Or, like many people, do you always seem to find a reason not to?

A 2008 survey found that only 49% of Americans floss daily, and 10% never floss. That’s most unfortunate, dentists say, because flossing is even more important than brushing when it comes to preventing periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss. 

"If you were stuck on a desert island and a boat could bring only one thing, you’d want it to bring floss,” says Samuel B. Low, DDS, professor of periodontology at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville, and president of the American Academy of Periodontology. “But I’m convinced that the only time some of my patients floss is an hour before showing up in my office.”

Dentists say they hear all sorts of excuses for not flossing. Yet they insist that simple workarounds exist for just about all:

Excuse #1: Food doesn’t get caught between my teeth, so I don’t need to floss.

Flossing isn’t so much about removing food debris as it is about removing dental plaque, the complex bacterial ecosystem that forms on tooth surfaces between cleanings. Plaque is what causes tooth decay, inflamed gums (gingivitis), periodontal disease, and eventually tooth loss. Flossing or using an interdental cleaner is the only effective way to remove plaque between teeth.

Excuse #2: I don’t know how to floss.

Flossing isn’t easy.  Low calls it “the most difficult personal grooming activity there is.” But practice makes perfect.

Here’s how the American Dental Association describes the process:

  • Start with about 18 inches of floss. Wrap most of it around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around the other middle finger.
  • Grasp the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, and use a gentle shoeshine motion to guide it between teeth.
  • When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C shape to follow the contours of the tooth.
  • Hold the floss firmly against the tooth, and move the floss gently up and down.
  • Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest of your teeth, “unspooling” fresh sections of floss as you go along.

Don’t forget to floss the backs of your last molars. “By far, most gum disease and most decay occurs in the back teeth,” Low says.

Excuse #3: I’m not coordinated enough to floss.

Many tooth-cleaning options exist for people whose manual dexterity is compromised by poor coordination, hand pain, paralysis, and amputations -- or simply by fingers that are too big to fit inside the mouth.

One option is to use floss holders. These disposable plastic Y-shaped devices (some equipped with a spool of floss) hold a span of floss between two prongs to allow one-handed use.

 

woman biting cap off bottle

Sugar, wine, and, yes, opening bottles with your teeth can hurt your smile....

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