When I was a wee boy my dad worked in the shipyard in Ardrossan (west of Scotland) where he was the foreman. My dad was a lovely man and when he got his wages on a Friday (cash in a pay-packet as it was in those days) he would come home with bags of sweets that he would share with my brother my two sisters and me. In those days, a toothbrush was something that we had but more often than not I would skedaddle off to bed without a look at the brush or the toothpaste. As a result I spent more time than was good for me in the dentist chair.
About twenty years ago, I decided that I had had enough of fillings and found a good dentist who fixed everything that needed to be done. At the same, I came across the link between dental health and heart health. I bought an electric toothbrush (and several since). I am not too fussed about having sparkling white teeth but I do care about the health of my teeth and gums. The electric toothbrush (best thing I ever bought) cleans my teeth and massages the gums, while my dentist in my six-monthly check has a good look over them too. Sensodyne – Protect and Repair is my choice of toothpaste (there are others) and it does a tremendously good job while I slowly count for at least two minutes as I scrub around my mouth.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, explains: “The link between oral health and overall body health is well documented and backed by robust scientific evidence. Despite this, only one in six people realises that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke or diabetes. And only one in three is aware of the heart disease link.”
Plaque is a film of bacteria that coats your teeth if you don’t brush them properly it will build up. It contributes to gum disease and tooth decay. Tooth brushing stops plaque building up, so it does make sense to make sure you brush every surface of all your teeth, the inside surfaces, outside surfaces and the chewing surfaces of your teeth. I find it fun to work my round and to think of every surface and agree with myself that I have scrubbed each bit at least twice.
For most grown-ups, a toothbrush with a small head and a compact, angled arrangement of long and short round-end bristles is fine. Medium or soft bristles are best for most people. If you’re using an electric brush, one with an oscillating or rotating head may work better than a manual toothbrush. However, making sure you thoroughly clean your teeth at least twice a day is more important than the type of brush you use. If in doubt, ask your dentist, who as well as caring for your dental health he will tell you to dump the sweets. I had a sweet tooth for many years, then I realised the damage that I was doing. Today they are a rarity, and if I am having a sweet it will be immediately after food when the mouth is full of fluid.
I was scared of the dentist and have bad memories from childhood of the smells and sounds of the surgery, but today it’s an altogether a gentler experience. Of course, you’ll still have the smells and sounds but even the drills aren’t as noisy as they used to be – and with a little bit of asking around you can find a dentist (as I have) who is well-trained and an all-round decent person who cares. It’s not impossible.