So here’s the interesting thing about the current dental program of most adults: typically, our dental habits were developed at an early age, and we maintain those habits throughout our adult lives. But, what if what we learned as a child wasn’t quite right? Or, what if we slacked off during our teenage years and poor dental habits became ingrained in our current daily behaviors? This is why it’s a great idea to refresh your notions of daily dental care and ensure that no tools or good habits are absent. Because when they are, we create the potential for serious issues in the future. Without further delay, here are several tips for daily dental care you should be doing.
Twice A Day
Obviously, you’re brushing daily (we certainly hope you are), but are you brushing twice a day, or are you that person lying on the couch at night who dreads the notion of having to drag themselves to the bathroom to tend to matters of hygiene? Well, you should definitely get off the couch. Why? It’s important to clear away as much food debris as possible. Without this process, you’re inviting the bacteria in your mouth to a buffet featuring all of the leftover food you ate throughout the day. The bacteria in your mouth devour this feast and, as a result, release substances that are damaging to your overall dental health, which lead to the usual suspects: gum disease, cavities, etc.
Tongue In Cheek
Our tongues are the oft-forgotten, red-headed stepchildren of our daily brushing process. After a good night’s sleep, there are infinite bacteria that have been having a rave party on your tongue—glow sticks, thumping dance music, the whole nine. Properly cleaning the surface of your tongue is the equivalent of turning on the lights at that awesome party. Purchase a tongue cleaner and make the tongue scrubbing a permanent feature of your daily dental regimen.
Now, I know you’ve heard this one, but somehow, many of us still manage to ignore (or avoid) this important piece of wisdom. Flossing is an excellent daily dental habit and a very effective means of removing stubborn plaque from places where your brush is less effective. While brushing twice daily is a must, flossing catches the plaque often left behind, the plaque that over time contributes to gum disease and tooth decay. “But I use a toothpick all the time!” While we applaud your effort and enthusiasm, flossing is still far more effective and a far better daily practice.
But wait, are you even brushing your teeth properly? Imagine realizing that, as an adult, you’ve been brushing your teeth improperly your entire life! Don’t feel bad; it happens. But how should one brush their teeth?
Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste
For those of you who are more visual, of course, there are instructional videos on YouTube:
Yes, you’ve repeatedly been bombarded with the benefits of a healthy diet, as we all have, and surprise, surprise—those benefits extend to your teeth as well. Daily nutrition plays a key role in great dental care, including a diet rich in veggies, fruits, grains, and legumes. And, of course, you want to limit your intake of sugary foods (cavities!), as the residue from sugar tends to remain in the teeth and inflict acidic damage. Also, try refraining from eating too late. As we sleep, we produce less saliva in our mouths, thus diminishing our mouth’s ability to clean itself throughout the night.
Limit your intake of sodas, coffee, and alcohol—a great idea outside of the discussion of dental health—but high levels of phosphorous in addition to food coloring and high fructose corn syrup can wreak havoc on your pearly whites. Grab a tall glass of water instead. Drinking adequate amounts of water is not only good for your overall health, it’s critical to aiding the creation of saliva, which helps with digestion, fends off tooth decay, and battles against germs. Yes, easier said than done, but your teeth will thank you later.
Go Soft On Them
You, like many, may assume that brushing harder and more frequently (more than twice a day), would be an awesome part of your dental regimen. Well, you’d be wrong. While our teeth are very hard and strong and your efforts to take care of your teeth are to be lauded, excessive and vigorous brushing can have negative consequences: they can lead to sensitive teeth and activate gum recession (leaving sensitive roots exposed), which can promote discomfort and infection.
Excessive and overzealous brushing affects a pretty significant portion of the population, with many causing unnecessary damage as a result. Plaque comes off of your teeth much easier than you think and doesn’t require the use of excessive force. So keep it to twice a day and be gentle.
Did your mom make you use that awful, brown fire water disguised as mouthwash when you were a child? The one that felt like you were gargling rubbing alcohol? If you’re like me, you were traumatized as a child, and you may have shied away from the practice of using mouthwash. Well, I would recommend that you tuck those horrible memories away and bring back the mouthwash.
While I won’t say that using mouthwash is an absolute necessity, the benefits of a daily dental regimen that includes brushing and flossing are real. Adding mouthwash into the mix turns a good daily dental regimen into a great one. Also, if you have specific dental issues—gingivitis or dry mouth, for example—talk to your dentist about therapeutic rinses, which can be prescribed to target and aid your specific oral issue.
Storage Is Important
After a vigorous brush, are you laying your toothbrush down on its side, allowing bacteria to grow and fester between the bristles? Do you run water over brush for a mere second or two before grabbing your coffee and hurling yourself out of the door and off to work? Hmm. Not good. Make sure that you’re taking good care of your dental equipment in addition to taking care of your teeth. Rest your toothbrush upright so that it can properly dry out, which helps avoid mold growth. And rinse your toothbrush properly to clean out all of the bacteria you just scrubbed out of your mouth.
Unbeknownst to many, the health of our teeth plays such an important role in our overall health. Dental issues can lead to a host of problems, including heart disease and massive infections. In other words, it’s absolutely worth your time to invest in creating a daily system for taking great care of your pearly whites. If you do the work and serve your teeth, they’ll serve you back. Employ each of the practices you’ve read above and make sure everyone in your household is doing the same.
And of course, twice a year, you should be stopping by the dentist for annual checkups and cleaning. Our team would be honored to become your partner in helping you maintain your beautiful smile and supporting optimal dental health.
We know that going to the dentist is rarely something people get excited about. But for some people, it’s much more than a lack of enthusiasm that keeps them from going to the dentist. Anxiety and even phobias prevent some people from scheduling and keeping an appointment for even just a routine cleaning. We want to address this issue in order to help any of our patients (or potential patients) who are experiencing anxiety or fear about seeing a dentist.
The Difference Between Anxiety and a Phobia
We take both dental anxiety and dental phobias seriously, but we want to point out that they are different and require different approaches. If you have anxiety about going to the dentist, it may “stress you out.” You may feel nervous and want to avoid going to the dentist. For some people, anxiety may cause physical symptoms, from clammy hands to an upset stomach. With anxiety, you may find yourself worrying about things that may or may not happen and you may even know that some of your concerns are probably not warranted. Your anxiety may make you put off – or avoid altogether – going to the dentist.
While many people may use “anxiety” and “having a phobia” interchangeably, having a phobia is generally a much more serious situation. Instead of being anxious or stressed out, when people have a phobia, they may feel absolute terror – a terror that is generally unreasonable. Someone who is phobic may fear they will have a panic attack or may have experienced a panic attack previously. In many cases, even extreme mouth pain will keep someone with a phobia of dentistry from seeking dental care.
If you experience anxiety or have a phobia regarding dental care, we want you to know that we understand and are here to help. We can discuss methods to manage your anxiety and, in the case of phobias, we can help you find other medical professionals who can help you deal with your phobia.
What Causes Dentophobia?
Dentophobia or odontophobia – the technical name for having an acute fear of dentistry or dentists – affects about 5 – 8% of Americans. Anxiety over dental appointments probably affects many more people, but no one has done effective studies that show precisely how many people suffer from this or how to affects our national dental health. While this percentage may not seem large, it actually represents millions of Americans. So be assured: if you feel this way, you’re not alone.
We do have some clues about what generally causes these anxieties or fears.
In most cases, people who suffer from anxiety or fear about dentistry have experienced some sort of negative event during a dental procedure in the past. For many people, it may have occurred in childhood. And in almost all cases, it involved experiencing pain – often unanticipated pain. This is unfortunate, as it can cause people to stay away from getting the regular cleanings and check-ups that their dental health relies upon.
It’s also common that people feel anxious or have a phobia about dentistry not because of dentistry itself, but because of the position the patient is in when they are at the dentist. Dentists and dental assistants generally get very close to patients in order to perform their jobs properly and this closeness can make some people feel very uncomfortable. For others, simply allowing someone to look closely at their mouth may make them feel embarrassed or uneasy.
No matter what you think is causing your anxiety or phobia about seeing a dentist, we take your concerns and feelings seriously.
Answers to Dentophobia
We may not be able to assuage all your fears today, but here are a few good things to know about dentistry in general and Dr. Sheehan’s practice:
First of all, if you experienced pain during dental procedures as a child, you should know that dental techniques and technologies have improved drastically in terms of pain management and abatement in the last few years.
Furthermore, most dentists today are acutely aware of patients’ concerns about pain, discomfort, and anxiety, whether it’s during a cleaning or a more invasive procedure. In fact, attending to patients’ pain (and fears of pain) is now an important part of the education a dentist completes.
Today’s dentists therefore strive to make their patients as comfortable as possible. Dr. Sheehan and our staff operate our services with the goal of minimal discomfort and anxiety-free dentistry.
However, if your anxiety or phobia stems from something other than a fear of pain, please know that we have helped other patients like you. You can contact us to ask us questions about our experiences with other patients or to find out how we can help you and your particular situation.
If you have put off seeing a dentist because you have anxiety or a phobia, you may have found that your fears are now compounded: you may be fearing that the longer you wait, the worse shape your teeth could be in. But that’s no reason to keep waiting. No matter what stage your dental health is, we can help you improve it. We strongly believe in the importance of regular dental care and we want to help you get on track with your dental health.
Dr. Sheehan encourages his patients to discuss any concerns or fears they have with him or his staff before any procedure. We have many different techniques to manage pain and anxiety and we are happy to make your visit to our office as worry-free and pain-free as possible. Please call us today to find out how we can help you.