Oct 18, 2010

What I Learned At The Dentist: Brushing and Flossing really matter

I have to admit that I was not the best when it came to brushing and flossing as a child, a teen or even a young adult. I think I would have done better back then if only I'd known what I know now: brushing and flossing properly makes a huge difference.

I just got back from the dentist, who explained that there are three components to the creation of a cavity: the tooth (which is pretty much the same in everybody), bacteria, which secret an acid that eats away the tooth enamel, and sugar, which the bacteria eat to produce the acid. The genetic component in dental health doesn't really have to do with the creation of a cavity, but the composition of saliva is affected by genetics and can range from practically killing the bacteria on contact to being an ideal breeding ground for it.

The things you have control over are the sugar and the bacteria. You can minimize the sugar by avoiding foods that are sugary and stick to the teeth. My dentist singled out fruit roll-ups in particular, because they have so little nutritional value and can stick to your teeth for up to six hours while the bacteria eat away at the sugar and your enamel. He also said that it's better to eat six candy bars at once than to eat six candy bars over the course of a day. And, he emphasized that it's important not to let babies suck on bottles of milk/formula all night, saying that he's seen two-year-olds with ten cavities because of it.

You can minimize the bacteria with good brushing and flossing habits, and I'm doing my best to instill those in the boys so that they don't have to go through what I'm going through now. (I'm ashamed to admit that just over half of my teeth have some kind of filling.)

He showed me the digital x-rays of my teeth, and pointed to some bone loss. He could tell, somehow, that it was from not flossing properly when I was a teenager. Thank goodness my recent good dental hygiene habits have halted the bone loss. The dentist said that he removes more teeth due to bone loss than decay, so it's important not to lose the bone that holds your teeth in place!

As I mentioned last year, flossing in the shower is what converted me to a faithful flosser. If you have difficulty sticking with it, I highly recommend trying this!


Camille said...

I have always been a terrible flosser so I finally caved in and bought those little floss thingys. I have a hard time finding them free, but I figured a few dollars on those is better than a few thousand in dental work!

Jenna said...

I know a lot of people that brush their teeth in the shower, but flossing is new to me. I think I'd need a mirror in the shower to help me out, but I'm not too sure how I feel about that...

Aliza said...

My flossing really improved when I realized that I could budget really carefully for an entire month and then find myself with a $150+ bill for a filling that I might have otherwise prevented.

Even with the dental insurance, it is a lot of money! I'm too cheap not to floss ...

Chief Family Officer said...

@Camille - Someone else recommended that too, I'll have to try them.

@Jenna - I don't have a mirror in the shower, and it's just fine :)

@Aliza - Ah, that's excellent reasoning, I love it!