The best way to take care of your teeth
I realise it isn’t the sexiest subject, but can we please talk about teeth?
Or rather, more specifically, can we talk about toothbrushes. Even less sexy, I know. But so crucial to the care and maintenance of your teeth, I feel they warrant the attention.
I realise in these environmentally-conscious times it would be most on-message to suggest that your daily dental routine should be done with a bamboo brush (like these), and an organic, cruelty-free toothpaste in a plastic-free tube (you can find a wide selection here) and certainly I wouldn’t want to discourage you from any of that. Anything we can each do to cut back on plastic and waste is absolutely worth doing.
But I do also believe that, especially as we get older, giving our teeth the optimal care is such a vital part of both our health - developing gum disease can increase your risk of all sorts of other health complications, like heart disease, stroke and diabetes - and our wellbeing (having bad teeth can make you reluctant to smile, which in turn can affect your confidence and your willingness to socialise. You get the picture), that investing in their care is critical.
And what I’ve discovered, since being given one as a Christmas present, is that an electric toothbrush is probably the single best investment you can make in your dental care.
Before having one of these impressively clever (I’ll explain why in a mo) devices, I used a battery toothbrush, the head of which which was the usual toothbrush shape, but which oscillated, making it, I believed, more effective at cleaning my teeth. You can see the brush I used to use to the right of the electric one in this pic.
Certainly it was true that the battery brush was more efficient at cleaning my teeth than a manual one. But having started to use the electric toothbrush, with its small round rotating head, the difference in how clean my teeth look and feel is amazing.
Because I found the difference so marked, I did some research and discovered that it isn’t just my imagination (phew). In a survey of 16,000 patients published by the American Dental Association, more than 80% said their oral cleanliness was improved after switching from their manual toothbrushes to an electric version. And surveys done with dentists show they overwhelmingly recommend electric toothbrushes for their ability to tackle plaque and gum disease (provided they’re used properly. More of that in a mo too).
You can have a look at some of the research evidence here
The whirring bristles (some oscillate or vibrate rather than rotate) are more effective at removing plaque and the design makes them easier to get into hard-to-reach parts of the mouth, like the backs of your molars.
Better still most of them come with a feature that has completely changed the way I brush my teeth.
Hands up those of you who thought the harder you brush your teeth, and your gum line, the better. Me too. Turns out that’s completely wrong, and that particularly the gum bit is a major contributor to wearing away your gums as you get older. And they never grow back. Brushing too hard can also wear away the enamel on your teeth, making them more sensitive to cold and heat. Not good. Not good.
Fortunately, and in my case, technique-transformingly, almost all of these clever toothbrushes come with a feature that alerts you to when you’re brushing your teeth too hard (I would say, don’t buy one unless it comes with this).
On my brush that red band round the back lights up, the brush beeps and the rotating sequence changes to intermittent for a few seconds. It’s amazing, or it has been to me anyway, how little pressure you should be applying to your teeth and still be cleaning them properly.
And of course, cleaning them properly is the crucial bit. However clever your toothbrush is, it will only be effective if you use it in the right way. Too much pressure is only one of the tut-tut tooth care sins you can commit. Brushing for less than two minutes is another (you can get brushes that have a built-in timer which alerts you when you’ve reached the magic two minute mark), as is brushing less than the necessary twice a day (morning and night).
And with a brush that’s this industrious, you really don’t have to do any work at all. With an electric toothbrush, you simply hold the brush and let its moving bristles do the work. All you have to do is reposition the brush over different parts of your mouth, but without scrubbing your teeth in the traditional way. It’s ridiculously simple, and ridiculously effective.
I appreciate the initial outlay for an electric toothbrush can be off-putting (mine is the Oral B Pro 1000 which costs between £49.99 and £79.99 depending on how many heads and features you choose to have. Other models can cost up to £100), but, because you only replace the heads every few weeks (it takes between 14 and 42 replacement heads to equal the amount of plastic in one manual toothbrush), and the body only once in a blue moon (they do eventually stop taking and holding the charge) , they’re actually more cost effective and less wasteful in the long run than regular plastic toothbrushes.
Which, in my book, makes an electric toothbrush a win-win investment for the long term health of your teeth and the planet.
Do you use an electric toothbrush? If not, would you consider one now?
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