WHEN IT COMES TO TAKING CARE OF OUR TEETH, WHAT ARE THE TOP THINGS WE MUST DO?
The top 3 things that you must do are brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly. How often you see the dentist depends on how healthy your gums are. It’s no longer the norm to say, “See your dentist twice a year.” Yes, we want you to see the dentist at least twice a year, but because taking care of your teeth requires a team effort, individuals with a moderate to severe forms of gum disease should see the dentist more often, at least 3 to 4 times a year.
HOW IMPORTANT IS FLOSSING REALLY? HOW OFTEN?
You floss the teeth you want to keep. I stress this so much every day because flossing is not only vital to your oral health but it’s important for your overall health. Flossing prevents gum disease. Flossing prevents bad breath. And since we know that gum disease is linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, flossing can help prevent these systemic diseases and issues. I encourage my patients to floss twice a day everyday.
ARE THERE ANY “DON’TS” WE SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHEN IT COMES TO DENTAL HEALTH AND HYGIENE?
Here are a few. Do not use baking soda. It’s too harsh on the teeth. Limit alcohol. It’s drys out the mouth. Do not smoke. Alcohol and smoking greatly increase your risk of cancer. Aspirin or BC powder directly on the teeth or gums is a no-no.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FOODS AND DRINKS THAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED TO KEEP OUR TEETH IN THE BEST SHAPE? WHAT ARE THE MOST BENEFICIAL FOODS?
It’s safe to say that some foods just need to be kept in the kitchen for cooking and not used directly on teeth. I’m a fan of ACV and all its health benefits but prolonged exposure to things like vinegar and lemons and other fruits which are acidic can damage the teeth. Ice is for chilling, not chewing. Avoid sticky foods (gummies), chewy foods, and crunchy foods(popcorn).
Water is beneficial. Lean meats are great as well. They contain a lot of protein and foods rich in phosphorus like eggs, fish, and chicken help to strengthen the teeth.
IS CHARCOAL TOOTHPASTE RECOMMENDED FOR A WHITER SMILE OR IS THAT JUST A FAD?
A: Let me first say that healthy smiles come in all shades and just because something claims to be all natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you. I haven’t seen any research or evidence that says that charcoal toothpaste is effective. And it is in fact not safe for teeth.
Charcoal is too abrasive for teeth. Brushing with it will cause you to lose enamel which is the outer white layer of teeth. This is the layer that whitens when we whiten teeth, but if you are using products that are too abrasive you are wearing away at that outer layer, and that in turn can cause irreversible damage and sensitivity.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER WAYS TO ACHIEVE A WHITER AND BRIGHTER SMILE?
It all goes back to your everyday habits, flossing and brushing twice daily, limiting eating and drinking foods that will stain or darken the teeth like coffee, red wine, and tea. Now once you’re on track with all of that then it is perfectly normal to enhance your smile by using whitening services and products or enhancing your smile by the cosmetic approach of veneers.
BEST ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO IS AFRAID TO GO TO THE DENTIST?
There are people who have real fears. We as dentist completely understand. There’s fear of the needle, fear of the sounds, fear due to having a horrible experience in the past, and let’s not forget the feeling of shame because you’ve waited a long time to see a dentist.
I suggest finding a dentist that listens and truly cares and is concerned. Don’t let your insurance dictate who you will see because that can cause you to miss out on connecting with the dentist that is in tune with your wants and needs. A lot of dental offices offer things like headphones and spa pillows that help you to relax. Consider meditation and breathing to calm anxiety.
You may also consider getting some professional help to deal with root cause of the fear. If you don’t address the fear you will always be fearful. And as far as being ashamed of going to the dentist, rest assured that your dentist has seen it all, and it’s highly unlikely that your teeth are the worst of the worst. Don’t let shame or fear stop you from getting healthy.
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T HAVE DENTAL INSURANCE— HOW DO YOU FIND A GOOD DENTIST THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY AFFORD?
There are definitely options available. Some offices have in-house discount plans that can help tremendously. Also look into going to your local state or county dental clinic. There are also several non-profit clinics out there where dentist go and volunteer their time and a lot of these clinics are state of the art and are price based upon your income.
Don’t forget about dental schools. They are an excellent option, and you also end up helping an up and coming dentist graduate. But it’s important to stress that PREVENTIVE dentistry is not expensive. If you go see the dentist regularly I can guarantee that you will save your self time and money.
Dr. Jarrett answers your “Text Tom” questions below:
Isn’t it a fact that fluoride toothpaste is made with rat poison?
It is not a fact. Fluoride is not made with rat poison. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral.
Question for the dentist-is baking soda toothpaste good?
I typically don’t recommend any products that contain baking soda.
What is a good teeth whitening product?
The best whitening products will be the ones that your dentist use; however, there are some good over-the-counter whitening products.
If you’re not supposed to rinse after you brush, is mouthwash OK?
I’m a fan of flossing, then brushing. If you want to rinse, you can incorporate rinsing after flossing, so the steps would include flossing, rinsing, and then brushing.
What are your thoughts on using a teeth-whitening rinse?
I’m not sure that a teeth-whitening rinse will yield the results that you desire. Some teeth-whitening rinse that claim to whiten don’t contain whitening ingredients. I recommend sticking to in-office or over-the-counter whitening products.
What about mouthwash? Before or after brushing? Or not at all?
It’s not necessary to use mouthwash unless your dentist recommends it. If you do use mouthwash, use it before brushing, and make sure it’s an alcohol-free rinse.
Question for the dentist: If we shouldn’t rinse out after brushing, should we not use a mouthwash, such as Listerine?
It’s not necessary to use mouthwash unless it’s a prescription mouthwash prescribed by your dentist. If you do use mouth wash, floss, then rinse, then brush, but make sure it is an alcohol-free mouth wash.
What about using tumeric for teeth-whitening?
Tumeric has several benefits. It is an anti-inflammatory which can be good for the gums; however tumeric should not be used everyday because it (along with charcoal) is too harsh and abrasive on the teeth. Stick to whitening products provided by your dentist.
What about using white strips, to get your teeth whiter?
Whitening strips are a good option.
Question for the dentist – which type of whitening toothpaste are best?
You have to be careful with some whitening toothpastes because some can cause sensitivity. If you want to whiten, stick to whitening products found in the dental office or over the counter specifically designed to whiten. Consult with your dentist.
Ask the doctor if gel is okay, or does it have to be a paste?
Yes gel is safe to use.
Does mouthwash affect your teeth? Can you use it in lieu of flossing?
Nothing takes the place of flossing. Flossing is a must.
Is rinsing with Listerine twice a day helpful or harmful?
If you use Listerine, be sure you use the version that contains no alcohol.
What about the research that says fluoride hardens a part of your brain that causes Alzheimer’s?
Anything in excess, even water, can be harmful and can kill. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. When using fluoride products for oral health, you are not ingesting or swallowing the product. It is safe to use fluoride in this manner.
What is a good flouride whitening toothpaste for people with sensitive teeth?
Be careful with toothpaste that claim to whiten. Most do not. There are several toothpastes available that help with sensitivity. Look for the ingredient potassium nitrate.
What is your opinion about using natural toothpaste? Most natural toothpastes do not have fluoride.
I’m a fan of natural toothpaste that include fluoride, and there are actually quite a few out that do include it.
Dr. Jarrett l. Manning — aka “Dr. Jarrett” is a dentist, business coach, author, and beautypreneur. As the owner of JlM Dentistry in Atlanta, she has dedicated her professional career to speaking and educating the world about oral health and providing the best care dentistry has to offer.
Dr. Jarrett is the founder of Beyond Her Smile, a non-profit organization that advances positivity among young girls and exposes them to the fields of dentistry and medicine. She is also the CEO of Honey Envy LLC, a plant-based natural hair care line launching this fall.
Dr. Jarrett is an alumnus of Xavier University of Louisiana and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, incorporated. She resides in a suburb of Atlanta with her husband and daughter.
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