Christina’s Top Tips

Christina's top tips

Christina Chatfield Hygienist and Clinical Director

Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast, use mouthwash containing alcohol, use a manual or electric brush?? Here Christina answers some frequently asked questions, and gives you some interesting dental facts that you just might not know.

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1. Brush your teeth BEFORE breakfast not AFTER.
Have you ever thought what the bacteria in your mouth are up to whilst you are sleeping? They have been multiplying and, just like we are, by the time that we wake up they are pretty hungry. The bacteria in our mouths feed on the carbohydrate (the sugars) in the foods we eat and turns it into acids which cause decay, unless you brush some of the bacteria away first, there will be thousands of them waiting to tuck into your breakfast with you…

2. So if I BRUSH MY TEETH, eat my breakfast and then brush my teeth AGAIN straight away, is that ok?
No, you need to wait a while after eating any meal before brushing your teeth. The acid produced by the bacteria while you are eating softens the enamel on your teeth and the mechanical action of brushing can cause it to wear down. This is particularly significant if you have just eaten or drunk something acidic.

3. Can I use a MOUTHWASH containing ALCOHOL? I’ve heard it’s not safe. Sometimes I go to the dentist and they say that I can, sometimes I go and even the hygienist says that I can’t. I’m so confused! Help me!
Most mouthwashes available on the market contain some alcohol, it acts as a preservative and a carrier for the active ingredients. In the past there has been a lot of bad press linking alcohol in mouthwash to oral cancer. However modern mouthwashes that contain alcohol contain pharmagrade alcohol which has gone through a distilled fermentation process which doesn’t allow for the production of any of the bi-products commonly found in the kind of alcohol that you might drink. It is some of these bi-products that are associated with mouth cancer. Using mouthwash is a great way of reaching the parts of the mouth where toothbrushing and flossing can’t, often delivering fluoride and other mouth benefits too. So yes, you can confidently use mouthwash in addition to brushing and flossing your teeth.

3. Are HIGH STREET own brand MOUTHWASHES as good as leading brand products?
Many leading brands of mouthwash make claims that cheaper, own brand products do not, so are they better? In order to make any claim like this, a product will have to undergo clinical research and testing to back the claim up, so yes, it can make a difference. You will save money and still have a better feeling mouth after using own-brand mouthwashes, but you may not get all the benefits that are offered by a more expensive brand.

4. Why should I CHANGE my TOOTHBRUSH? Is it a myth created by the manufacturers to make me buy more?
If a toothbrush is going to clean and get to all the hard to reach areas it should not be splayed out in all directions. Why? Because it changes the flexibility of the bristles and instead of brushing using the bristle tips, you end up using the splayed surface, which cannot clean effectively. Also think of all the bacteria that has been growing on a toothbrush that is months and months old, eugh!

5. Are ELECTRIC toothbrushes better than MANUAL?
It all depends on what you do with it. However, using an electric toothbrush AND an improved brushing technique can often make a big difference. Did you know that there are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people on planet Earth? Or that most people brush for an average of 46 seconds with a manual toothbrush? As an adult we have 32 teeth in our mouth (including Wisdom Teeth) and therefore the average adult spends very little brushing time per tooth. And don’t forget that each tooth has five surfaces! Electric toothbrushes encourage people to brush for longer, around two minutes being the recommended time, which means longer spent brushing each tooth and more chance of reaching more of the tooth surface. However there are people that use an electric toothbrush for four minutes, and don’t do it correctly. So like anything, learning something new at any age requires instruction!

6. My child is four months old, I have NEVER put a toothbrush in their mouth.
Well by four months your child has already started to teethe and teeth will soon (if they haven’t already) begin appearing in their mouth. It is better to introduce a toothbrush now, not specifically to give a thorough clean (they are more likely to want to chew on the brush at this age), but to get them used to the taste of toothpaste and having something put in their mouth.

7. I always thought that a small FLAT-HEADED toothbrush was what I should use, but I walk into the chemists and they have CHUNKY handles, they don’t fit in my toothbrush holder anymore, their bristles go SIDEWAYS, BACKWARDS and look like a FUNKY HAIRCUT. They even tell me I can clean my tongue. I’m very confused!
Toothbrushes have definitely evolved and changed over the years. Why? Well, bacteria likes to sit in the hard to reach areas of our mouth and that is where it does its damage and where plaque is most likely to form. Most of us struggle with floss, so the funky hairdos that our toothbrushes sport today are all about helping us to get into those harder to reach areas. The chunky handles on the brushes also help people with different brushing techniques, be it up and down or round and round, to hold the brush effectively to really find those plaque building spots. Modern toothbrushes are also more flexible so we don’t press too hard and brush away the tooth enamel or damage our gums.