Brushing Up on Dental Products
Some expert advice on how to find the best dental products for you.
"Everyone's mouth is different," Harms says. "For
some, a sensitive toothpaste can help prevent mouth pain -- it works."
Other people tend to build up tartar quickly. For them, Harms says, tartar
control is a help, not hype.
What about whitening? Harms explains that there are two kinds
of whitening, those with mild abrasives to remove stains and those with bleach
to take out deep-down discoloration. "(Whitening) toothpastes are not on
your teeth long enough to bleach, but can take out some stains," she says.
Douglass dismisses worries that whitening toothpastes can be too abrasive.
"Most are low in abrasion and contain a form of peroxide," he says.
As for whiteners in general, including those applied by
dentists, Douglass declares that they seem to be fine. Harms recommends seeing
a dentist before using an over-the-counter brand to be sure your teeth are free
of cracks or exposed root surfaces. "If your gums get irritated, stop using
the product," Douglass says.
Both dentists had the same reaction on the subject of flosses:
"We don't care what you use, just use some!" Harms notes that people
could make such great strides in their dental health if they would just floss
more -- or at all.
As with all dental products, Harms recommends checking on the
floss packages for the ADA seal of approval, which shows the product has been
independently tested and shown to be safe and effective.
Some people's teeth are very tight and those people should use
thin, Teflon-coated tape. Usually, Douglass says, a lightly waxed or unwaxed
floss is better -- when the space between the teeth becomes really clean, the
floss makes a noise. "Squeaky clean!" he yelps.
How about those little brushes that go between teeth? "They
are good for patients with space between their teeth or an area with space
between," Harms says.
Douglass says no mouthwash kills all the bacteria that cause
gum disease. However, he does admit that mouthwashes containing essential oils,
can slow the formation of plaque -- those amazingly successful, tight-knit
globs of cooperating bacteria that can coat teeth and cause decay.
"Every little bit helps," Douglass says. "Rinsing
with an essential oil mouthwash or even with plain water after brushing and
flossing can cut plaque a little, although rinsing is no substitute for
brushing and flossing."
Reminds Harms: "Every 24 hours a new crop of germs
emerges." She also cautions that you must rinse the amount of time stated
on the label. One last piece of advice. Don't overuse mouthwash. The American
Academy of Periodontology says overuse can produce "sloughy, stinky tissue
that is worse than what your breath is already like."
Dentists often prescribe mouth guards to stabilize jaws in
people who grind their teeth at night. Generic guards are available at the
drugstore and prescribed ones can cost hundreds of dollars. "I wouldn't
treat this on your own," Harms says. "It is amazing the force your jaw
can exert on your teeth. The specially measured guards can prevent other
problems from arising by keeping teeth evenly apart."