Brushing Up on Dental Products
Some expert advice on how to find the best dental products for you.
As for those toothbrushes -- electric or manual -- that come with cartoon characters on them, if they make you remember to brush or increase the time spent waggling the brush around in there, Harms is all for them; kids like them, too! The same goes for those brushes with large, chunky handles. Kids and people with arthritis find them easy to hold.
"We haven't wiped out decay yet," says Harms, "so we recommend a fluoridated toothpaste (even in cities with fluoridated water). Even older adults, who might have worn surfaces, can get cavities." Over time, she explains, fluoride soaks in and strengthens teeth, even though it may be slathered on the tooth surface for only a minute or two at a time.
"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.