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What Your Dentist Wants You to Do

A top dentist opens up about what he wishes his patients would do.
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By Elizabeth B. Krieger
WebMD Magazine - Feature

You probably don't often think of dentistry and sports in the same breath, but Oakland, Calif.-based dentist Eric Yabu, DDS, certainly does. Yabu does double duty as team dentist for the sports medicine program at the University of California, Berkeley, where he's tasked with making custom mouth guards for the athletes as well as providing emergency care. Away from the playing field, Yabu, who is also an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, sees patients of all ages and walks of life. Since 1996, he has shared a dental practice with his wife, Geraldine Lim, DDS. Here he gives us the inside scoop on what dentists wish every patient knew.

Flossing may be more important than brushing. Yes, you need to brush twice a day, but if you're not flossing, you're missing a lot of debris. Flossing cleans the sides of the teeth that face neighboring teeth, and even under the gums. This is where decay and gum disease are most likely to occur. The truth is, brushing just won't effectively reach these areas. And while the floss picks and other flossing devices are good, nothing beats traditional floss for really getting at every crevice.

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Bleeding gums are not normal. Some patients will say that their gums bleed only when they floss. But healthy gums don't bleed during proper brushing or flossing. If yours do, talk to your dentist. During a routine cleaning, some bleeding is normal because dental hygienists are doing such a thorough job and using instruments.

The mouth is a part of the body. That may sound obvious, but somehow the mouth is isolated from the rest of the body in many people's minds and even by our health care system. To wit: Why are there separate insurances for medical and dental care? Disease in the mouth affects the rest of the body and vice versa, particularly when it comes to problems like diabetes and gum disease as well as oral cancers.

How Do Dentists Take Care of Their Teeth?

We asked Yabu to spill about his own dental habits.

How often do you replace your toothbrush?

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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