Dental Hygiene:Get that Million Dollar Smile

Rayan Khan,
Express Tribune
  As one of the more visible components of one’s physiognomy, the teeth are also quite vulnerable to wear and damage; yet despite this, dental hygiene methods these days are rarely ever at par with dentist standards.

Studies show that the average person smiles or exposes their teeth (to food or the elements) at least 50 times a day (depending on the environment), and without proper dental care there’s always the risk of turning one’s mouth into a medical, as well as aesthetic menace (no one wants to see a row of yellowing, rotting teeth or be forced into inhaling the putrescence from an unkempt mouth). To get that million-dollar smile, a hefty bit of work needs to go into oral maintenance.

“I brush usually twice daily, sometimes once if I’m lazy, says student Nabeel Khan, 22, who is prone to suffering from laziness and tends to skip out on his nightly ablutions.

Such decisions bear all too visibly and have obvious consequences: plaque build-up (a biofilm, usually pale yellow, formed by colonising bacteria from food and drink), sore/bleeding gums, chronic bad breath — long term issues include cavities and decay which lead to unpleasant trips to the dentist and surgeries.

However, it’s not all about a good brushing, a practice considered to be an appropriate form of due-diligence to good oral hygiene; in fact, there’s only so much surface debris a tooth brush can remove (no matter the rechargeable batteries and high tech advancements, that is rotating or vibrating heads and so forth). Flossing — a largely overlooked practice especially by men — is next to godliness: “I can’t even begin to tell you how often I tell my patients to floss regularly,” says Dr Samina Niazi, a leading dental practitioner in Islamabad. After brushing, explains Niazi, flossing is the next most crucial step. “You see, there’s bacteria that finds its way in between the teeth and parts of mouth that aren’t easily accessible by a brush,” comments Niazi. She adds that the elusive plaque hiding in the diminutive gaps between the teeth can harden into tartar over time, which is only removable by a dentist.

“I always say that unless you want to keep coming back to see me, observe proper dental care practices and floss regularly,” adds Niazi.  Fluoride toothpastes and mouth washes are also encouraged as fluoride battles adult tooth decay and tends to provide added protection. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, “Dental caries can be prevented by a combination of community, professional and individual measures including water fluoridation, professionally applied topical fluorides and dental sealants and the use of fluoride toothpastes.”

Keeping a balanced diet and avoiding frequent snacking in between meals can also go a long way: most cavities, resulting in painful toothaches, are directly contingent on one’s particular dietary habits. Foods heavy in sugar and starch carbohydrates (confectionery and desserts) are a leading cause of tooth decay. This is because the bacteria growing on teeth digest these carbohydrates, producing an acid that corrodes enamel (the tooth’s hard outer layer) and forms a cavity or hole. If untreated and ignored, the cavity digs deeper into the tooth, reaching the dentin (middle part) and the pulp (the sensitive area of the tooth full of nerves). And once the decay makes its way to the pulp, patients must resort to a painful procedure called a root canal. Smoking is also heralded as the bane of inadequate oral care. The chemicals inhaled accentuate plaque build-up, weaken the teeth, create complications of the gums and can even lead to the loss of teeth.
Ideally, a healthy mouth meets the following criteria: clean teeth free of debris and plaque, pink gums that don’t hurt or bleed when you brush or floss, and breath that isn’t rancid. Otherwise, it’s off to the dentist’s chair!


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