Bad oral hygiene – it’s not the sexiest topic to talk about, but it’s definitely one of the most necessary. After all, according to holistic dentist Dr Lewis Ehrlich, 65 per cent of Australians haven’t seen a dentist in the last two years. Does that sound insane to you? Because it doesn’t to me – until earlier this year, I hadn’t been to the dentist in… well let’s just call it a while. I know, try to reserve your judgement please!
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As I found out when I did finally book in at the dentist, a lot can happen to your teeth over the years. Miraculously, mine were in pretty good nick but I copped one hell of a scolding from my dentist, and rightfully so. Oral hygiene is so important for good health and deserves far more attention than it gets.
With that in mind, we spoke to Dr Lewis about the five biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to their oral hygiene practices, and how you can ditch bad oral hygiene for good.
Mistake #1: Eating the wrong foods
There’s something to be said about eating healthy foods, and it’s not just about your waistline or cholesterol levels.
“People are eating too much highly processed, refined foods that are high in sugar. This leaves you more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease,” says Dr Lewis.
“Instead people should be eating natural, unprocessed foods that are high in vitamins A, D, E and K. This allows the uptake of calcium and phosphorus which are important for healthy teeth and jaws.”
Mistake #2: Bad brushing habits
We’ve all experienced getting home late and wanting to just fall into bed, putting off your nightly brush until the morning. But as tempting as it is, that morning-after guilt (and bad breath!) is completely justified.
“People aren’t brushing well enough and often enough. The Australian Dental Association released figures this year that showed 50 per cent of Australian adults are only brushing once a day,” says Dr Lewis.
“One of the best ways to reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease is to make sure you are brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time. It also important to think about brushing in a systematic way so that you don’t miss the same areas in your mouth over and over again.”
Mistake #3: Avoiding the dentist
Like me, a lot of Aussies are skipping their regular dental appointments, only scheduling an appointment when there’s a serious oral issue. But according to Dr Lewis, a lot of serious oral health issues don’t actually manifest as visible symptoms.
“There is an idea in the community that if you are not in pain, then your oral health is okay,” he says. “The problem with this mentality is that the majority of oral diseases including tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer don’t regularly cause pain. That is why going for 6 monthly check-ups and dental cleans is very important.”
You heard the man – stick to your appointments! An easy way to remember is to set reminders on your phone so that your teeth never miss their biannual time to shine (literally). In the meantime, keep them gleaming white with a hard-working toothpaste. bh loves:Nu Skin® AP-24® Anti-Plaque Fluoride Toothpaste, Pearl Drops Extra White, Jason Powersmile Whitening Toothpaste Powerful Peppermint.
Mistake #4: Thinking oral health doesn’t matter
Newsflash: bad oral hygiene practices can affect much more than just your mouth. Dr Lewis maintains that the health of the mouth is essential in maintaining good overall health in your body.
“The presence of gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, premature births and rheumatoid arthritis, to name just a few,” he says.
“The common denominator in all of these systemic conditions is chronic inflammation and the gums are one of the most common sites of inflammation in the body. The solution to this is to educate and get people to prioritise their oral health for improved health outcomes.”
Mistake #5: Breathing through your mouth
Yep, it turns out mouth-breathing is more than just an annoying habit that your desk mate insists on continuing. Want to politely encourage them to stop? Maybe try leaving this article open on their computer, right at the following quote from Dr Lewis.
“So many people breathe through their mouths during the day and while they sleep. This has a drying effect in the mouth and reduces your saliva flow,” he says. “Saliva plays an important role in neutralising acids after we eat and drink and also keeps the gums lubricated. Therefore, if you breathe through your mouth, you will have a greater chance of tooth decay and gum disease.”
According to Dr Lewis, if you breathe through your mouth at night, you can also be more susceptible to snoring and sleep apnea. No thank you! And while this can be a difficult habit to break, it is possible with a little practice.
“Consciously try to close your mouth, having your teeth lightly touching and tongue on the roof of the mouth during the day,” he advises. “Even going to a breathing class or practicing yoga regularly can help to re-train the breath.”
Have you made any of these oral hygiene mistakes?