Look after your smile!

Posted on: 09 March 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

I don’t like going to the dentist, I don’t suppose many people do. But I faced my fear when I went to the London Smile Clinic for an appointment with a hygienist.

ToothbrushI’m afraid I haven’t been to the dentist for more than 6 years, not only due to moving to London and the rocketing cost of dentistry, but also because, from what I could tell, there was nothing wrong!

This is a common misconception, Bonnie my hygienist tells me, “going to the hygienist is about prevention rather than cure, healthy gums generally equal healthy teeth and in this day and age there’s no reason for people to lose their teeth, particularly if they look after them well!"

Visiting the hygienist may seem like an American trend, which is often seen as another way to seperate us from our money, but actually it’s as important as your dentist appointment and the only reason we’re not rushing to the hygienist every six months is because we haven’t been educated in the importance of healthy gums.

“The pathogenic bacteria existing in our gums is bad news, and without proper care it stays there leading to other health problems. Your general gum care is important, we tend to think of teeth falling out as the problem, that’s actually just the effect of gum disease. Looking after your gums means you’ll be looking after your smile in the long run.”

Is it just an elaborate way of cleaning the teeth, surely we can do that at home? “Well, yes you can clean your teeth at home, and you should - but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it properly,” I was one of them (the shame!) “ It’s about educating people; flossing, brushing and cleaning the gums are all things we should do, but a lot of the time we’re not doing it correctly or thoroughly enough. We’re not taught how to look after our mouths properly, so it’s no surprise that people don’t know what to do. Even just an hour with a hygienist can teach you how to look after your teeth properly and avoid any long-term problems.”
A hygienist will also look out for any signs of oral cancers and can tell if medications are having a bad effect on the body, drying of the mouth is a common ailment in older patients and it is often down to prescription medicines. In a hygienist’s eye, the mouth is the window to the soul!

So is it scary? No not at all and it’s not painful either. This is mostly because Bonnie is extremely gentle, explains everything and stops frequently, which keeps me calm. She explains that if anything were to be slightly painful or sore she’d numb the mouth first, which you can ask for at any of your dentist appointments. I also had a television in front of me, which helped!

So as well as booking a hygienist appointment every six months, here’s London Smile Clinic’s top tips for healthy teeth and gums…

  • Electric toothbrushes are generally better, but if you’re brushing well with a manual there is no major need to switch.
  • Brush your gums. Massage your gums at a 45 degree angle on the front and back with a pliable toothbrush.
  • Floss. Flossing is used to get plaque and tartar out from under your gum line, so you should be flossing under your gum line.
  • Control your snacking. There’s no need to completely stop eating sugary snacks but the secret here is to reduce the frequency. So eat a chocolate bar all in one go rather than a piece every hour!
  • Saliva fights plaque in it’s own way, so if you’ve got a dry mouth it’s quite likely something is wrong, quite often this is due to medication and can easily be fixed.
  • Brush your tongue and use a non-alcoholic mouth wash. This will keep your gums healthy as well as guaranteeing a fresh breath.
  • Face the fear. Dentists and hygienists are on your side and they certainly don’t want you to be stressed or in pain. Talk openly to them, they’re your friends!

The smile clinicWe visited Bonnie at the London Smile Clinic, for an appointment with a hygienist contact your local dentist.

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