Clean Your Teeth. Save Your Life? – Part Two

 October 31, 2016

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So, how are your teeth? And, by implication, your gums, immune system and heart? Because – as you may remember – our last Bob’s Bones took a look at how oral hygiene links to diabetes, strokes, heart trouble & rheumatoid arthritis, and began to examine the best ways to brush and rinse. This month, we get to grips with all the parts of your mouth that your toothbrush can’t reach!

First, the bad news…
Your tongue is like a carpet of bacteria! If you ever wake up and notice that there’s a white or yellow coating on your tongue, then there are a number of reasons it could be there. In any case, that coat is made up of bacteria, fungi, and/or dead cells trapped between the nodules on your tongue.

Now, the good news…
The coating on your tongue may well look, taste and smell unpleasant but, as a symptom, it rarely represents anything too serious. Nevertheless, consult your GP if your tongue:

  • Suddenly changes appearance
  • Actually hurts
  • Continuously has a coat for over two weeks

If, though, the coating on your tongue tends only to be there in the morning, here’s how to get rid of all that bacteria! Before brushing your teeth, take a mouthful of warm water, swill it around a little and spit it out.

Next, it helps if you have a tongue brush or scraper. There are many different types available but you don’t need anything fancy! In fact, some people use a small teaspoon. Whatever you use, be gentle… Put the still-dry scraper toward the back of your tongue. This may feel odd; don’t go so far back as to gag! Now slowly scrape the surface of your tongue from the back forward. Be sure to clean the whole surface.

When you brush your teeth…
…give your tongue a bit of a clean too! Think of it as a bit like shampooing a carpet. Keep the ‘paste foam’ on your tongue for a while – don’t swallow it! Finally, spit out all the gunk and give your tongue another gentle scrape. Try this once – we’re pretty sure you’ll feel the difference!

Should I Use Mouthwash?
Yes – but not straight after brushing if you’re pro-fluoride… We discussed fluoride in our first oral-hygiene Info Sheet – see it here – but, if you are pro-fluoride, you’ll appreciate that using mouthwash straight after brushing rinses some of it away straight after you put it on your teeth! That’s why some people prefer to rinse their mouths thoroughly before they brush! That way you can clean the vast area of your mouth that brushing doesn’t reach without defeating the object of the toothpaste. The same goes for rinsing with water – don’t do that after brushing either!

Floss / Tape
A short conversation with your dentist should help determine which of the following tools best suits your needs. It used to be that flossing was considered essential to oral health… A recent report calls that into question though, suggesting it has absolutely no benefit! Frankly, we’re baffled by that research and still have the view that it helps to use floss, particularly on the front teeth when they’re too tightly packed to use an Interdental Brush!

An Interdental Brush?!
These small ‘cleaning rods’ are much bigger than floss. They come in a number of sizes, and clean plaque – which is a buildup of bacteria – from between your teeth where most brushes don’t reach. You might need to experiment a little to find the right size interdental brush, and be warned: they can take a bit of getting used to!

Water Picks
Also known as oral irrigators, or hydro-flossers, these squirt a pressurised jet of water between your teeth. Some people swear by them! Certainly they can remove a surprising amount of debris – but do they do a better job than rinsing, brushing and cleaning with interdental brushes? We’re not convinced! Prices start at around £10 and go up to as much as £120!

Visit Your Dentist!
As far as is practical, we’ve avoided mentioning dentists in both our oral-health Info Sheets. It’s important, though, that you co-ordinate your efforts with their expertise. Now that you know how oral hygiene helps your immune system, and could prevent diabetes, stroke, heart trouble and rheumatoid arthritis, it might seem a little more important! Book an appointment, get a checkup and see what other advice they have for you.

Back in Shape cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of any action or inaction based on its Newsletter or Info Sheets. If you have any doubts or concerns over dental, medical and health issues, our best advice is always to visit your dentist or GP, or call NHS Direct on 111 to discuss your health.