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Dazzle with your smile

Tanya Munshi | October 10, 2005

Rahul, a 20-year-old, final year science student was sitting in a café with his buddies. He saw a pretty girl walk in. He flashed his pearly whites and vice-versa. Instant chemistry? No… she smiled to reveal a very ugly set of yellow teeth. As shallow as it may sound, Rahul was grossed out.

In another incident, Reshmi, 27, a financial advisor with a bank, is dreading her eleven o'clock meeting with a client. She has met him before. When they sit in his air-conditioned office talking across his desk, she knows that the waft of bad breath from him will be so overwhelming that she anticipates nausea.

imageThese situations may come across as funny. Nonethless they do occur and good oral hygiene is the answer to all teething troubles.

Demystifying oral/dental hygiene and care

Just brushing is not enough. Factors like diet etc play a major role too.

"The concept of personal oral hygiene and care is still new in India," says Dr Meena Kulkarni, a professor at a dental college in Pune and practicing dentist.

"For example, if we tell a patient to take an X-ray of her teeth, she may not do so thinking that there is nothing 'currently' wrong with my teeth. However, what she fails to realise is that X-ray reports such as these, can be documented, and be used for later references, when a problem may actually occur," she adds.

A good sense of hygiene, awareness of what to eat, dental habits and regular checkups all constitute for good oral hygiene.

Your daily routine

Dr Sonal Arora, a practicing dentist with her own clinic in Mumbai, suggests some basic, yet important personal dental care tips, which involve three essential steps:

Regular brushing: Brush your teeth at least twice daily -- morning and night.

Flossing: Floss your teeth only once, especially before bed time. Flossing ensures your mouth has been cleared up properly.

Floss is meant to clean the tooth surface. It's a misconception that it can be used on the gums. In fact, flossing is not good for the gums and overuse of it can lacerate or damage the gums.

Antiseptic mouthwash: Use a good antiseptic mouthwash twice a day. Rinse your mouth with a capful of mouthwash or as written on the label; this can be done morning and night.

These three basic steps ensure complete and proper dental care and hygiene, which everyone can practice at home.

How to floss

Preferably use waxed floss, which is smoother to use.

i. Gently slide it between two teeth.

. Tilt the floss in one direction/angle, not just up and down-encircle the border of the tooth. This will clear out all the deposits between the teeth.

. This has to be done for every tooth.

. Always remember never to overuse floss or floss too much; else they can hurt your gums.

"Some people may not be comfortable flossing or may find it a tedious process. For such cases, one can purchase floss holders from any chemist. Floss holders help you to floss with ease. But with time, a person who is used to flossing his or her teeth, can floss with ease," adds Dr Arora.

If you need further assistance for a proper flossing technique, your dentist shall be more than happy to show you the correct way.

How to brush

i. Plain horizontal to and fro brushing is not enough.

ii. Ideally you should hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and brush three teeth at a time, with a slight horizontal movement and then you move the brush vertically. Then you shift to the next three teeth.

iii. Don't let any deposit accumulate along the gums.

As simple as this may sound, you can learn the correct technique of brushing your teeth from your dentist!

A visit to the dentist

Usually there are two kinds of people who visit a doctor -- someone who is having a health problem or those who are not. For both cases, the treatment is completely different.

For a person who is suffering from a dental ailment, it can be diagnosed and accordingly a proper treatment can be given. Whereas for the latter, a routine check up can be done which entails proper guidance, check ups, suggested cleanings and more.

A dentist will examine your teeth, gums and the surrounding tissues.

"One should ideally visit a dentist for a routine check up at least minimum three months, to maximum six months," suggests Dr Arora or in some cases, "between six months to a year" suggests Dr Kulkarni. Some check ups can be as simple as tarter and plaque removal.

Dr Kulkarni further adds, "There is a dental procedure known as oral prophylaxis or cleaning and prevention, which clears the accumulated plaque that cannot be removed by the usual brushing. This is followed by an ultrasonic cleaning, whereby a thin stream of water jet is used for cleaning up the spaces and the surface of the teeth. After the water jet cleanses the teeth of its plaque it is then followed by a high-speed brush, which polishes the teeth. This is a painless, harmless, and a faster process. In fact, it also comes with auto cleave clips, with completely sterilised tips that is used for every new patient."

Get your dental jargon right!

Plaque: Generally a layer forms on the teeth after eight to ten hours of brushing. Even though this layer accumulates due to faulty brushing, this can be removed by the person in the initial stages through proper brushing.

Tartar: If the plaque settles on the teeth for several days then it turns into a hard substance called tarter. One cannot remove tartar by plain brushing. You will have to undergo a proper clean up of the teeth.

Tooth decay/cavity: In general, there are millions of bacteria in your mouth. Due to improper brushing, there is food lodged between the gaps of your teeth, resulting in bacteria to act on it.

Bacteria cause acidic breakdown of food and this in turn increases the acidic content in the mouth. This acidic formation further leads to corrosion of the teeth and the teeth becomes black or what results in tooth decay or cavity.

Dos and Don'ts

"Most of the health tips for dental care are diet related," says Dr Arora. She suggests some tips:


i. Try to cut down on starchy, refined, excessively sweet and sticky carbohydrates like -- chocolate, pastries, jams, and most fast food items like pizzas and burgers.

. Immediate changes of hot and cold food or beverages expose the nerves to extreme temperatures, which does not give enough time to the nerves to adjust to the new temperature.

This should be avoided, as it can be harmful to the teeth and gums.

. Aerated beverages-colas are a strict no-no!

. Needless to say smoking is extremely harmful for the mouth. It forms a nicotine stain on the teeth, which in turn damages the lining in the mouth and one starts getting patches in the insides of the cheek or mouth.

. Never use tooth picks. It is not a good habit, because they dig into the gums, which in turn results in more food particles being stuck, thereby causing more damage to the teeth.


i. Maintain the usual personal dental hygiene and care as mentioned above.

. Eat fruits and fibrous foods-like apple, cucumbers and carrots. Add some of these fruits or vegetables into your salad. These mechanically clean up the biting surface of your teeth.

. Chew on sugar-free gum. When you chew on sugar-free gum, there is an increase in saliva in the mouth. As a result, the acidic content in the saliva is reduced, which in turn does a mechanical cleaning of your teeth.

Tomorrow: Home remedies, bad breath, oral care at work...more


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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 5

Sub: Oral hygenic habbits.

I was delighted to go thru the details of good oral hygene habbits. I have been brushing twice a day since 35 years. I am ...

Posted by Piyush K.Pathak.

Sub: Unbelievable

How ironical could this article get. One has heard of lack of awareness in the general populus about their teeth and gums and here you ...

Posted by Dr. Bopiah

Sub: Casual Checkup?

I dont think any one dares to go to doctor without any symptoms these days. This is partly due to the way SOME doctors respond ...

Posted by Ravi Kanth

Sub: good article.

its a very good work..keep it up..keep up the good work rediff..excellent platform..

Posted by vishal

Sub: A must read for all Indians

A must read for all Indians! Publish this article at least every month....

Posted by Shivasree Bhowmik


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