The reasons behind your dentist's advice

  • date November 16, 2021

By now you’re familiar with dentists’ recommendation to brush twice a day for two minutes, floss daily, and make regular visits to their office. Here are the reasons behind this wise advice.

Brushing is all about the plaque.

Without brushing, plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) builds up on your teeth and gums and creates acid that eats away at important minerals on your tooth enamel. This can lead to decay, along with inflammation, bleeding, and gum disease.

Removing as much plaque as possible each day from all surfaces of teeth and from under the gumline is key to oral health. Two full minutes of brushing twice a day with a good technique are needed to remove plaque.

Pro tip: Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle with the bristles aimed at the area where your tooth meets the gum. Brush gently with circular back-and-forth motions. Ask your dentist or hygienist to demonstrate good brushing methods the next time you visit.

However, a Delta Dental survey found nearly a third (32%) of adults brush their teeth less than twice a day. Research shows that “infrequent brushers” who sometimes miss a day of brushing develop more cavities. This is worse in children who don’t brush often enough.

Flossing is half the battle.

If you don’t floss regularly, you miss out on cleaning a lot of the surfaces of your teeth, especially the spaces between teeth.

And your dentist can tell if you’re fibbing about your flossing routine. Bleeding gums and plaque buildup are among the telltale signs. In fact, people admit they lie to their dentist about their flossing habits, even saying they’d rather do an unpleasant chore – like clean a toilet! - than floss. 

Pro tip: Don’t use unsanitary and unsafe items — like cutlery, paper clips, wires, etc — to remove food between teeth. You have plenty of safe options in types of floss or toothpicks and other interdental cleaners, Poor substitutes for floss can cause injury and leave germs in the mouth.

Putting off dental visits could cost you.

About one-third (32%) of South Dakotans haven’t seen a dentist in the last 12 months. Some people only go to the dentist when they are in pain. However, many oral problems don’t cause pain until they become serious.

Along with regular cleanings, a dental visit will include a thorough oral exam. Your dentist can uncover cavities, gum disease, oral cancers, and numerous other oral health issues early on — when they can be easier and less costly to treat.

In addition, dozens of systemic diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and even Alzheimer’s disease may show signs in your mouth. The dentist may refer you to a physician for closer examination of potentially serious problems.

Your dentist cares about your oral and overall health. The next time you see the dentist, make sure to keep your ears open for some wise professional advice.