My Dad ensured that, growing up, I was registered with a great dentist and that when the time came, I had access to whatever appropriate orthodontic treatment was needed. Because of this, I was able to mostly avoid the overcrowding and hereditary overbite that plagues my family. My teeth aren’t perfect but I got a great start in life thanks to someone who cared.
Which is why it’s pretty shocking that in my adult life, I’ve taken my oral care for granted.
Sure, I brush twice a day (mostly) and I visit the dentist every six months… but do nothing above and beyond this to take care of my teeth and gums. Let’s just say… it’s starting to show. Since having Leila, my gums have deteriorated and I’m starting to realise that if I want to keep my teeth into my senior years (as my Dad has done), I need to up my game. I don’t have any fillings but I’ve recently had some fissures sealed to prevent what would have led to inevitable tooth decay, basically… I’m on borrowed time!
A couple of weeks ago, I had a nasty wakeup call. There I was, happily tucking into some peanuts when all of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain and immediately directed my tongue to the source of the discomfort. Directly above one of my top canine teeth, I could feel a lump. This area of gum has given me problems in the past, although nothing major… some bleeding when brushing, a little tenderness, almost always the sorest bit during the dental examination with the pointy probe…
…It was a damn peanut shard! My gum was far too soft (read: unhealthy) in that area and I’d managed to push a piece of peanut into the pocket between the gum and tooth. A pocket that, in theory, shouldn’t be “loose” enough for that to happen.
It felt like something out of Alien and hurt like hell. I took myself off to the bathroom and after a lot of swearing and “owwing”, managed to push the peanut back out. Needless to say, I lost my appetite for anymore peanuts that evening.
Since then, I’ve been nursing a rather poorly section of gum. Obviously, the incident had caused a bit of trauma to the area which became inflamed and very tender to the touch. The gum had been pushed back from the toothline and had a horizontal cut where the peanut had done some damage.
One of the great thing about gums though, is that they’re pretty good at healing quickly. Ten days later and they’re nearly back to normal. The incident has made me acutely aware of the need to take care of, not only my teeth, but my gums.
I’ve stepped up my routine… and here’s how I’ve been doing it.
1. Brush your teeth twice a day, without fail
I’m sure we’ve all done it… it’s late, we’re tired… we fall into bed without brushing our teeth. No biggie, right? We’ll brush them really well in the morning. Well… wrong. Whilst some dentists advocate brushing your teeth after meals, I’m not going that far… it’s not practical. I do however, hereby solemnly swear to brush my teeth before bed every night without fail.
Make sure that you’re brushing your teeth for long enough too! Two to three minutes is the recommended length of time we should be brushing for. It’s amazing how slowly that goes when you’re stood there with a toothbrush in your gob!
The timer that comes with the Oral-B Triumph 5000 is fantastic for keeping you on your toes.
2. Buy a toothbrush aimed at sensitive teeth and gums
I use an electric toothbrush daily but until my gums have toughened up a little, I’m taking the pressure down a notch. There’s no point brushing away at soft, bleeding gums with something as abrasive as a hedgehog. It’s with this in mind that I’ve bought a pack of “sensitive” replacement brush heads. Hopefully it won’t be long before they can take the pressure of something a little firmer again.
3. Floss, floss, and then floss some more
Flossing just wasn’t a “thing” we did when I was growing up. I remember watching Pretty Woman and not understanding what the flossing scene was about at all. However, this is the one thing that my dentist implores me to do more of, every time I visit her. Because my teeth are packed in quite tightly, I genuinely struggle with getting the floss between my tombstones… the best I’ve found are these Crest Glide Floss Picks because you can adjust the tension of the string, making it easier to actually get the floss in there. The wishbone-shaped handles also mean that you don’t have to contort to reach the back teeth.
Also make sure you watch a few how-to videos on flossing, I was shocked at how far “around” you’re supposed to floss, hooking the tape across the tooth rather than just up and down inbetween the gaps. It definitely takes some practice to get it right, but in my case… it’s the one thing that will sort out my gum problems more than any other. I’d love one of those water/air jet flossers but I need to
stop buying more exciting things save up some pennies first!
4. Use a specialist mouthwash
I’m actually anti-mouthwash, so this is going against my core principles! When I first met Mr. L, he was a Listerine addict… drying out his mouth and gums daily with the alcohol-rich formula. However, I do believe that in the short-term, the right kind of mouthwash will help improve inflammed gums. I’ve been using Superdrug’s own brand of Chlorhexadine mouthwash (0.2%), it contains the same active ingredient you’ll find in Corsodyl but is a little cheaper.
Chlorhexadine can stain your teeth if used regularly (although it will polish off), so I’m only planning on using this in the short-term. Alternatively… Oraldene, Colgate Peroxyl, or a cheap-as-chips 3% hydrogen peroxide solution should do the same thing.
5. Book an appointment with a dental hygienist
My dentist is fabulous and although I have, in the past, qualified for free dental treatment on the NHS… I haven’t used it. I dearly love and support our NHS in the UK but whilst on the books at our “local” practice, not once did I see the same dentist, the continuity of care was terrible and I was only entitled to a scale and polish if deemed clinically necessary (widely open to interpretation!).
In other words, preventative measures are often kept to a bare minimum, understandable… but not ideal. If you can afford it, consider booking an annual visit to a hygienist. I pay my (private) dentist £45, twice a year… and for this, I get an annual check-up and a scale and polish every six months. Anything else is charged as and when it’s needed, my last visit included the sealing of a fissure on one of my molars to prevent decay. This cost me an extra £10. Again, this is a preventitive measure that the NHS just can’t afford to provide to its patients.
Having said that, an NHS dentist is infinitely better than NO dentist at all! Get on your dentist’s books people!
Do you take good care of your gums? Are you a dentist’s dream… or their worst nightmare?!