Is there such a thing as do-it-yourself dentistry?
Years ago, Dr Ian treated an old farmer patient who had extracted several teeth himself with implements he had in the farm shed. Not recommended practice!
We definitely don’t recommend do-it-yourself extractions of adult teeth but there are a number of ways you can do positive things to improve your dental health.
DIY Dentistry #1 – Brush Twice Daily
The first do-it-yourself action is to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush.
Removing the plaque and debris before it hardens on your teeth will also keep your gums healthy.
Focus on cleaning all surfaces – the front, back and chewing surfaces on each tooth. Avoid using long brush strokes that will just bounce from tooth to tooth and miss lots of areas that plaque accumulates. Instead, we recommend you use a circular or jiggly action to gently but thoroughly clean for about 2 minutes. That’s 30 seconds each quarter of your mouth (upper right, upper left, lower left, lower right).
You might choose to spend your tooth cleaning time as a relaxing mindfulness exercise or a time to think about holidays or upcoming fun events. You might even start to look forward to teeth cleaning time!
DIY Dentistry #2 – Clean Between Teeth
The second DIY action is cleaning between your teeth.
Plaque and debris can build up between your teeth too. If left alone, this debris can harden and irritate your gums, causing them to become inflamed. If you develop gum disease, the ligaments that hold your teeth in place can be damaged. When this happens, teeth are not supported properly and may become loose or prone to decay on the exposed root surface.
There are more than one ways to clean in between your teeth:
- Using dental floss or tape is the most common
- You can also use floss bows or various types of interdental brushes.
To maximise the benefit to your teeth and gums, use floss, tape or brushes once a day, preferably before you brush.
If you’re brushing and flossing on a daily basis, there shouldn’t be the need for regular use of mouthwash. However, some people like the fresh taste after rinsing with a mouthwash. Try to choose one that doesn’t have alcohol in it.
DIY Dentistry #3 – Friendly Food & Beverages
The third d-i-y action is being aware of choosing tooth-friendly food and beverages. Excess sugar consumption may sabotage your brushing and flossing!
Excess sugar is found in pre-packaged foods and drinks, snacks and processed foods. Check out the ingredient list on the packaging of food and drink – are the sugar or food acid percentages high? If so, our dentist strongly recommend you choose a natural alternative. For example – a piece of fruit rather than fruit juice; a handful of nuts rather than a muesli bar.
Generally speaking, food that you make from basic, natural ingredients will be better for your health, including your dental health, than processed food with added sugar, salt, preservatives and food acids and colours.
Be aware also of practices such as drinking apple cider vinegar or lemon water. Both these liquids are natural but both are very acidic and can cause irreversible damage to your tooth enamel. If you really want to continue using these drinks, ask us for tooth-safe ways to consume them.
Choosing water to drink is a positive action for your teeth. Tap water in many areas is fluoridated and provides real benefits for your tooth enamel.
DIY Dentistry #4 – Mouthguards
The fourth d-i-y action is to minimise the risk of trauma or damage to your teeth.
If you play sport or participate in activities like martial arts where there is a risk of contact, wearing a mouthguard made by your dentist can lower the likelihood of dental damage.
Mouthguards made by dentists fit your teeth snugly, staying in place to cushion impacts. It is also easier to breathe and speak while wearing a dentist-made mouthguard.
If you participate in activities such as triathlons or cycling, your teeth may dry out during the activity.
Energy Drinks & Gels
Drinking sugary energy drinks or eating energy gels has the potential to cause damage to your teeth while they are especially vulnerable. Drink water, preferably fluoridated water where possible. There is valuable information about sports-related care for teeth on the Sports Dieticians Australia website .
If you’re aware that you grind your teeth or if your dentist has commented about tooth loss, you may benefit from wearing an occlusal splint. These devices fit securely over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. As you grind your teeth, usually while you’re asleep, the splint prevents tooth-to-tooth contact which can wear, chip and damage your teeth.
Speak to your dentist if you would like more information about an occlusal splint or read more about bruxism here.
DIY Dentistry #5 – Checkups
The fifth d-i-y action is to visit your dentist on a regular basis to have your teeth professionally checked and cleaned.
A dental check-up is the best time to detect and treat dental conditions in their early stages to maximise your dental health and minimise the potential for complex dental treatment.
You may be surprised at the stories we hear about how teeth get broken or damaged. To minimise the risks of tooth damage, only use your teeth for chewing food – not for opening lids or other items!
You can also ask about any dental questions you may have and work out an action plan that’s right for you.
So there really are lots of ways that you can D-I-Y to benefit your own dental health.