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Debunking Dental Myths with Dr. Singh

Doctor Singh Strand DentalThe world of oral health is one shrouded in mystery. How many times a day should one brush? Is chewing gum a friend or foe?

Only those among us with the adequate years of medical training know the truth. For most of us, the thought of a visit to the dentist stirs up feelings of dread at the prospect of painful procedures, bills, and the knowledge that you will almost certainly lie to another human being about how much you floss. But what is the true nature of that hidden, squelchy world inside your face?

We spoke to Doctor Angad Singh of the Strand Dental Centre, and he shined a light on some common mouth myths as well as telling us how regular visits to the dentist can make you both healthier and wealthier in the long run.

First up Dr. Singh busted out some knowledge on how much your oral health affects your physical health in general. It’s more than you might think.

“There’s been a lot of research particularly relating to gum disease and the relationship that has to heart disease and what they’re finding is that most of the science is pointing to is that gum disease seems to be one of the biggest single risk factors towards coronary heart disease. In fact even higher than cholesterol levels. Which is very alarming.

“Another point that’s probably worth mentioning is that in America, everyone who has a heart attack has to see a gum specialist. It’s like not even negotiable any more. So as soon as you have any type of heart disease it’s like a mandatory protocol that you have to go see a gum specialist.”

One of our major queries for Doctor Singh was the age old question- how many times a day should you really brush? Apparently the key to success is not so much the time but the technique.

“The Australian Dental Association actually released an article maybe three or four years ago about what recommendations we should be giving to the public, and in that it said at least brush once a day before night time. And if you could do that, you’re in pretty good shape. What we find though, is that if you only brush once a day you’ve got to be 100%.

“So we’ve been saying as far as I know forever, that you should brush twice a day. Turns out if you brush once a day really really well you could probably get away with it… you’d be much better off brushing once a day really well then twice a day poorly. Or even five times a day poorly, which I’m not sure a lot of people know.”

There you have it folks, it’s not so much the time spent scrubbing but the way that you scrub. With that in mind, how much does flossing really make a difference?

“When you clean your teeth the single thing that seems to be the most important is how well you can physically actually scrub or remove the stuff that’s there. And in between the teeth the toothbrush just can’t get to those areas. So what we see is that people who floss seem to have less gum disease and tooth decay.”

So flossing isn’t the be all and end all of oral hygiene, but when it comes to your gums, always best to be on the safe side. Although it’s crucial to have a good scrub, can you brush too much?

“Absolutely. What we can see is that as people brush, particularly if they brush too hard, which is very common, they’ll start to cause what we call abrasion, they’ll start to literally rub away tooth, and the more they do that the more damage they do. I mean they never have tooth decay, because they’re brushing so well, but they tend to have other problems like tooth sensitivity. I’ve seen some cases where they’ve literally brushed away to the nerve. “says Dr. Singh

“With the right technique, it should never happen, but I think maybe once upon a time we were saying scrub your teeth, scrub your teeth and now we’re saying polish your teeth rather than brush them, even. So it doesn’t happen as much anymore but it’s certainly a possibility.”

Dr. Singh says that over brushing is the kind of problem that you can catch early through a regular visit to the dentist, but you would likely not notice otherwise until you’d done a fair bit of damage, as is the case with grinding your teeth.

“This is something heaps and heaps of people do. And most of the time they’re completely unaware of it. Most of the time it’s ‘Oh, my girlfriend tells me I grind my teeth’ or a dentist asks them ‘Have you been grinding your teeth and most people say ‘No, why would I be doing that?’

Dr. Singh lists basic physiotherapy and plastic bite guards as methods to stop a tooth-grinding habit from doing any damage. He also emphasized how important it is to get in early.

“ I’ve seen people that have literally ground their teeth to the gum, and even if they wanted to, they couldn’t fix them, and even if they could’ve fixed them it would’ve cost upwards of $80 000. So I mean if you think about it it’s not a good place to be, generally always focus on prevention for something like that. If you’re concerned about it, if someone’s told you that you grind your teeth- these are things where most people wouldn’t even know the difference, because not everyone grinds loudly, and it’s mostly something that we’ll pick up because we’ll start to see flat edges on teeth where there’s not supposed to be.”

We’ve all seen those chewing gum adverts featuring adorable anthropomorphic foodstuffs claiming to banish edible detritus from our mouths, but what difference does chewing gum actually make?

“What chewing gum does is it actually stimulates saliva. And the saliva is what does the great benefit to it. The only thing, I mean with chewing gum even if it’s flavourless will do the job, but it’s more pleasurable to chew something that’s minty than bland. Provided it doesn’t have something that’s gonna do damage like sugar, it doesn’t even matter what you’re chewing. You could be chewing on, I don’t know a piece of cardboard or something and it would do the same job. Personally I prefer chewing gum because it tastes nice.” says Dr. Singh.

When it comes to bad breath, brushing your tongue can also be a fast and simple solution. Nearing the end of our visit, Dr. Singh explains why it’s so important to see your dentist regularly, what people don’t realise about teeth and how regular dental checkups can keep you healthier and wealthier.

“With teeth, once the damage is done it’s there forever. Your teeth kind of tell a life story in a sense.

“Most people aren’t aware I guess that most dental diseases are painless, most people would think that if nothing hurts, nothing’s wrong, which is a natural thing to think and I don’t blame people for that but it’s just not the case with teeth.

“The biggest advantage of seeing a dentist early is that we pick things up very early, long before you would’ve known about it otherwise. And as such we can save you a lot of time, energy, money, and essentially save the teeth for a lot longer. “

The Strand Dental Centre has recently extended its opening hours to include Saturdays and some evenings until 8pm. They perform pediatric, general, and some cosmetic dentistry, including ceramic fillings and Invisalign procedures.

Sophie Joske

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April 29, 2014

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