| I believe a healthy lifestyle goes far beyond what we eat. This is why when I spoke with Dr. Washington, I jumped at the chance to interview her and learn more about keeping our teeth healthy. As a young professional, she also has a great perspective on staying fit with a busy career. I loved interviewing Dr. Washington; there were quite a few things I did not know. I’ll be sure to follow her tips so that I can keep my teeth healthy between dental visits!
Q: A lot of people dread going to the dentist. Is there anything they can do between visits that will make it easier when they go?
Between dental visits patients should maintain their oral hygiene. This means brushing 2 times/day and flossing at least once per day, preferably at night. Flossing is actually very important to maintaining oral hygiene because it is the ONLY way to clean in between your teeth. I see numerous commercials on TV stating that a particular toothpaste or mouthwash cleans between the teeth; this is false advertising, please don’t believe the hype.
I don’t recommend one toothpaste over another. My main concern is that my patients are actually brushing their teeth and tongue. The action of brushing your teeth helps cleanse your teeth of plaque that builds up over the course of each day. If this plaque remains on your teeth for several days it becomes calcified and turns into tartar or calculus. Calculus cannot be removed when brushing. Leaving calculus on teeth might make it necessary to have a deep cleaning which involves cleaning both above and below the gums and will definitely be more costly than a “regular” cleaning.
I would also encourage people to seek dental treatment on an ongoing basis which is every 6 months (or once a year if they’re really living life on the edge), instead of going to the dentist only when you’re in pain. It is so much better for the dentist to observe a cavity when it is small, rather than when it’s so large that the patient is in extreme pain. And let me tell you a filling is so much cheaper than a root canal, crown, extraction, bridge or an implant!! I know that many people have difficult financial situations, but oral health should not be placed on the back-burner. There are some dental offices that offer Groupons and other new patient specials to attract those who are having financial troubles. With that being said, I would also encourage people to read the fine print and ASK questions so they are aware of the potential fees before they say “aahhh”.
Q: I’ve always wondered if it matters– should we use mouth wash? If so, what kind? Are you an advocate for home remedy types? You know like, just a peroxide rinse?
Mouthwash is only an adjunct to brushing your teeth. It’s not nearly as important as brushing and flossing. Most over-the-counter mouthwashes are alcohol-based which makes them harsh on the oral tissues. I always recommend adding water to over the counter mouthwashes to make them more gentle on the oral tissues. At home I use ACT mouthwash because it has fluoride in it, but I still add water.
The best mouthwash is warm water with a teaspoon of salt. This is soothing for the gums and helps with gums that are red and irritated. I recommend warm salt water if you recently had a tooth extracted or to heal something as simple as burning your tongue with hot tea or coffee. Also, brushing with baking soda can help to bleach teeth and can be used as an acceptable substitute to traditional toothpaste.
A word of caution about bleaching teeth…You are not a candidate for teeth bleaching if:
a. You have been diagnosed with periodontal disease (meaning you gums are beginning to recede and your teeth appear “long”) because the roots of the teeth are exposed and you will experience heightened sensitivity following bleaching.
b. You have crowns (caps) or fillings on your front teeth because the color of the caps/fillings will not change but the color of nearby teeth will change causing your teeth to appear different colors.
In these cases, bleaching should be done under the supervision of a licensed General Dentist. There are Dentist-grade products that can be used to help prevent or reduce sensitivity and your Dentist can coordinate bleaching and changing caps/fillings if you desire to have whiter teeth.
Q: What are some foods we should try to avoid due to the harm they cause teeth?
LEMON! Lemon is highly acidic and over time can cause erosion of the outer enamel covering of the teeth. This is not for people who drizzle the occasional lemon on their salmon or have lemon in their tea. This is for people who eat the lemon itself on a regular basis.
I know some people are concerned about their intake of candy and sweets because they believe they will have “bad teeth” if they consume too much candy, cookies, and ice cream. To be honest, consuming these foods is not the problem; the problem is not brushing your teeth afterward. Allowing ANY food or the remnants of ANY food to remain on your teeth is problematic (soda, bread, meat, candy, etc).
For those who are concerned about staining their teeth, you should limit foods, drinks or chemicals that can stain your teeth: cigarettes, coffee, grape juice, red wine, tomato sauce, etc. On the days that you consume these items, you should make sure not to miss brushing your teeth at night. When I’m feeling especially neurotic about the color of my teeth I drink my coffee and wine through a straw. Now this hasn’t been scientifically proven or anything, but I just feel that the straw doesn’t allow the coffee or wine to wash over my teeth the way drinking out of a cup will.
Q: With such a busy schedule as a dentist, how on earth do you manage to still eat healthy and stay fit?
It’s not so much that my schedule is busy, it’s that my day starts quite early in the morning. I start seeing my first patient of the day at 7:30am and finish my day around 4:00pm after which time I have to drive home in terrible traffic. For me, if I don’t exercise before work in the morning I probably won’t make it to the gym at all. If I wait until the end of the day, I start making excuses: “I had a difficult patient that wore me out”, “It’s too hot- let me wait until the sun goes down” and by that time I’m totally spent!
I also try to be sensible about my eating habits. If I’m not going to the gym 3 times per week, I’m usually being a vigilant calorie counter and making myself more aware of the things I’m consuming. I’m a tad bit frugal so I would rather cook my own meals than spend money on eating out. I usually treat myself to a nice sit down meal in restaurants on the weekends only. I make it a point to plan my meals out on Sunday or at the very least plan the morning before. If I’ll be making salmon for dinner I take it out to thaw the morning of so it will be ready to make when I get home.