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The ‘Truth’ About Your Teeth – part two

As promised, here are Tim Rumney’s thoughts following the second episode of The Truth About Your Teeth, shown on BBC One last week….

Having watched the first episode with some degree of apprehension about what the show might reveal in the name of ‘educational’ television, I was actually more impressed with part two as it was less sensationalist.

The introduction from lead dentist Serpil Djemal again reiterated the fact that ‘dentistry isn’t just about fixing teeth – it’s about changing people’s smiles and boosting their confidence. Good dental work can have a massive impact on people for the rest of their lives and that’s why we do it.’ This is certainly the ethos we have here at Illume in Cheltenham.

Phobia of dentists

According to the show, fear of the dentist ranks more highly than heights, spiders or visiting a GP, but there’s really no need to be scared! Dentistry has advanced so much in recent years that treatment should be pain-free.

Most phobias develop in our formative years so making sure children have a positive experience of visiting the dentist can have a significant impact on their future dental health.

The show advised the following tips to help calm nerves:
•    Don’t arrive too early for your appointment – the less time you wait, the less time you have to worry
•    Tell your dentist if you are nervous – he can’t help if he doesn’t know how you are feeling
•    Bring an iPod to distract you during your dental care
•    Arrange your appointments early in the day – that way you don’t have the whole day to worry

At Illume we make sure we take the time to listen to any concerns our clients may have and we do everything we can to make sure their visit is a pleasant experience.

Eating habits

Most people know the dangers associated with too much sugar intake, but did you know that it’s not only what you eat, but when you eat it that can affect your oral health? The programme carried out a study to identify if eating the same foods, but at different times throughout the day, would make a difference to the bacteria levels in the participants’ mouths and the answer was a resounding yes!

Regular snacking is far more harmful than eating a dessert following a meal as it allows acid, which damages the tooth enamel, to build up more frequently throughout the day.

Hidden sugar

It’s widely recognised that eating too many sugary foods is not good for your teeth, but not everyone is aware of the dangers of hidden sugars lurking in foods where you just might not expect them, such as milk! One young girl featured in part two had to undergo multiple extraction of decaying milk teeth (ironic!) caused by falling asleep with a bottle of milk in her mouth.

Yes, milk contains calcium which is good for growing teeth and bones, but its sugar content can be harmful if it remains in contact with the surface of the tooth for too long.

The importance of effective brushing

Presenter Dr Chris Van Tulleken stressed the importance of brushing for two minutes, twice a day and showed viewers the best technique to make sure nothing gets missed ie cleaning from one side of the mouth to the other spending 30 seconds on each quartile.

However, what the show didn’t highlight was the importance of brushing between teeth. Obviously it’s important to clean the surface of the teeth and gums properly, and using an interdental brush and flossing makes a huge difference to the amount of bacteria that builds up in mouths causing plaque and decay.

This short film from TePe shows how to clean between teeth using interdental brushes.

When to brush

Everyone should brush their teeth before going to bed to remove any bacteria and plaque that has built up during the day, but did you know that brushing too soon after you’ve eaten can actually be harmful to the enamel on your teeth? Brushing as soon as you’ve eaten actually intensifies the damage acid from food and drink can do so it’s always best to wait for an hour before brushing.

In the meantime, if you want to freshen up your mouth eating a fibrous vegetable such as a stick of celery helps, and so does drinking water and eating cheese – both of which help to neutralise acids found in foods.

Is proper brushing the secret to a longer life?

Well it certainly won’t have a negative effect on your life expectancy that’s for sure! Dr Van Tulleken took part in a clinical trial organised by leading gum disease specialist, Professor Ian Chapple, which proved that bacteria quickly builds up in the mouths of people that don’t brush their teeth regularly or thoroughly.

This bacteria not only causes bad breath and the first stages of gum disease, but it also puts more pressure on all of the body’s vital organs, including the heart, as well as the brain and blood vessels.


The show also featured Joe, a 22 year old man from Uxbridge, who had unusually small teeth. This was caused by a combination of a love of fizzy drinks and tooth grinding - a subconscious habit called bruxism.

Joe ground his teeth away to such an extent that he was having issues eating. Dentist Sirple rebuilt the teeth using tooth coloured resin and recommended he use a mouth guard to prevent against further grinding at night.

It is thought that up to 10% of the UK population are ‘tooth grinders’ – or bruxists. My colleague, Adrian Jones, is experienced in the use of Occlusal Guards which can be extremely useful in helping to protect teeth from the effects of bruxism - as this case study explains in a little more detail.

Top tips for great oral health

1.    Brush for two minutes, twice a day using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste
2.    Don’t rinse your mouth, just spit out excess toothpaste
3.    Clean between teeth using floss and interdental brushes
4.    Don’t brush immediately after eating – wait for an hour
5.    Beware of hidden sugars
6.    Little and often is not good when it comes to food and drinks – it’s far better for your teeth to eat three meals than it is to have regular snacks throughout the day
7.    Water, fibrous vegetables and cheese can all help to neutralise harmful acids
8.    Introduce children to visiting the dental team as early as possible to ensure they have a positive experience
9.    Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly at intervals recommended by your dentist

If you missed episode two it is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer until 14th July 2015.