In an online report I recently read in a journal that was forwarded to me by a patient, they listed 9 “healthy” habits that they claim are a waste of time. Three of them had to do with oral health. Let’s take a look.
The first on the waste of time list was to see your dentist twice per year. I have seen this reported somewhere else in the media recently. According to the authors, close to 30 studies have apparently found no conclusive evidence supporting a need to see a dentist every 6 months. They went on to say, “If your teeth and gums are healthy, once per year is enough to catch developing problems.”
I absolutely agree. There are definitely people who only need to see a dentist/hygienist once per year. Most dentists use a classification system to rate a patient’s periodontal (gum) health. Type I patients are the ones that only need to see a dentist once per year. They are healthy, they have good homecare habits and are low risk for disease. In the average dental practice, I would say this is about 10-15% of the population.
Type II patients are those with gingivitis and should be seen twice per year. This group makes up about 50% of the typical dental patient population. Many of these patients could move into the Type I group if they had better homecare habits and technique.
Type III & IV patients are the remaining 30-35% of the population who should be seen every 3 or 4 months, and in some cases even more frequently. Because of genetics and/or bad habits, this group has active disease and is at high-risk for problems.
Let’s also not forget the other 50% of the population who don’t even visit a dentist once per year. While I think there are people who can be healthy and see a dentist once per year, it is irresponsible to make it seem that it pertains to everyone. The only one who can determine how healthy you are is your dentist. It should be up to you and the dentist you trust.
The #7 waste of time reported was to use a hard toothbrush. According to the report, a soft one cleans your teeth just as well and is less damaging to your teeth and gums. This is old news and is true.
The next one shocked me. The #8 waste of time – brushing and flossing twice per day. According to the authors, everyone only needs to visit the dentist once per year and brush and floss one time per day. They recommend brushing for at least 2 minutes before you go to bed and flossing one time per day. They also mentioned that people who did not floss frequently (whatever that means) are 3 times more likely to develop stomach cancer. I am assuming the author is relating lack of flossing to getting periodontal (gum) disease. More recent research is showing that, “Risk factors for precancerous lesions and gastric cancer are being identified, one of which may be periodontal disease”. Although lack of flossing does not automatically cause gum disease, poor oral health is clearly a risk factor for other health problems.
Here’s the bottom line:
- Establish a relationship with a dentist you are comfortable with and trust. Determine with that person how frequently you should be seen.
- Use a good quality soft electric toothbrush. Get instructions on proper use from your hygienist.
- Brush at least twice per day, preferably at least 30 minutes after meals. Floss at night before you brush.
It is as simple as that.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view all previously written columns at J. Peter St. Clair, DMD