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5 things dentists wish patients knew about caring for their teeth

July 5, 2022
Even just starting out in her career, this new dentist has a running list of things she wishes patients knew that could help them have better oral and overall health.

One of the most important jobs a dentist has is to form relationships with and educate their patients. There are many myths about caring for oral health in our society. Unfortunately, since daily oral hygiene routines are typically taught at home, it can be difficult to break unhealthy cycles in families.

I believe that if patients are presented with opportunities to educate themselves and grasp new techniques for caring for their mouth, many dental problems can be avoided. These are some of the things I try to tell my patients in the interest of improving their oral, and overall, health.

1. Your mouth is a part of your body

This may seem obvious; however, many patients overlook this fact. The medications you take for your other systemic conditions can have an impact on the health of your teeth and gums. You really need to provide your dentist with a thorough and accurate medical history when you arrive for your first appointment. Additionally, if you experience any changes to your medical history, let your dentist know.

Similarly, dental problems can have an impact on your systemic health. For example, diabetic patients who have untreated periodontal disease can have more difficulty regulating their blood glucose levels because of the relationship between these two conditions.

2. Brushing harder doesn't lead to better oral health

It can feel like scrubbing your teeth harder is getting them “extra clean.” I was guilty of this mistake, too. There are two components to having healthy teeth—the enamel and the gums—and while scrubbing hard with your toothbrush might make the enamel on your teeth feel clean, it could harm the other component, your gums or gingiva.

Your gum tissue and the bone under them are what support your teeth and keep them connected to your jawbone. Pushing hard with your toothbrush leads to erosion of your gingival tissues and creates recession. Recession happens when the bone and gum tissue around your teeth are reduced. This can also be caused by inflammation due to gingivitis, but commonly recession is caused by aggressive brushing! It can be alarming for patients who brush and floss daily because they think they're caring for their teeth well, but their improper technique is negatively impacting the health of their gums.

3. With brushing and flossing, it's all in the technique

Similar to how brushing too hard can cause oral health problems, not brushing and flossing correctly can have a negative impact on the health of your teeth and gums. Proper brushing happens when the bristles of the toothbrush are facing up into the area where your teeth and gums meet (gingival sulcus) at a 45-degree angle. This allows the toothbrush to remove plaque and debris stuck in your gingival sulcus. The toothbrush should be moved in small circular motions along your teeth. Remember where you started brushing and work in a systematic way around your mouth to ensure you’re cleaning every side of every tooth.

You should floss in a C shape to hug the tooth and clean the sides of it. If you bleed when flossing, don’t be alarmed as this can be common when you haven’t been flossing regularly. Give yourself a few weeks of regular, daily flossing and if the bleeding does not decrease, reach out to your dentist.

4. Dentures are not a quick fix

In my short dental career, I’ve already talked to many patients who believe getting dentures is the answer to all their dental problems. If they just had all their teeth pulled, they wouldn’t need to spend any more time or money coming to visit the dentist. While dentures are a great option for patients who’ve already lost teeth or whose teeth are unable to function any longer, they do not work the same as one’s own teeth.

Dentures are not connected to you unless you choose an implant-supported option. Dentures require many appointments and time to be made successfully. As well, you may require several adjustment appointments for them to feel comfortable and over time you may need to have a new set of dentures made. The adjustment of wearing dentures often comes as a shock for many patients. You will have to learn to eat, talk, and function with a completely new appliance in your mouth. While dentures are a great option for many patients, they are not a quick fix to avoid caring for your oral health.

5. Baby teeth serve an important purpose

Many people overlook the importance of baby teeth. I have patients ask why they should spend time and money caring for their children’s baby teeth if they are going to fall out in a few years. Baby teeth are important for the development of adult teeth in many ways. They’re spacers to allow adult teeth to come in properly, they help with speech development, and they affect chewing.

Additionally, habits formed in childhood are incredibly important for adulthood. If children are taught from a young age to properly brush, floss, and care for their teeth, it will be easier for them to continue this habit throughout their life. Your first permanent tooth erupts in your mouth around age 6 and remains with you for the rest of your life. It’s never too early to teach children about the importance of oral hygiene over the course of their life.


1. Preshaw PM, Alba AL, Herrera D, Jepsen S, Konstantinidis A, Makrilakis K, Taylor R. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia. 2012 Jan;55(1):21-31. doi: 10.1007/s00125-011-2342-y.

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