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Flash those pearlies
Ambika Shaligram | Sunday, 19 March 2017 AT 07:41 PM IST
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On the occasion of World Oral Health Day, Dr Devaiah Mapangada, Chief Medical Officer of MobiDent, explains the dos and don’ts one must follow to maintain oral hygiene.

A herbal toothpaste is more beneficial; yellow teeth are a sign of illness; and chewing gum is fine because it exercises the muscles...these are some of the theories that have been discussed for long. Dr Devaiah Mapangada, Chief Medical Officer of MobiDent, debunks these theories and explains the facts.

He begins by saying, “Clean oral health is devoid of any infection in the mouth. That means, the teeth are clean, and the tongue doesn’t have any coating or decay. A tooth is a mechanical organ, so when two teeth come together, it results in grinding. There is wear and tear involved. As long as the teeth are brushed, flossed and nothing is stuck between teeth, there will be no medical issue.” 

The moment we start abusing any organ, it will result in medical complications. For instance, smoking. “The nicotine substance affects the body in two ways. One is that it constricts the blood vessels at a pharmacological level and secondly, it results in addictive effect. The constriction of blood vessel means there is less blood supply to the bone and that makes the foundation of teeth weaker. The tobacco substance irritates the lining of the cheeks, gums and tongue area. If the irritation occurs over a long period of time, it causes cancer. Chewing tobacco, reverse smoking (where the lit end is kept in the mouth) all leads to mutation in the cells in that area which results in cancer,” adds Dr Mapangada. 

What chewing gum does to the mouth
“When you start chewing, two hard things are rubbed together and then that results in wear and tear. Whether you chew the gum on one side or both sides of the cheek muscles, it has a deleterious effect on the joints of the bone — where the jaws are attached to the base of the skull. If you are chewing gum on one side, it creates imbalance for the other side. And, if you are using both sides, then it causes facial pain and difficulty in opening of mouth over a period of time,” he explains.

Choosing a toothpaste
Switch on the TV and you will be bombarded with TVCs advocating toothpastes, from cheaper ones to the herbal ones and everything else in between. It’s bound to leave you confused. When asked what should the consumer look for while buying a toothpaste, Dr Mapangada adds, “A toothpaste should contain an abrasive agent — calcium carbonate — which will clean the surface. Also check if it has fluoride in it. But no herbal toothpaste or brush will remove anything that is stuck between the teeth. It’s only flossing that will work.”

The right toothbrush
A soft bristle toothbrush doesn’t work. And, hard bristles are too harsh and remove even the enamel while you are brushing. So it’s better to choose a medium hard toothbrush. Says Dr Mapangada, “When you are using a medium hard brush, you don’t have to use your arm force. All you need is wrist movement — up and down motion — from the gumline lower to upper, with small angulation so that it cleans the surface and also inside the cheeks. It should be followed by rinsing and flossing.”

Discoloured and yellow teeth
It does happen that despite maintaining oral hygiene, the teeth remain discoloured or yellow. What does it mean? Explains Dr Mapangada, “When it comes to the colour of the teeth, there are three protective layers. The outer layer is enamel, the inner level is dentin and then we have two nerve tissues called pulp.” 

Enamel is a plain, transparent glass and once formed, it’s for life. If it breaks, you can’t fix it back again. The next layer is dentin, which remodels itself to variations in temperature, in taste and wear and tear. In microscopy, dentin looks like closely dotted optic fibre cable which has small pores. “In children the dentin is very porous and wider. So when light passes through the teeth, they give out a whitish glare. That’s why they are called milk teeth.

Adult teeth are a little yellow, because the dentin inside has different thickness and different alignment as compared with the milk teeth. When they undergo mechanical wear and tear, and other variations, they are blocked internally. So when you brush, you clean the surface. The stains go away, but the yellowness stays. What really matters is the health of these teeth. If they are strong, the colour doesn’t really matter,” Dr Mapangada concludes.

The author can be followed on Twitter @riceandpickle
 
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