For a lot of us, hearing the word “dentist” strikes immediate anxiety and fear. We put in the much-needed biyearly visit relying solely on the hopes that we’ve been doing our part at home by brushing and flossing. OK, probably not flossing, but we try and we have good intentions.
We have some bad news though: There are some easy- to-detect signs that you haven’t been brushing your teeth as well as you should be.
If you want to avoid the dentist reading you your rights when your six-month visit comes (as well as just want to ensure that you actually have healthy teeth and gums), you need to make sure you’re brushing your teeth well. So, without further ado, here are several key signs that you might not be brushing as well as you should be:
1. You can see the plaque.
“Plaque is a build-up of millions of tiny bacteria which cause havoc for our teeth and gums,” Dr. John Fagbemi, a London-based dentist tells HelloGiggles. “It looks a pale yellow color and loves to build up on our teeth. Hardened plaque is called calculus (or tartar) and can appear more brown in color.”
He says that common areas we might see plaque build up is around the gum line and the inner surfaces of our lower front teeth. “Teeth with calculus deposits will often have a gritty texture to them when you feel them with your tongue,” he describes.
2. Your teeth have changed color and aren’t as strong.
Nightmares about teeth falling out is one of the worst ways to wake up and watching it happen in real life is even more terrifying. If you notice your teeth chip, crack or fell unstable, it’s a sign you’re not brushing as well as you should.
He says that signs you may have decay include a constant or occasional sharp tooth pain, tooth sensitivity when you’re eating something cold, hot, acidic or sweet and if any of your teeth turn gray or brown.
3. When you brush your teeth your gums bleed.
“Many people think that if your gums bleed it must mean that you are brushing your teeth too much,” adds Dr. Fagbemi. “Usually the opposite is true. Not cleaning properly can lead to a build-up of plaque bacteria on your teeth around the gum line [and that] irritates your gums and can cause them to swell and bleed.”
4. You have bad breath that you can’t seem to make go away.
Have you ever had someone turn their head away when you’re talking and you get all self conscious that your breath smells bad? Sometimes it does, and according to Dr. Fagbemi, it can stem from an issue with bad brushing.
“Bad breath can be a sign of tooth decay and gum disease, so it’s a good idea to raise this with your dentist,” he suggests. He acknowledges that discussing bad breath can be embarrassing for some, but it shouldn’t be with your dentist.
“As dentists we’re used to this conversation, we discuss breath issues with our patients on a daily basis, he says. “Often a quick recap on how to clean your teeth properly is all that’s needed. Bad breath can be a sign of tooth decay and gum disease so it’s a good idea to raise.”
5. If after finishing a meal you’re always picking food out from between your teeth.
“If you notice food regularly getting stuck between your teeth you should raise this with your dentist,” Dr. Fagbemi says. “Often your dentist or hygienist will recommend a few tips and tricks to get you cleaning between your teeth properly. Occasionally food trapping can indicate a more serious problem like tooth decay or gum disease so if food is regularly getting stuck you should get checked out.”
Look, we get it, no one wants to visit the dentist, but the more we put it off, the more anxiety we’re going to feel. And even if you’re an avid tooth brusher who never misses the twice a day routine plus flossing, there’s nothing better than a professional cleaning.
“Even the best cleaners out there need to visit the dentist and hygienist regularly,” Dr. Fagbemi says. “It’s always useful to get a refresher on how you should be cleaning as over time we can get lazy and rush or skip things. Regular check-ups every 6 months can be a great motivator to get us back in the habit of cleaning properly again.”
So, if you haven’t been in a while and you need to get the motivation to make the appointment, let this serve as your gentle reminder to take care of your oral health this year!