So I finally got around to finding a new dentist.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my dentist of 20 years retired and, because I don’t have dental insurance, I was faced with the daunting task of researching local dentists to find one that 1) offered basic dental care and didn’t push teeth whitening, gum scaling or Botox; and 2) was willing to offer me a cash discount and work with me on keeping my dental costs down.
Now that I’ve found him, I hope he doesn’t retire soon!
I keep my teeth and gums very clean and healthy. My biggest concern is gum recession. I have had friends and family members who have had the dreaded gum grafting done, and I really want to avoid that, if at all possible.
Gum recession is caused by a few things:
- Unhealthy, swollen gums (gingivitis)
- Mouth trauma, such as braces or teeth grinding (that’s me!)
- Trauma to the gums from over zealous brushing
Gum recession runs in my family and I can’t control that. I do grind my teeth and have since I was a child, but a nightguard can help limit any tooth or gum damage.
I have used a Sonicare toothbrush for years with excellent results. My new hygienist was amazed at how clean my teeth were even though I hadn’t been to a dentist in, um, three years.
But my dentist pointed out that I was actually using my Sonicare improperly and was eroding my gums, at least in one area of my mouth. I didn’t know it could do that—I’ve always seen it marketed as “safe and gentle”!
Because I am right-handed, he could tell that I was holding the toothbrush much too stiffly when brushing my right upper teeth, and I was pushing the bristles into the gums.
“Most people think the Sonicare can’t damage gums,” he explained, “and Phillips [the maker of Sonicare] is very careful to avoid legal liability by saying their products must be used as directed in the instruction manual. But who reads instruction manuals?”
Not me, I’m ashamed to say. After all, I’m always grousing at people to read labels on medications. My bad.
When I got home, I pulled up the instruction manual online, and there it was in big letters:
READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE USE. Read this user manual carefully before you use the appliance and save it for future reference.
Under brushing instructions, it says:
- Place the toothbrush bristles against the teeth at a slight angle towards the gumline.
- Apply light pressure to maximize Sonicare’s effectiveness and let the Sonicare toothbrush do the brushing for you.
I also found a couple of YouTube videos the show how to use a Sonicare properly. Both clearly say to hold the handle of the toothbrush “lightly” using only your fingertips to prevent pushing the bristles too heavily into the gumline.
Sonicare’s “dynamic cleaning action” moves the water and toothpaste between the teeth and under the gumline without having to jam the bristles up against the gums. I admit that when my gums feel a little sore or puffy, I am more aggressive with my Sonicare. I didn’t realize I was hurting my gums, though, and I’m glad my new dentist has set me straight.
He recommended two things:
- Look in the mirror when I brush to make sure I am holding the toothbrush lightly and angled towards the gums, but not jammed into them.
- Use the Sonicare only once a day, and use a manual toothbrush the rest of the day.
I never look in the mirror when I brush. I’m usually not even in the bathroom, but rather reading my email or watching the news. I can do better.
Related post: Tips for healthy teeth
And if I use my Sonicare only once a day (morning or evening I haven’t decided yet), then I only have to replace the crazy-expensive head half as often. Bonus!
Here’s hoping I can re-learn how to use my toothbrush and prevent any further receding of my gums.