With the time pressures associated with parenthood - the school run, activity clubs, or just plain exhaustion in the evening – a large percentage of Australian mums are still finding it difficult to look after their oral health properly.
In a Royal Philips survey of mums across the country, nearly a third of those surveyed are still not following the recommendations of dental professionals and only brush for up to one minute, with 24% also admitting to brushing only once a day. Furthermore, one in four mums still never floss at all and those that do are using their finger nails (28%) and paper or card (14%) to get the job done – items that could damage both teeth and gums.
Australian mums are also on the go so much that one in five are choosing their place of work, or public places like the airport or train station to brush their teeth outside of the family home.
The Philips Sonicare survey also indicated that 32% of mums said their children only brush for up to one minute and 25% only brush once a day – concerning percentages for the dental profession, particularly when tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease.
'Oral hygiene procedures are only as good as the weakest link, and the weakest link for many people is not flossing or brushing for less than two minutes, twice a day," said Dr. David Dunn, principal dentist at The Macquarie Street Centre, Sydney. 'It's important to maintain a good oral health regime at all times. When we disregard it, plaque and bacteria cause damage to our teeth, gums, and supporting bone around the teeth.
'The time pressures of parenthood can also mean we can pick up bad brushing habits. These are hard to shake the older we get and they do register with our children. Therefore, it's extremely important, especially as a parent, that we not only look after ourselves properly but also set a good example for the younger generation to take care of our oral health, both personally and with professional care," he added.
However, the time pressures of parenthood don't seem to stop our Australian mums from smiling. More than a third of those surveyed said time with their family was the one thing that made them smile the most.
Interestingly, rather than -beautiful', -younger' or -confident', the largest proportion of those surveyed (49%) said a great smile made a person look healthier, suggesting Australian mums are more inspired by health than vanity. And to that end, Carrie Bickmore, the popular media personality was voted as the Australian celebrity mum with the most natural and healthy looking smile. She brushed off competition from the likes of Elle Macpherson, Miranda Kerr and Nicole Kidman to take top honours.
'Our survey really did reveal some interesting and surprising results", said Simon Keenan, oral healthcare sales & marketing manager at Philips Australia. 'We know our mums are time-poor and are busy looking after their families but we weren't expecting to see that the train station and airport were popular spots for brushing teeth. We hope they continue to smile confidently knowing their and their family's oral health has been looked after properly when they are using the right tools."
Question: Where you surprised by the results of the Philips Sonicare study?
Dr. David Dunn: I'm not surprised by these findings, and further, don't believe that this is isolated to 'mums across the country.' Unfortunately, in this very busy lifestyle we all live, many people do not prioritise their oral hygiene with few flossing and many not spending both the required time, and frequency on their plaque control i.e. they may only brush once a day, and the time given is often far too short to effectively remove the plaque biofilm from their teeth.
Question: How are busy Australian mums putting their oral health at risk?
Dr. David Dunn: According to new research by Philips Sonicare involving over 1,000 mums across the country, a large percentage of Australian mums are finding it difficult to look after their oral health properly. The research findings suggest that nearly a third of those surveyed are still not following the recommendations of dental professionals and only brush for up to one minute, with 24% also admitting to brushing only once a day. Furthermore, one in four mums still never floss at all and those that do are using their finger nails (28%) and paper or card (14%) to get the job done – items that could damage both teeth and gums. It's important to maintain a good oral health regime at all times. The results of not brushing and flossing are the heightened probabilities of both having decay or caries in our teeth and secondly gum disease that can result in the loss of supporting gum and bone around the roots of our teeth.
Question: What's most important regarding oral health for Australian mums?
Dr. David Dunn: The first issue is diet, and specifically here we need to avoid high carbohydrate foods and drinks which encourages more plaque and bacteria. Sadly today we see children especially rewarded with fast foods and soft drinks that not only have weight ramifications but negatively affects their dental health. We are also seeing a much higher incidence of acid erosion due to dietary factors with the major culprits being highly acidic sports drinks and some carbonated beverages.
Secondly is the need for good preventative care both at home and professionally. To this end, brushing twice a day for a minimum of 2 minutes (and effectively) and flossing daily should be part of every mother's oral hygiene regime. For some susceptible groups, this may even need to be increased. Brushing needs to be done with the appropriate technique and this is where many people with poor technique can damage their teeth and gums. One of the advantages of the sonic electric toothbrushes is that this minimises the risk of this damage by avoiding the often seen 'scrubbing' action with hard brushes and too much toothpaste utilised. Ideally, a professional examination should be undertaken every 6 months with x-rays every 2 years, and for susceptible individuals, fluoride sealants or topical fluoride applications, mouth rinses etc utilised. A professional cleaning should be undertaken at least twice yearly.
Additionally, choose the right toothbrush for your specific needs. You should bear in mind the size of your mouth, any dental issues, your age and the sensitivity of your teeth. You should also see your dental care processional who may recommend additional cleaning aids specific to your requirements such as cleaning under bridges/around implants/orthodontic brackets etc.
If using a manual toothbrush, avoid aggressive brushing or scrubbing of teeth. Aggressive brushing leads to gum recession and abrasion to the necks of the teeth, which in time can lead to tooth sensitivity. Try to brush gently and methodically, or if using a sonic toothbrush such as the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Pink edition, hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to your gums and let the unique sonic action remove the plaque without the need for scrubbing.
Also, keep your brush clean between uses. After brushing, run clean water over the toothbrush head to thoroughly remove toothpaste and food debris and make sure to change your brush head every three months to ensure cleaning efficacy.
Question: How often should we be flossing and cleaning our teeth?
Dr. David Dunn: Brush at least twice a day for at least 2 minutes (although the regularity and length of brushing may vary for people with crowded teeth, or have fixed appliances, braces or dentures). Good brushing alone accounts for only approximately 80 percent of the tooth surfaces, so without flossing we are missing some 40 percent of the tooth surfaces and critically, in between the teeth. These areas between the teeth, where brushing alone can't reach, are hence more susceptible to tooth decay and the plaque or bacterial deposits in these areas also importantly contributes to gum disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
Flossing ideally should be undertaken at least once per day but unfortunately, most people don't floss regularly and it is not part of their oral hygiene routine. Some people may have difficulty in flossing for a variety of reasons such as compromised manual dexterity, age, access difficulties, poor restorations etc. New products such as the Philips Sonicare AirFloss Pink make this procedure for patients both easier and faster, and hopefully then it will able to be incorporated into every person's oral hygiene routine.
Question: What can happen if we forgo important tasks such as cleaning and flossing?
Dr. David Dunn: Oral hygiene procedures are only as good as the weakest link, and the weakest link for many people is not flossing or brushing for less than two minutes, twice a day. Dental decay and periodontal (gum) disease have also been linked to a number of health issues including low birth weight in babies, heart disease and diabetes – so regular preventative care is extremely important. Usually, not flossing regularly is put down to -time pressures' and/or it being an -out of sight, out of mind' issue. Since dental disease is rarely painful in its initial stages or that apparent to the lay person, often it is not seen as a high priority issue.
Question: Can you provide your top tips for teaching children about cleaning their own teeth?
Dr. David Dunn: The time pressures of parenthood can mean we can pick up bad brushing habits. These are hard to shake the older we get and they do register with our children. Therefore, it's extremely important, especially as a parent, that we not only look after ourselves properly but also set a good example for the younger generation to take care of our oral health, both personally and with professional care. The essential thing here is to create good habits early on. Ideally, a sonic brush utilised twice a day for 2 minutes should be a habit created from very early in life. It should be non-threatening and made, in the early days, as a fun game that becomes then part of everyday life. Secondly, flossing although more challenging, and requiring higher dexterity, needs to be introduced early for it to be effectively adopted as a habit pattern.
Question: What are the advantages of an electric toothbrush over the traditional method?
Dr. David Dunn: I recommend making the switch from manual brushing to a sonic toothbrush for several reasons:
Increased plaque removal of interproximal areas (between teeth)
Overall increased effectiveness of plaque removal
Bristles are specifically shaped to gum contour
Small/light head for easy access to difficult to reach areas/spaces.
Does not cause damage to the necks of the teeth caused by -scrubbing' with a manual toothbrush. This is due to the -sonic' action not a side to side motion.
The Philips Sonicare is more effective at removing plaque under bridges or other appliances (orthodontic banding) due to sonic action.
Gives a two minute timing indication for brushing duration.
A sonic toothbrush such as the new Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Pink edition is an outstanding option to improve your teeth and gum care. As one of Philips' most advanced sonic toothbrushes to date, it is clinically proven to remove up to seven times more plaque than a manual toothbrush, improve gum health in only two weeks, and whiten teeth in just one week. A built-in timer pauses when a 30-second period has passed to allow you to cover all areas of the mouth effectively, with the brush also turning off at the end of the two-minute cycle.
The Philips Sonicare range also enhances brushing compliance, gives better user control, improves plaque removal, and gives superior protection of your gums, compared to brushing with a manual toothbrush.
We have thoroughly tested all leading brands/types of electric toothbrushes on the market with our patients and found the Philips Sonicare to be the market leader in terms of benefits to oral hygiene – especially in comparison to an electric toothbrush with an oscillating head. The Philips Sonicare is gentler and easier to use.
Question: What do you think Australians like most about Carrie Bickmore's teeth?
Dr. David Dunn: An attractive smile says it all. It instils confidence and self-esteem, improved inter-personal relationships, job success, higher incomes and perceived beauty. Carrie Bickmore's smile displays all of these traits, however, an attractive smile can only be sustainable with good preventative care both individually and professionally.
Question: How can we get whiter teeth, all year round?
Dr. David Dunn: Make regular visits to your dentist, at least twice a year. A good brushing technique is a great start to ensuring better dental health, but regular consultations with your dentist are essential to support your good work, as well as regular appointments with a dental hygienist, who is specially trained to remove plaque and tartar build-up from the tooth surface as well as below the gum where normal brushing and flossing will not reach.
For those considering tooth whitening treatments, Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed, an in-office, light-activated tooth whitening system incorporates Philips' advanced LED whitening technology that is proven to whiten teeth up to eight shades in just one hour. Using blue LED technology that emits the optimal light spectrum, Philips Zoom accelerates and enhances whitening results. Philips Zoom also now offers different intensity settings that allow dentists to make adjustments for patients who may experience sensitivity during the whitening process.
Interview by Brooke Hunter