Secrets to a Stunning Smile

May 2012 Prof. Scarlet Leslie

James Potter might have been helping Severus Snape when he scourgify-ed his mouth. Sadly, Snape rarely smiled, so there is no way to know if it was effective. You, however, should not be afraid to smile.

Know the Enemy
A cavity forms when bacteria adhere to the plaque on teeth. Food residue incorporates into plaque. When plaque is not removed within 24 hours, it becomes calculus (which is not as fun as the math version) or tartar. Calculus and tartar are much harder to remove.

Watch What You Eat
Certain foods are more likely to cause cavities. For example, foods that contain more than 15% sugar should be avoided. Peanut butter and others that stick to your teeth may increase the chance of plaque build-up. The popcorn that gets stuck between teeth during movies is another food to stay away from.

On the other hand, fruits help wash bacteria away since they contain a lot of water. Foods that require more chewing increase saliva flow in the mouth, which also helps minimize cavities. Milk also helps prevent bacteria from binding to teeth.

Remove Plaque
Brushing teeth at least twice a day is recommended. It is ideal to brush after every meal. Only a gentle scrubbing motion is needed for at least 2 minutes. Of course, there are so many toothbrushes to choose from. The average life of a toothbrush is 3 months. Yes, 3 months. No matter how much the toothbrush is cleaned afterwards, some bacteria will be on it. So, this allows you to try out different types of toothbrushes. Nylon bristles are durable and easier to clean and natural bristles. Soft bristles are better at removing plaque than medium/hard bristles. The later two can damage the surface of teeth.

Flossing is suggested at least once a day. It polishes the tooth surface and reduces gingivitis, or gum disease. There is no difference in the effectiveness of flosses, so waxed/unwaxed or thin/thick or flavoured or even Toothflossing Stringmints can be used. About 18 inches of floss should be used each time.

Choose a Toothpaste
Toothpaste should have an abrasive to remove stains from teeth. Most contain a low concentration abrasive (10-25%), like silicates, dicalcium phosphate, alumina trihydrate, or calcium carbonate. Baking soda is a mild abrasive, but it has not been shown to be any better than other abrasives.

Fluoride is your friend. It helps put minerals back into decaying parts of teeth, makes the teeth stronger, and blocks bacteria. Many countries add fluoride to the public water. Bottled water does not contain fluoride! Fluorinated toothpastes contain sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, or stannous fluoride. However, children under 6 years old should not use fluorinated toothpaste. That is why they get the special bubblegum flavoured ones.

Toothpastes that have tartar-control have zinc chloride, zinc citrate, or soluble pyrophosphates. They will prevent new calculus formation. Triclosan is the only ingredient that can fight gingivitis.

Whitening toothpastes have a higher concentration abrasive, such as titanium dioxide. This only provides a temporary whitening effect. Other products, like whitening strips, contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. Those should not be used for more than 14 days or more than twice a year.

Beating Bad Breath
Bad breath is caused by dry mouth or sulfur compounds from food. The sulfur compounds like to hang out on the back of the tongue. Brushing the tongue is suggested. Some toothbrushes have a built-in tongue cleaning device on the back of the head. Tongue blades are also available.

Mouthwash can be used in addition to, not in place of, brushing teeth. Mouthwash contains 0-27% alcohol that fights bacteria and bad breath. The rinse should remain in the mouth for about 30 seconds. Mouthwash that has zinc salt and/or chlorine dioxide is especially effective for bad breath.

Now you should be well on your way to winning Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award :)