2020/21 had us thinking a LOT about hygiene. But can you ever go too far? I spoke with Dr Heath Fraser to find out.
Sophie Hanson spends a lot of time thinking about weird things. And she’s pretty sure you do, too. In her new column, Serious Question, Soph will explore the health questions you’ve always wanted to know the answer to, but never knew how to ask, like when you lose fat, where does it go? And, what is the lifespan of a bath towel?
Think about your attitude towards hand sanitiser and bench spray that kills 99 percent of bacteria before the pandemic. Now think about them in the Covid era. Yes, we’ve turned into a society of germaphobes but as is true with most things in life, you can overdo it.
That goes for your oral hygiene, too. Brushing too much, flossing too hard, and using alcohol-based mouthwash (we’ll get to that later) can serious disrupt your oral microbiome. In other words, your breath can be too fresh.
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“Oral microbiome is the ‘community’ of microorganisms that live within the oral cavity,” says Dr. Heath Fraser, dentist and founder of national dental service comparison site AirSmile.
“After the gut, it’s the second biggest microbiota in the human body with well over 700 different types of bacteria, as well as fungi and viruses.”
While that might sound like you want to nuke it into oblivion, but “the ‘healthy’ microbiome has the function of warding off the nasty bugs that cause disease and inflammation.”
Bad breath can be attributed to a range of things. It’s usually due to bacteria-producing gases (cute little bacteria farts) within the oral cavity and sinuses. Plaque buildup on the tongue, diet, dry mouth, gum disease, and even tonsil stones can cause bad breath.
“A good practice to reduce or prevent bad breath is to use a tongue scraper daily,” says Dr. Heath.
“See your dentist to ensure you’re not suffering from gum disease or infections and review your diet and hydration to keep your saliva healthy.”
On the topic of alcohol-based mouthwashes, Dr. Heath says they’re really not necessary provided you’re already on top of your brushing and flossing. It certainly shouldn’t replace those two, and some dentists believe the alcohol, as an antimicrobial, can actually kill off the good bacteria in your mouth.
But when it comes to day-to-day looking after our teeth, Dr. Heath’s advice is what you should know already.
“Brush your twice a day and do at least one type of interdental cleaning daily (interdental brushes or floss),” he says.
“A good tip to follow – don’t rinse your toothpaste out after spitting it out. Try to leave a small residual amount behind so you get the protection of the fluoride.”
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