What have pharmacists got to do with dental care? No, they don't have any plans to start doing root canals! Your pharmacist can, however, help you keep your teeth healthy between visits to your dentist.
Plaque is a transparent film composed of harmful bacteria and food residue, which can be removed by brushing your teeth and using dental floss. If plaque is not removed from the surface of your teeth regularly, it will form tartar. Tartar is hard and can only be removed with a dental curette.
When plaque comes into contact with the sugars contained in food, acids are formed that destroy the tooth and cause cavities. Moreover, the bacteria contained in plaque produce substances that can irritate the gums, causing gingivitis. The symptoms of gingivitis are redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums. If tartar is left to accumulate inside the gums as well as on the teeth, the problem can become more serious and periodontitis may develop, possibly resulting in the loss of teeth.
"Brush your teeth after every meal and use dental floss every day." You've no doubt heard this often enough from your dentist. Now you are hearing it from your pharmacist: Your arsenal against tooth decay consists of a fresh toothbrush (replaced every 3 months), the right toothpaste (see below) and a supply of dental floss. Your dentist will show you the proper technique for using your toothbrush and dental floss in order to dislodge the food that gets trapped between your teeth where cavities tend to form. Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush since hard bristles merely irritate the gums further.
Tip: One easy way to reduce plaque is to eat hard food, such as an apple or raw vegetable, at the end of a meal; it will help clean your teeth.
Medications and plaque
Certain types of medication can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth, thus promoting the production of plaque. These medications include allergy products, decongestants, certain antidepressants, and diuretics. Ask your pharmacist whether your medication promotes tooth decay; you may need to brush and floss more frequently or even have your teeth professionally cleaned more often while taking the medication...
Pregnancy and gingivitis
Pregnant women are more prone to gingivitis; if your are pregnant, be sure to brush and floss your teeth after every meal. Ask your dentist whether you should be having your teeth professionally cleaned several times during your pregnancy.
Toothpastes: the right stuff
It has been proven that toothpaste with fluoride helps to prevent cavities. Fluoride hardens tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. So brush regularly with fluoride-containing toothpaste. Happily, most toothpaste brands contain this important ingredient. Only a small quantity of toothpaste (the size of a pea or a grain of rice for a child) is needed for each brushing. Don't go overboard. In order to enhance their cleaning action, toothpastes contain varying amounts of abrasive ingredients. These ingredients can also wear down the enamel. Use one with a suitable amount of abrasive material according to your age and the condition of your teeth. Ask your pharmacist or dentist to help you choose the toothpaste that is right for you.
Some people's teeth, particularly those of the elderly, may become sensitive to heat, cold, or touch. For sensitive teeth, use so-called "desensitizing" toothpastes (e.g., Crest™ for sensitive teeth, Aquafresh™ sensitive, Sensodyne™).
Dental care and children
Begin cleaning your child's teeth as soon as they start coming in. Start with a clean damp washcloth and graduate to a soft-bristled children's brush once the teeth are all in. The number one thing to look for in a toothpaste for your child is fluoride. While fluoride is known to be good for teeth, however, it is definitely not good to eat and can be toxic taken in large doses. Unfortunately, the tasty toothpastes that some children prefer (e.g., bubblegum flavoured gel) tempt children to swallow them. Thus parents should make sure that their children under the age of 6 only brush with small quantities of fluoridated toothpaste: remember the size of a grain of rice is enough for a child.
Ask your pharmacist to evaluate whether your child needs to take a fluoride supplement. Depending on the amount of fluoride contained in the water used by the child each day and the child's age, he or she may benefit from one. If a supplement (e.g., Karidium™, Triviflor™, Trivisol™ with fluoride) is recommended, remember that it is toxic in large doses.
Tip: Benzocaine-based gels (e.g., Anbesol™, Oragel Baby™) can be safely applied to relieve baby's painful gums caused by teeth coming in . The effect, however, is short lived.
Mouthwash is often used to control bad breath. It can also be used to fight plaque and help reduce the risk of gingivitis and bleeding gums. But its use is limited. It does not replace brushing and the time period during which the mouthwash is in contact with the teeth is too short for a lasting effect.