Things I wish I knew about my teeth
Wednesday, 01 May 2024 8:27 AM MYT By Erna Mahyuni

MAY 1 — When my dentist told me I only needed to see him once a year and not the usual every six months, I had mixed feelings.

The Malaysian in me was like, "You don’t want money, ah?”


Apparently my oral hygiene is so good that I didn’t need to go as often.

My dentist even sent me photos of my teeth pre-and-post scaling and the difference was minute, with just some traces of tartar that could be seen (if you squint).

It seemed the extra effort I’d been putting into caring for my teeth paid off.

At the same time there were a lot of things I wished I’d known about tooth care and that more people should know.

1. Brushing your teeth first thing in the morning is good actually

For years I would usually brush my teeth after breakfast. In reality it’s better to do it first thing in the morning — basically giving your mouth a nice clean slate.

2. Wait for at least 30 minutes to one hour after eating to brush

A lot of people think brushing your teeth immediately after eating is the proper way of doing things.

In reality after you eat, as a lot of food we eat have acidic qualities, your teeth are permeated in an acidic layer weakening the enamel.

As the enamel is in a softer, weaker state it’s best to leave your teeth alone for a bit to let your teeth enamel normalise enough.

3. Oral probiotics could be helpful in keeping your mouth and overall health in good condition

Some dentists have started recommending oral probiotics to improve overall dental health and studies have shown that they could even be useful to prevent Covid infection or help ease symptoms

4. You can claim your dental examinations and treatment as a tax relief now

Dental treatment for your parents were previously allowed under tax relief but last year it was announced that starting this year, dental treatments are claimable to up to RM1,000.

To clarify: dental expenses in the year 2024 onward can be claimed so you can add it to your tax filing next year.

You can claim tax relief for yourself, spouse and kids but note it only covers essential treatment such as exams, cleaning and extractions.Treatment considered non-routine or cosmetic such as root canals or crowns are not covered.

If you want to avoid huge dental bills with private clinics there’s no other recourse than preventing issues in the first place and also not putting off going to the dentist if you feel pain, if you can afford it. — Unsplash pic

5. Water flossing is very effective

I don’t like water flossing but boy, do my dentists do. Twice I’ve had dentists remark how clean my teeth are and I credit that to my cheap China-made water flosser.

Though it feels like overkill I still use regular floss but every couple of days I also use a water flosser.

While regular floss can remove bigger chunks between your teeth, water flossing can get under your gum line and also flush out tiny particles that your usual floss didn’t catch.

6. Snacking is probably bad for your teeth too

As a habitual snacker, this brings me no joy. Eating constantly means your teeth are left in a frequent state of weakness due to constantly bathing them in acid. Guess I should lay off the chips.

7. How you brush your teeth matters

I thought I was doing it right all this time but apparently there is a "right” or better method called the Bass method.

Explaining that is beyond my purview so just look it up on YouTube. How was I brushing all this time? Going one tooth a time, swiping for about seven passes which apparently is not very efficient (and also mentally tiring).

8. Good electric toothbrushes don’t have to be expensive

Right now I’m using a not-too-expensive electric toothbrush that uses sonic technology instead of the more expensive kind Oral B sells.

Why electric and not manual? The reality is that electric toothbrushes are just more efficient and use ideal pressure. Many people are prone to putting either too little pressure or too much, which means your teeth don’t get cleaned as well.

Teeth issues can cause other issues — tooth infections can seep into the bloodstream and cause sepsis among other dangerous medical conditions and preventative healthcare will save you money in the long run.

It can be tricky getting an appointment with a public healthcare dental clinic due to high demand, and the reality is also that they are lacking as far as the scope of dental work they’re able to perform.

Public healthcare dentists have to see a large number of patients thus appointments are kept short, and you usually will get only one tooth treated at a time so bad luck if you have multiple cavities that need fillings.

If you want to avoid huge dental bills with private clinics there’s no other recourse than preventing issues in the first place and also not putting off going to the dentist if you feel pain, if you can afford it.

Hopefully my experience will help people who would like to save money in the long run on dental work, tax relief or no.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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