Dental Care Products: An Overview – Part 1
[Editor’s Note: This article is part one of a three part series. You can also read part two and part three.]
The variety of choices we have for dental care products has grown rapidly in the past one hundred years. Some time-tested tools have achieved classic status. The toothbrush and toothpaste come immediately to mind. But the list hardly ends there.
Today, we have electric toothbrushes, water flossers, gum stimulators, whitening products, and denture preparations.
In this three part series we’re going to dig into the details about dental care products.
Part one of our dental care products tour will look at toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash.
The history of the toothbrush goes all the way back to at least 5000 years before the current era (BCE), according to Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S. It all started, he says, with the index finger, which people eventually replaced with “chewing sticks,” a name for the twigs that people simply chewed on. These were first used in ancient Babylonia around 3500-3000 BCE.
Now, flash forward all the way to the 1930s. That’s when the toothbrush, as we know it, finally arrived on the scene thanks to the invention of nylon, which quickly found its way into toothbrushes in the form of bristles.
What it does: Toothbrushes help scrape away food particles and plaque, the film that forms on teeth after eating, which is the primary cause of tooth decay.
Why it’s important: Aside from the fact that chewing on twigs is kind of gross, a sturdy, modern toothbrush is the first and best way to keep your teeth clean and healthy.
Who should use it: Only people who want to keep their teeth.
With electricity came a whole flood of inventions that just as quickly disappeared or never even saw the light of day. We’re thinking, for example, of Thomas Edison’s epic fail, the electric pen, which, rather than push ink, poked holes. (Seriously, you can look it up.) The electric toothbrush, on the other hand, is here to stay.
What it does: Just what a manual toothbrush does, but with far less manual work on your part.
Why it’s important: According to Consumer Reports, it might not be all that important. “In the past, Consumer Reports has said electric and manual toothbrushes are equally effective as long as you brush teeth thoroughly for 2 minutes, twice a day. An electric toothbrush may help, however, if you have arthritis or a dexterity problem that makes thorough brushing difficult.”
Who should use it: Anyone who is able to use a manual toothbrush should be able to use an electric one. Kids, of course, may need a little help at first. And if arthritis or another problem affects your ability to use a manual toothbrush, an electric brush may be just what you need.
When did toothpaste make it’s first appearance, you ask? According to Dr. Connelly, “ancient Egyptians were making a ‘tooth powder’ as far back as 5000 BC.” This tooth powder, he says was the first toothpaste. It “consisted of ash from ox hooves, myrrh, eggshell fragments and pumice,” he notes. Tasty.
What it does: Like soap, toothpaste lubricates and traps dirt – food particles, plaque, and other germs, in this case – so they can be rinsed away more easily, leaving the teeth clean, or at least cleaner than before.
Why it’s important: While brushing goes a long way toward getting teeth clean, brushing with toothpaste can be an even more effective combination. Dentists recommend you use toothpaste with fluoride.
Who should use it: Just about everyone. Talk with your dentist about the right type for you and your family members.
How did there get to be so many rinses to choose from? And how can you narrow it down to make the best choice?
Well, it may help to know that there are three basic categories of mouthwash: antiseptic rinses, mouthwashes that contain fluoride, and ones that offer cosmetic benefits.
What they do: The antiseptic type is intended to help fight tooth decay. It attacks plaque, the film of bacteria that would otherwise build up on the surface of your teeth. Mouthwashes with fluoride also help fight tooth decay. However, they work by making the enamel surfaces of your teeth resist plaque better. Finally, the cosmetic mouthwashes do little more than mask bad breath, though they may taste or feel refreshing as well.
Why it’s important: Using a dental rinse may be very important in some cases, and it may not be recommended at all in other situations.
Who should use it: Depending on a person’s situation and whom you ask, the question whether to use a daily mouthwash or oral rinse may have different answers.
Unlike toothbrush and toothpaste, there is some leeway for when and if to use mouthwash as part of a dental hygiene routine. So, it’s important to discuss mouthwash use with your dentist.
The Dental Care Products Overview as Just Begun
Today, many dental care products vie for our attention. We’re all pretty familiar with the top 3 covered in this post. However, do you know what all those other products are for, why they’re important, or who should be using them?
To learn more, read part two and part three of our dental care product overview.