Friday, May 16, 2014

A soft toothbrush, floss and mouthwash keep a mouth healthy

My dentist gives me a new toothbrush every time I visit, which is normally every six months. A few years ago he went on a soft toothbrush kick. As I understand it, a small group of Canadian dentists decided they didn't like any of the toothbrushes on the market -- all had bristles which were too thick and too hard, in their estimation. They feared that over time the harsh bristles would damage teeth and gums.

The dentists had a toothbrush manufactured to their specifications. It was a very traditional design. No sharply bent neck, no coloured bristles that fade with use. The big difference between this new toothbrush and all the others in the market were the very thin, soft bristles. My dentist got a number of the first toothbrushes and gave them to his patients. I loved mine. My wife hated hers. A soft bristled toothbrush may or may not be better, the jury is still out, but the ultra soft bristles definitely don't please everyone.

The last time I visited my dentist I got a standard Oral B toothbrush. It claimed to be soft but it was downright hard compared to that special, soft-bristled toothbrush. I tried keeping my old brush but it was clearly worn out. Regretfully I tossed my unique toothbrush.

I take an anticoagulant daily to reduce my risk of stroke. The blood thinner makes bleeding gums more of a problem for me than for the average person. I try to take good care of my gums and my new Oral B toothbrush was too hard. No matter how lightly I brushed my teeth, I had bleeding.

I searched the Internet for a new toothbrush and discovered Colgate is making a brush similar the one given out by my dentist. If anything, the new Colgate SlimSoft toothbrush is a little lighter and slimmer with more bristles than other brush. This is possible because each bristle is thinner and more tapered. I bought a SlimSoft and I love it. I'm going to buy a number. I don't want to run out. I've already watched as one good brush was withdrawn from the market.

When one has had some types of heart valve surgery, the risk of endocarditis, a heart infection, increases. Although endocarditis is rare, affecting less than 20,000 people in the States annually, it is serious. Those affected can die.

I've had the mitral valve in my heart repaired. Whenever I had a dental procedure performed I was required to take 2 grams of amoxicillin an hour prior to my appointment. Taking a walloping big dose of antibiotic to possibly protect one against a very low risk infection is controversial. Personally, I side with those who argue the risks associated with taking a massive dose of amoxicillin are greater than the risk of developing endocarditis from having one's teeth cleaned.

I saw this preventive use as an abuse of a powerful antibiotic. After the first few dental visits, I refused to take the amoxicillin. My dentist allowed me to refuse but I have heard that some dentists told patients that they had a choice: take the meds or take the door.

In the past year or so, the tide has turned. The American Heart Association admits "there is a concern that widespread use of antibiotics for this purpose might contribute to promoting antibiotic resistance, an important issue today, as well as needlessly expose patients to antibiotic side effects such as allergic reactions."

What is agreed upon is that it is important to try and prevent the development of endocarditis. Good oral hygiene, daily brushing and flossing followed by the use of a good mouthwash is believed to offer a fair degree of protection. To this end, I have added a thirty second mouth rinse using Listerine Total Care to my daily oral health ritual.

Total Care is not the only suitable mouthwash but it is the one that I have settled upon. A few years ago Listerine ran into problems when the manufacturer claimed Listerine could replace flossing. It can't.

I know I am at risk of endocarditis but I honestly believe I have lessened that risk by adopting the use of the new Colgate SlimSoft toothbrush and teaming it with the daily use of dental floss followed by a morning and night 30-second cleansing slosh of Listerine Total Care.

At my next check-up the dentist is going to measure the pockets at the base of my teeth. I'll have a better idea at that time of how successful this three tiered assault on periodontal disease has been.
Today was check-up day. My pockets measured mostly 1s and 2s. I had some 3s and two 4s. 4s are bad while 1s and 2s are good. Pretty good for an old geezer in his late 60s. Clearly, I am doing something right.


  1. How about special toothbrushes for braces? Would you recommend this one or perhaps some other product?

  2. Dani:
    I followed your linked name back to Ebraces.org (http://ebraces.org/). You have a good site offering valuable information. I did some research and discovered that a super soft bristled toothbrush with fine tapering may be an excellent choice for someone with braces. I know this sounds like a cop-out but the only way to know if the Colgate SlimSoft meets your needs is to use one. I thought back to the time that our youngest daughter wore braces. I know all too well the problems of food and soft plaque getting trapped in and around the braces. If the SlimSoft had been on the market when my daughter was a young girl wearing braces, I'd have bought her a SlimSoft with instructions to use it morning and night. Good luck. Here is a link to a site recommending a soft bristled brush: http://www.drcatherinefulton.com/current/dental_care.php

  3. The Listerine flossing campaign was unfortunate. I had to convince a friend of mine who thought that Listerine had made a miracle breakthrough not to give up flossing. Luckily she listened, but I always wondered how many people actually gave up flossing and subsequently ended up with dental problems...

    I'm with you on the soft bristles. My gums are sensitive, and some of the hard brushes out there are simply too uncomfortable to use.

  4. Pete:
    I understand the old over-the-top Listerine mouthwash claims were proven false in a court action backed by a major maker of dental floss. Ah, the justice of it all. Do you recall Plax? It is a pre-rinse that was being pushed hard until it was shown sloshing water around one's mouth also rated well in the tests. The New York Times said this about Plax: "Plax offers only modest protection against plaque and gingivitis. Even Advanced Formula Plax, which may show a minor reduction in plaque levels, does not seem to provide any protection against periodontal disease." The Times agrees with me, Listerine is the mouth rinse of choice but this does not mean one can stop flossing. Don't believe those old ads.

  5. I've used Colgate SlimSoft Toothbrush before, it is really comfortable to teeth and gums, it won't make your gums to bleed. The problem with this is that, I feel that it is easy to break, like after a few months you can no longer use it anymore. Would you recommend another type of toothbrush? What about the electrical one?

  6. I can see your criticism. The narrow neck below the bristled head flexes and, although I have not had the problem, I can see the plastic suffering fatigue and snapping. That said, my brush is still going and the thin bristles are holding their shape exceedingly well -- better than most, I'd say. My dentist made me aware of the benefits of a soft bristled brush when he gave me a brush to try that had super soft bristles but was not on the market at the time. I don't believe the company making that particular brush was able to make the jump to being a financial success. Those special brushes distributed by my dentist disappeared and I was forced to comb the market for a replacement. I discovered the SlimSoft and liked it even more than the one given to me by my dentist. I'll try and track down the brush from my dentist and post any info if relevant.

  7. On electric toothbrushes: I understand that electric brushes are fine and some folk do get their teeth cleaner with the electric. But, if you spend enough time brushing manually and do it correctly, simple brushes are as good as the electric ones. If you need the timer and alarm that comes with some electrics to devote enough time to brushing, go for one of those. I have had great results with my SlimSoft, teeth are squeaky clean, I'll stay with it. I'll post the results of my next dental visit. The dentist and the hygienist are going to measure my pockets and check out the health of my gums.