A few posts ago I complained about the conflicting advice we have been receiving on the life and death matter of healthy diets. I would like to do something similar in this post and complain about the feeble advice we have been receiving on a closely related matter: dental health.
Check this Guardian article dealing with how to look after one’s teeth. Notice anything odd?
I did. For as long as I remember, I recall being told to brush my teeth as quickly as possible after eating, so as to reduce the time during which nasty bacteria + nasty chemicals in the food I ate get to spend munching over my teeth. That advice seemed particularly useful when drinking Coke: don’t let Coke’s acidic nature ruin your teeth, rush off and brush them!
Now, however, we are told differently. We are told that by brushing our teeth immediately following the consumption of acidic foods (not just Coke; also most fruits), we are meant to wait a while before brushing our teeth. Otherwise we are at risk of not only brushing the acid and junk, but also brushing our teeth’s own protective layer away! How long is “a while”? Depending on who you read, that period ranges from twenty minutes to one hour.
So yeah, I have a problem with that. A couple of problems, actually:
- I understand that, as we learn more, health recommendations can change. Science is constantly evolving. However, if we do have this knowledge now, why isn’t it commonplace? Why aren’t dentists all over the world actively advising us on the correct scheduling of our teeth brushing activities?
- In order to protect our teeth during those times we are not allowed to brush them, we are told to rinse our mouths with water or – better yet – fluoride rich mouthwash. Cool.
However, last time I looked, the fluoride rich mouthwashes available to consumers are dominated by brands such as Listerine. Have a look here at the history of Listerine and you will note it served many purposes before focusing on its current marketing incarnation of mouthwash. More specifically, it contains quite a lot of alcohol, a substance we have good reasons to avoid gurgling in our mouths for minutes a day. In other words, there are pretty good medical reasons for consumers to avoid washing their mouths with the mouthwash solutions available to them.