A growing body of research has demonstrated that brushing and flossing with a fluoride-free toothpaste and brushing your teeth with a high-quality fluoride-containing toothpaste are safe and effective ways to prevent dental decay.
In Australia, where most people have never brushed their teeth with fluoride, dentists are being urged to start brushing and brushing again after an international study revealed that brushing with a toothpaste with a low fluoride concentration had no effect on plaque growth in the mouth.
Dr Tony Daley, an orthodontist and lecturer in dentistry at the University of Queensland, said that a low-fiber toothpaste was likely to increase the risk of tooth decay, but he urged people to use a fluoride toothpaste that was low in fluoride.
“The good news is that there is some evidence that toothpaste can reduce plaque in the body, and if you have a good-quality toothpaste, then you can be brushing your mouth and brushing it very regularly,” he said.
“But, if you don’t have a high quality toothpaste … you could be brushing very often and that can lead to more plaque growth.”
Dental caries are a problem in many parts of Australia, but the prevalence of dental carious disease has been growing rapidly in recent years.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) reported in February that in 2014, the number of dental patients with caries rose by 20 per cent.
In Queensland, the caries rate rose by 12 per cent in 2016.
“It is probably the most important new report we’ve done on the issue,” Dr Daley said.
“It shows that toothpastes can reduce the risk that plaque will form on teeth.”
Dr Daley told ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program that a toothbrush could help prevent cavities and dental carie by helping to prevent plaque from forming in the first place.
“In the long run, the benefit of brushing is to reduce the amount of plaque that’s forming in your mouth,” he explained.
“That’s because when you brush your teeth, your saliva breaks down plaque, and when you’re brushing, you’re also absorbing fluoride.”
Dr John Sargent, a dentist and associate professor at the Queensland School of Dental Medicine, said the study showed that brushing was “a very good option”.
“I think that for those people that are brushing a lot, they’re probably doing it every day,” Dr Sarget said.
Dr Sargeth said that brushing the whole mouth was important, and that “a lot of the plaque can be washed away by your mouth.”
“It’s really important to wash your mouth, because when the saliva is in your teeth and your saliva is going into your mouth it’s actually removing all the plaque, so it’s really beneficial for your dental health,” he added.
Dr Dyson said that “infectious diseases” were the reason why the use of fluoride toothpaste was becoming more common.
“If you have infectious diseases like the flu, and you have plaque forming, and there’s a lot of plaque in your toothpaste — especially for younger people — that’s probably the first thing that you want to do to try to prevent that plaque,” he told RN Breakfast.
“Because it’s just that there’s just so much plaque in that mouth and it can really make it difficult to clean the mouth.”
Dr Sargon said that the research showed that people were “getting away with not brushing their teeth”.
“We need to get back to brushing our teeth, and people should definitely be doing that, especially for children,” he continued.
“We’ve been told that brushing your toothbrush is like brushing your nails, and brushing them will stop the tooth decay.”
Dr Peter Riddell, a dental hygienist and head of the Department of Dentistry at Mount Isa Hospital, said it was “time to get brushing back in”.
“If we were to stop brushing teeth, we would be going backwards in our understanding of the disease and the consequences,” he advised.
“People are brushing their toothbrush too often.
We need to encourage people to brush their teeth, especially children, so they can get the benefits of brushing their mouths.”
Dr Riddel said that, in Australia, “people brush their own teeth, they don’t buy toothpaste” because it’s “not very expensive”.
“So, people don’t think about dental decay, they brush their friends’ teeth,” he stressed.
Dr Rison said that when it came to the fluoride problem, “it is like you’re in the middle of the road”.
“You can take the wrong road, you can make the wrong decision, you could get in a serious car accident and be killed,” he urged.
If we want to help prevent tooth decay in Australia and make sure that our children don’t get caries and don’t end up in hospital,