Ask the expert is a regular Top Santé advice column answering your questions about all aspects of health, fitness, beauty, and wellbeing. Here, Dr Uchenna Okoye, cosmetic dentist at London Smiling Group (londonsmiling.com) and founder of MySmile toothpaste, answers some questions about caring for your teeth. Find her @druchennaokoye.
Q: Whenever I floss, my gums bleed and it hurts. How can I stop this from happening. Is flossing worth doing?
A: Your gums shouldn’t be bleeding when you floss and if they are, it could be due to a number of things. Sometimes it is your technique, but this is actually rare as most of us are quite gentle. Usually, if your gum bleeds it is a warning sign that there is gum disease present.
Red for danger and the same applies to your mouth. In the early days, it is called gingivitis and this is totally reversible. As it progresses, it becomes periodontitis, which is more serious. So basically, the mantra is ‘the more it bleeds, the more you clean’.
I also recommend the little TePe sticks. It is important to get the right size for you and a dentist or hygienist can advise you on this. I would also make an appointment to see a hygienist and get a good clean and oral check-up.
Flossing is definitely worth it. I always say ‘floss the teeth you want to keep’ as it is as essential as brushing your teeth to remove debris and stop plaque building up. Your toothbrush can’t reach all those bits that get stuck in your teeth, but floss can.
Q I grind my teeth in my sleep. Are there any treatments that can help with this?
A: Over the past year, I’ve seen a marked increase in patients now grinding their teeth and many don’t even realise they do it, though some do as they have headaches and even face and jaw pain.
There are many reasons for grinding teeth, but most often it’s stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders. For some people, especially those who are on antidepressants SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), grinding can also be a side effect.
The good news is that treatments are really simple. Some people will try mouth guards, though I don’t recommend soft ones as these often make the situation worse.
The best thing you can do is go to a dentist who will make a splint. This is created and designed specifically with an impression and it works by evening out the pressure across the jaw and by relaxing the jaw muscles.
It acts as a soft barrier between teeth, so you grind plastic rather than teeth. As muscles relax, headaches etc also improve. They can last for a few years and cost between £400 to £900, depending on the type and complexity of the case.