Sugar Before Bed? By Laurenn Schecter #wellbeingwednesday
In The Beginning…
Little did I know, or realize that my nightly eating habits would be so appalling to my new husband at the time. Just having married a dentist, I didn’t even think twice about changing how I took care of my teeth. A seemingly innocent habit (not that I did it every night) made my man gasp as we got into bed. I reached over to my bedside table, pulled out a bag of Twizzlers, and began munching away. “sugar this late?” he proclaimed. And I sort of laughed it off, and so did he did at the time. We continued our evening and when I returned the bag of candy, turned off the lights and tried to snuggle in for the night, he almost jumped up in shock “you forgot to brush your teeth!”. However, I didn’t forget. I can now admit (timidly) that for years I didn’t always brush my teeth before I went to bed. I couldn’t start my day in the morning without brushing first thing but brushing before bed was never a huge necessity. I was blessed with what I thought of was good, strong teeth. I have only had one cavity and for a sugar junky who didn’t always brush and floss twice a day, I consider myself lucky. Yes, having cavity free teeth is partly hereditary and partly because microbes passed from mouth to mouth. In other words, if you had a parent who had an unhealthy mouth full of microbes and bacteria when you were a child, they most likely passed those on to you.
The look on my husbands face that night when he couldn’t believe that I was not only not brushing before bed, but that I had just eaten pure white sugar that will sit on my teeth all night as I slept was the night that I gained an awareness of better oral hygiene protocols. That night I brushed before bed. That was also the last night that I ate candy in bed (at least when my husband was there with me). As time passed, I watched him as he used the best electric toothbrush with a chalky grey unappealing toothpaste that was “natural”, brushed two if not three times a day, and actually brushed for a full 2 or 3 minutes. When you live with someone who does this in a manner that is so common sense and fundamental to taking care of teeth, you begin to adopt similar habits (or at least I did). We now have three young children who brush, floss and use our cavity guard without any fights or struggles (this is probably the only thing they do that doesn’t involve a war – I don’t want to have you thinking that we have perfect children in any way whatsoever). They see it, they model it, and they want to do it. They love taking care of their teeth, understand why it is fundamental and important to overall health and think that it is fun. My middle child woke up the other day asking if he can come and get a cleaning from one of our hygienists (he is 3).
Here are some rules I live by and what my oral hygiene routine looks like today:
The three types of toothpaste we use in our family are Theodent, Dental Herb Company + Shecs Ozone Oil. Personally I use DHC. This is the chalky grey paste that used to be totally unappealing to me. Coming from brushing with toxic, sugary blue sparkly Crest toothpaste filled with fluoride and other god knows what ingredients, I slowly transitioned to this natural healing paste and now would never be able to go back. The kids are obsessed with Theodent as the kids version is actually chocolate, smells like chocolate and tastes like it. I have to keep it high up or they will literally suck the tube down. Shecs Ozone oil is what my kids brush with in the morning but it requires a bit more dedication and not caring that it does not taste so great at all, but is super antimicrobial and antibacterial.
I try to brush for 2 minutes. This is quite a long time to brush for but when you get into the habit, it becomes commonplace. In our house, we don’t keep toothbrushes in the bathroom or don’t brush in the bathroom. We make it more of a regular habit that can be done anywhere and at anytime. For the kids, we like to count each section of teeth and this way they know when it will be done and is sort of rhythmic and predictable for them, which kids always like. Try playing your favourite song while you brush if you need a structured time frame to help you get through it or download an app that is related to brushing time. If you want to make the switch, time yourself now – you may be brushing for longer than you think, however the average person brushes for a total of 30 seconds, which isn’t long enough. The new electric toothbrushes have timers on them with multiple settings and make it easier for users to get to the 2 minute mark. I sometimes brush for even longer if I am walking around the house cleaning up as I do – until I have toothpaste starting to seep out and have to get to a sink!
Many people brush as soon as they wake up. I do. I can’t seem to wake up without doing so. However, brushing should happen after breakfast since you want to clear any food and bacteria away before going about your day. Ideally, if you have time and need to brush upon waking, you should try to get one brush in after your breakfast too. Even if its just a quick dry brush, get that coffee, orange juice or any other sugars from your breakfast off of your teeth before you begin your day. In our house, our kids get their teeth brushed as a last step before leaving. Sometimes they are even in their snowsuits and hats before we brush their teeth.
At night, make brushing the last thing you do. In our house, my husband doesn’t even let the kids have a sip of tea after brushing. Only water. He also doesn’t let the kids eat for at least 30 minutes before brushing. If a food is acidic (lemons) brushing straight after consuming may actually strip enamel away from the teeth and do more damage than good. We usually brush our kids teeth when they are in bed, relaxed, right before reading books and bring up the whole kit (brushes, paste, floss, cavity guard).
The new Oral B Genius electric toothbrush is the way to go! It’s more pricey but again, sold at Schecter Dental at cost or can most likely be found online or at discount stores such as Costco. If you don’t want to spend so much on your brush, Dr Tungs ionic toothbrush is another great option. The bristles are soft and the negative ions pull bacteria away from the teeth which is always beneficial. For kids, Therawise children’s toothbrushes are always a winner. Kids love the colourful animals and what’s great is that if you have two or three small children, each one gets a different colour and there will be no confusion as to whose brush belongs to whose. These brushes are also negative ionic brushes and are said to require no paste, although it is always better to add a bit of paste to the brushes for an even better clean and fresher breath.
Toothbrushes should be cleaned often. The electric brushes usually come with 3 or 4 replacement heads and can always be purchased as time goes on. Brushes should be replaced every 4 or 5 months or at the very least cleaned really well. You can clean your brush by soaking it in soapy water or even water and vinegar and then rinsed really well. You should also change your brush or your brush head after you have been sick. Brushes should also be given a rinse before each use and after brushing. Try not to keep your toothbrushes in the bathroom or at least keep them away from toilets. Believe it or not, debris from flushing sets particles flying up in the air and the last place you want those particles to land is on the surface of your brush. In my house, we keep toothbrushes on a shelf in the kitchen and they are easily accessible since its the last thing we do in the morning before leaving the house.
What’s the deal? Recently there was a stir in the world of dentistry where claims were made that flossing doesn’t hold much research behind it. Whether that’s the case or not, flossing is extremely beneficial to stopping decay and build up between your teeth. Next time you floss, see what comes out. Pay attention to where your teeth are tight and how much food and junk you can get out. You may be surprised at the hidden treasures that are sitting there. Do you really want that in your mouth all day? It won’t necessarily fall out on its own, but rather turn into plaque and decay that will lead to problematic carries.
I will admit that I was never a flosser. Only until recently. My trick: I keep floss all over my house. I have some in my purse, I have some in the bathroom, in the kitchen, by the couch and on my bedside table. I usually grab it when I turn on the TV or after I eat something that I know will be stuck in my teeth like kale chips or popcorn. I can now actually feel when minor particles of food are stuck between my teeth and I always have that dental clean feeling after flossing. I have come to love it! I opt for a non plastic, non toxic floss – because of course, like everything else dental related, most floss has a plastic toxic coating that is not helping your health or our environment. We love Dr. Tungs floss.
Everyone in my house flosses, even my 2 year old. We floss for them, of course, but they love trying it out. They love pulling out the floss, cutting it off and pretending to be the dentist and floss my teeth. Again, it is surprising what you will find comes out between those little teeth – especially at the back of their mouth. It takes such little time and yes, it may be a fight at first, but if you model it and make it fun and not into a big deal, hopefully over time, your kids will come to use it and understand the benefit (especially if they have had a cavity and don’t want to experience that again).
I have used this word a few times here. Cavity guard is an iodine based paint that we have created at Schecter Dental. It is a dark maroon colour and comes in a nail polish bottle. Iodine has much research behind it and cuts the rate of decay in children and in adults. My children are allowed to pain it on their floss. They do this with my help as it may stain if it gets on clothes or bedding (since we do this in their bedrooms). Painting iodine on floss is the best way to get it in between the teeth and prevent decay where it seems to lurk the most. We do this every night. We also paint it on the teeth once a week. The literally take the brush from the bottle and paint it over the surface of the teeth. They love this activity and love running to the mirror every time to see how they look with dark maroon paint in their mouth. I often forget to put this on my own teeth so if my kids ask to paint my teeth, I happily let them.
A tongue cleaner is actually super beneficial. I try to brush my tongue a few times at the end of my brushing cycle, however a tongue scraper can remove much more debris sitting on the surface of your tongue. Once you start, you may get addicted and not want to stop – this is a good thing! I don’t use a tongue scraper on my kids, although it would probably be a good idea, even one scrape or so a night. For myself, I absolutely love it and what comes off is scary. Try it… I promise you will love it, and it only takes a few seconds.
Activated Charcoal and Coconut Oil Pulling:
I do these from time to time and go in phases of being diligent about it to not doing it at all. See our previous blog post for more info on activated charcoal and how it can act as a natural teeth whitener.
Change is difficult but once a habit is implemented, it can become so simple and beneficial to your health and wellness, you will wonder why you weren’t doing it all along. If I can go from keeping candy in my bedside table to replacing it with floss, so can you!
I would love to hear your concerns, questions or comments about basic brushing routines, habits, or how to help your family implement better oral hygiene techniques. Be in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a comment on this post