Talking Teeth with Dr. Mike Dolby of Cottonwood DentalBy Amy Larson, Photography by Pete Grady
We may not think too deeply about our pearly whites until there are problems. Then, we think of nothing else.
What can be done daily to ensure natural teeth usage well into the future? We’ve seen those who carry toothbrushes in their totes. Is that really necessary? And, if brushing’s not possible, is sugarless gum a good substitute? If certain foods demineralize teeth, are there other foods (dairy, meats, or nuts containing helpful calcium and phosphorus) that can re-mineralize them?
I presented those questions to Dr. Mike Dolby of Cottonwood Dental.
He says that sugar, the ultimate enemy, converts into enamel-attacking acid, turning smooth, hard surfaces into rough, cavity-bound porous ones. Like sandpaper on glass.
So the toothbrush in the tote idea isn’t sounding so off after all, right? Well, maybe. Dr. Dolby says that although brushing every time after eating might be ideal, it could be overkill for some, since antibodies and saliva work during waking hours to prevent evil bacteria from colonizing into roughed up areas on teeth. Moving our mouths by talking, eating, or drinking delays bad bacteria from doing its job.
Sugarless gum might also be overkill; it could actually be harmful.
Cavities start at night, so brush and floss in the mornings for everyone else, and then brush and floss at night for yourself.
“Acidic flavorings and preservatives can cause erosion,” says Dr. Dolby, “Gum’s fine for salivary flow, but works the devil out of your jaw. In life and in health, everything’s great in moderation. A little’s fine, but exceeding that has the potential to become a problem.”
The same holds true for trying to make up for lost time, and “pressure washing” your teeth.
“Consistency, not tenacity,” he says, “A superharsh scrub for thirty seconds won’t do it, but will do harm.”
What about magical foods that can restore our teeth?
“You don’t have to eat specifically for your hair, your eyes, or your teeth,” says Dr. Dolby, “It’s all the same organism. When we have a balanced diet, everything that’s good for your body is also good for your teeth. Things high in beta carotene like carrots and other fruits and vegetables, eaten in multiple small meals each day, that’s the way to go.”
Dr. Dolby is a fan of H20.
“Water’s great,” he says, which makes sense, since it’s a big part of our body’s makeup. Water disrupts bacteria and keeps mouths moist, which Dr. Dolby says is a big deal. Bacteria thrive in dry environments, and mouth breathing or medications that can dry mean death to teeth, especially at night when teeth are most susceptible. Dr. Dolby stresses that the bulk of our efforts should happen before going to sleep, that way we’re more protected when our mouths shut down overnight.
He tells all of his patients, “Cavities start at night, so brush and floss in the mornings for everyone else, and then brush (for two minutes) and floss at night for yourself.”