Things I wish I knew about my teeth

May 1—When my dentist told me I would only have to see him once a year instead of my usual every six months, I had mixed emotions.

The Malaysian in me is like, “You don’t want the money, huh?”



Apparently my oral hygiene is pretty good so I don't need to go that often.

My dentist even sent me pictures of my teeth before and after the cleaning, and the difference was minimal, with only some traces of tartar visible (if you squinted).

Looks like the extra effort I put into dental care paid off.

At the same time, there are a lot of things I wish I knew about dental care, and I wish more people knew.

1. The first thing in the morning is actually brushing your teeth.

For years, I would brush my teeth after breakfast. In fact, it's best to do it first thing in the morning—basically getting your mouth clean again.

2. Wait at least 30 minutes to 1 hour after a meal before brushing your teeth

Many people think that brushing their teeth immediately after eating is the right way to do things.

In fact, after eating, since many of the foods we eat are acidic, the acidic layer penetrates the teeth and weakens the enamel.

Since the enamel is in a softer, weaker state, it is best to let the tooth sit for a while to allow the enamel to fully normalize.

3. Taking probiotics by mouth helps maintain good oral and overall health

Some dentists have begun recommending oral probiotics to improve overall dental health, and research suggests they may even be used to prevent COVID-19 infection or help relieve symptoms

4. You can now claim dental exams and treatments as tax deductions

Previously, parents' dental treatment was tax-deductible, but last year it was announced that starting this year, claims for dental treatment would be capped at a maximum of RM1,000.

To clarify: Dental expenses from 2024 onwards can be claimed so you can add them to next year's tax return.

You can claim tax relief for yourself, your spouse and your children, but be aware that it only covers basic treatments such as check-ups, cleanings and tooth extractions.

If you want to avoid paying hefty dental bills in a private clinic, you have no choice but to prevent problems in the first place and, if you can afford it, don't put off going to the dentist when you're in pain. — Unsplash Image

5. Water flossers are very effective

I don't like water flossing, but my dentist does. Twice the dentist commented on how clean my teeth were, which I attributed to my cheap Chinese-made water flosser.

Although it feels like overkill, I still floss regularly, but I also use water floss every few days.

While regular floss can remove larger chunks between teeth, water floss can get below the gum line and remove tiny particles that regular floss can't catch.

6. Eating snacks may also be harmful to your teeth

As a habitual snacker, this doesn't bring me any joy. Constantly eating means your teeth are constantly in a weakened state from being constantly bathed in acid. I think I should give up my chips.

7. How to brush your teeth is important

I thought I had always done it right, but apparently there is a “right” or better way called the Bass method.

It's beyond my purview to explain, so just look it up on YouTube. How have I been brushing during this time? Brushing one tooth at a time, about seven times, is obviously not very effective (and mentally tiring).

8. A good electric toothbrush doesn’t have to be expensive

Now I use a less expensive electric toothbrush that uses sonic technology instead of the more expensive one sold by Oral-B.

Why electric instead of manual? The reality is that electric toothbrushes are simply more efficient and use the ideal amount of pressure. Many people tend to apply too little pressure or too much pressure, which means the teeth don't get cleaned either.

Dental problems can lead to other problems — dental infections can leak into the bloodstream and lead to sepsis and other dangerous medical conditions. Preventive health care will save you money in the long run.

Appointments at public health dental clinics can be difficult due to high demand and the reality is that they lack the range of dental work they can perform.

Public health dentists have to see large numbers of patients, so appointment times are short, and you can usually only treat one tooth at a time, so if you have multiple cavities that need filling, you're out of luck.

If you want to avoid paying hefty dental bills in a private clinic, you have no choice but to prevent problems in the first place and, if you can afford it, don't put off going to the dentist when you're in pain.

Hopefully my experience will help anyone who wants to save money long term on dental treatment, tax deduction or no tax deduction.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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