Are We Better off without Toothpaste?

Daily Mail (London), September 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

Are We Better off without Toothpaste?


Byline: ANASTASIA STEPHENS

CLEANING teeth with a dry toothbrush and no toothpaste could be the most effective way of fighting tooth decay, according to a startling new study.

An eccentric technique, called 'dry brushing', developed in the U.S.

involves brushing the teeth with a soft dry toothbrush with the mouth held wide open so the brush is not wet by saliva.

That, say researchers, could be one of the biggest advances in fighting decay in years.

When tested on 128 people in Arizona over six months, researchers found that plaque deposits on their back teeth dropped by more than two thirds, compared with plaque build-up found on their teeth before the dry-brushing regimen began.

Bleeding due to gum disease also fell by 50 pc compared to previous levels.

Trisha O'Hehir, dental hygienist of Perio Report, an Arizona-based dental research company which conducted the trial, says the technique is effective because of the dry surface of the toothbrush bristles.

'It seems that if a toothbrush is kept dry, it is better at "wiping away" and scouring off built-up bacterial plaque,' she says. 'Since toothpaste is not used, it could also be that people are encouraged to brush their teeth more thoroughly.' Once dry brushing is complete, saliva containing natural antibacterial agents helps to keep plaque in control.

Importantly, the technique could help tackle periodontal disease or inflammation of the gums, which afflicts more than 25 pc of the population.

THE condition, which can occur at any age, is caused by poor oral hygiene and sloppy brushing. Bacteria accumulate around the gums causing inflammation and bleeding. Unless removed, they release toxins that destroy ligaments holding the tooth in place. Bone tissue is also lost, and unless treated, the afflicted teeth can fall out.

'In trials, the incidence of gum bleeding fell by half,' says Ms O'Hehir.

'This is probably because without toothpaste people were far more conscious of their brushing technique. They knew they couldn't rely on the effects of toothpaste, they could see their teeth and spent longer at brushing.' For full effect, she gives the following recommendations: * TEETH should be brushed in a way that avoids contact with saliva. The 90-second routine should begin with brushing the inner surfaces of the bottom row of teeth. …

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