Ask a dentist


In Australia it takes between five and seven years to become a dentist. We didn’t know that, and we bet you didn’t either, because, honestly, we never aspired to deal with the feral mouths of civilians (/weren’t smart enough). Anyway, half a decade of studying cavities, resolving root canals and dealing with moronic patients on placement before you’re awarded that auspicious ‘Dr’ title is a hell of a long time.

Despite being one of the world’s least desired professions (personally, I think sticking your hand up a monkey butt – see: vet – would be worse) there are some things that only these oral experts can authoritatively advise on.

In the interest of public health, we wanted to save you from Dr Google and got up in Dr Priya Lal’s grill, who, after years of dealing with gum-growths, abscesses and erosion shot straight about everyday teeth and tongue troubles – like how to really solve bad breath and whether it is ever ok to share a toothbrush. (Spoiler alert: it’s not).

How can I get rid of bad breath? 

Treatment of bad breath (halitosis) varies depending on the cause. Brushing twice daily, flossing and gentle tongue brushing are crucial to minimise food particles collecting bacteria. Beyond this, avoid smoking cigarettes (too many toxins and tobacco), mouthwashes that contain alcohol (too drying), garlic and onions, and dehydration (sip water frequently). Sipping water with fresh lemon juice after your morning brush is also beneficial. Also, ask your doctor or dentist whether medications such as antidepressants are causing dry mouth that may lead to bad breath.

Why are my teeth yellow?

Smoking, tea, coffee and red wine are common causes of stained/yellow teeth. Another common cause of yellow teeth is thinning enamel. When enamel wears thin, the layer underneath enamel starts to show through. This second layer, called dentine, is typically yellow in colour. So why does enamel wear thin that you can see though it? Brushing too hard with a hard bristled brush (invest in soft bristle brush) and consuming foods and drinks with a high acid content (drink through a straw, or drink plain water). Avoid brushing straight after eating something acidic as softened enamel when brushed gets worked away quickly.

Why should I get my teeth cleaned every 6 months?

Maintenance.  And so we can check for early signs of oral health problems, such as gum disease, dental cavities (caries) and oral cancer.

Is it okay to share toothbrushes?

One word – No. Sharing a toothbrush is no different to putting a used q-tip in your ear.  If you share a toothbrush, basically anything you’ve put in your mouth within the 12 hours since you last brushed will be transferred to the mouth of the other person. If you find yourself in the rare situation where you must share a toothbrush, boil it in water or soak it in an antiseptic mouthwash.

Why do I get mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers are tender sores that can occur anywhere on the inside of your mouth. The most common causes/triggers are stress, poor dental hygiene, cheek biting, and trauma (sharp/hard foods and hot liquids). They can also develop as a result of infectious diseases such as herpes.

The sores tend to heal on their own within one to two weeks but if they don’t, contact your dentist. Topical anaesthetics may provide temporary relief for painful cold sores and antiseptic mouthwashes can aid in clearing bacteria during healing.

If you’d like a dental question answered, email Dr Priya.

Dr Priya Lal
High Dental
1187 High Street
Armadale VIC 3143

(Image via Shutterstock)

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