Dr. Thomas Connelly Talks Teeth
We will be the first to admit that on our long list of health and grooming tasks, sometimes our teeth are an afterthought. Sad but true. But because we are determined to make dental maintenance a priority this year, it seemed like the ideal time to talk teeth with an expert. Enter Dr. Thomas Connelly, who, besides running a practice on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for nearly twenty years, has also delved into the world of oral healthcare products—he launched the 32 Effervescent Breath Treatment with IsoVoxy last year, and this May marks the release of 32 SNO, a new home whitening system. Here, Connelly answers a few of our pressing teeth-related questions.
Do we really need to spring for an electric toothbrush? Does it do that much better of a job than the old-school variety?
The truth is you do not have to if you are willing to spend two full minutes brushing adequately. Most of us live our lives in fast-forward and spend only about thirty seconds brushing, and thirty seconds with an electric toothbrush is far better than thirty seconds with a manual toothbrush. So the choice is yours.
Let’s talk halitosis (aka bad breath): No one wants it, but unfortunately, it’s a reality for many. What causes it and what can we do to prevent it?
Bad breath has been a documented concern since ancient Greek and Roman times. Oral malodor can be classified into two basic categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic oral malodor originates from the ingestion of substances (such as cheese, garlic, tobacco) that contain malodorous compounds. The duration of extrinsic malodor is proportional to the amount and frequency of ingestion of the offending substances and the amount of time required to “wash out” the malodorous substances. Intrinsic malodor has its origin within the individual, and is most commonly caused by substances produced by bacteria in the oral cavity. Anaerobic bacteria found in the rear folds of the tongue are believed to generate the VSCs (volatile sulfur compounds = bad breath). The main cause of oral malodor is the putrefaction of sulfur-containing protein substances, predominately by gram-negative bacteria. The human nose is highly sensitive to sulfur, so bad breath when present is very easy to detect. “Morning breath” has been attributed to the overnight putrefaction of food deposits, salivary deposits, and other types of oral accumulation and debris. This is why the best time to really clean your mouth, including serious flossing, is before bedtime. Your mouth becomes dry overnight. Saliva is not flowing as it does during waking hours and saliva does help clean the oral cavity. To prevent halitosis, adequate oral hygiene that includes brushing, flossing, and tongue cleaning is required.
Every year we resolve to floss more, and every year we fail miserably. Any guidance you can offer?
Take a realistic approach. Non-flossers do not realize how gross it really is to not floss. The key to becoming a flosser is to discover this grossness. People do notice the plaque between your teeth, and plaque buildup (the bacteria living in a sticky film they produce) smells bad, therefore affecting your breath. I would challenge a non-flosser to do a good flossing and take notice of the crud that comes out of your teeth.
A number of friends have started in recent years to complain about receding gums. Can you explain how that happens and if there is anything to curb the issue?
Gums can recede from brushing too aggressively with your toothbrush, so be gentle. But more frequently, gums recede from imbalances in the way our teeth bite together (called occlusion). Sometimes the recession is so extensive, the teeth may need to be lightly adjusted to correct the manner in which they occlude. Once the bite issue is corrected, the recession will halt. Sometime a “graft” of gum tissue from the roof of your mouth is needed to repair the gums in a certain area.