Tooth Be Told

Appears in the November 2022 issue.

What to do—and what to avoid—
in pursuit of a winning smile 

Unbeknownst to her fourth-grade self, chipping a front tooth turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to Meredith Gantos. Going through the process of restoring that broken tooth inspired a fascination for dentistry that ultimately led to a calling for her in the profession—one that continues to this day at Gantos Dental Group in Naperville.

“Dentistry is such a healing art and was the perfect fit for me,” says Gantos, who has been treating patients for everything from gum disease to orofacial pain to cosmetic concerns for more than six years at her practice. “I feel blessed to have a specialized skill that I can use to better lives around me. Nothing brings me greater joy than protecting and restoring beautiful smiles for my patients.” 

As she has worked on those smiles over the years, Gantos has seen her share of both the good habits that help keep many patients on a standard twice-a-year cleaning regimen and the common mistakes that bring others in for more serious issues.

Listen to the pros

Bacterial pathogens help cause gum disease and cavities, so brushing twice a day for two minutes as well as flossing daily will help disrupt this biofilm and remove disease-causing bacteria. An electric toothbrush (like an Oral-B or Sonicare) with a built-in timer makes it easier to ensure you hit the two-minute mark and does a better job of removing stains as well. 

As for brushing technique, be sure to hold the brush head at a 45-degree angle to reach underneath the gumline as well as the smooth surfaces of the teeth. 

Choose and use products wisely

Gantos says it’s best to avoid abrasive products like whitening or charcoal toothpaste that can cause microdamage to tooth enamel. She also recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush with light pressure to avoid brushing away the gums or causing notching in the teeth.

Use a water flosser

For patients who are more prone to gum disease, have more than two crowns on their teeth, or have dental implants, Gantos strongly recommends incorporating a water flosser into your daily routine.

Don’t Rely on brushing alone

There’s a reason the hygienist always reminds you to floss. Gantos says no matter how thoroughly a person brushes, bacteria can accumulate in between teeth and wreak havoc. 

Don’t wait for pain

If nothing hurts, everything must be healthy, right? Wrong. Gum disease doesn’t hurt until there’s an infection, and cavities don’t hurt until they reach the nerve. Waiting to schedule a checkup until you have pain will result in much more aggressive types
of treatment.

Don’t Let Your Fear Get in the away There’s a reason people use a trip to the dentist as the comparison against some truly terrible alternatives (“I’d rather go to the dentist than attend that party.”) It’s estimated that more than half the population has fear about it, often related to a traumatic childhood experience. But Gantos says dentistry has come a long way in terms of technology and comfort. 

Photo courtesy of Rich Cullen. Illustration courtesy of Getty Images