Putting a killer shine on your pearly whitesWould you spend 176,000 won (about $150) for a toothbrush?
How about 100,000 won for an oral irrigator, a water jet that removes trapped food particles and stimulates your gums?
If so, are you willing to chip out the won for a toothbrush sterilizer, whitening gel, a brush dehydrator or an electric plaque remover that massages your gums?
Keeping your teeth clean is serious (and big) business, although you’d hardly know it from the statistics that the Ministry of Health and Welfare keeps on hand.
Only half of Korea’s population brushes its teeth in the morning before breakfast, according to the ministry. And just 35 percent brushes before going to bed. Lunch, however, prompts 36 percent of the populace to get those bristles moving.
Even though most Koreans make just one trip to the dentist each year according to the National Health Insurance Corporation ― health professionals generally recommend two cleanings annually ― an increasing number of people are jumping on the oral-care bandwagon.
That’s why the online health Web site Tongil (www.tong-il.co.kr) was hawking an oral irrigator for 30,000 won as the perfect gift for Teacher’s Day earlier this year.
But which is better, manual or electric brushing? Many dentists are standing by the manual method.
“We usually recommend using a manual toothbrush rather than an electric one, simply because manual toothbrushes work perfectly well if you replace them regularly,” says Kim Ju-hyun, a dental hygienist at Mirae Dental Clinic in northern Seoul.
“You don’t risk damaging your gums with manual brushes, which can sometimes happen with power brushes,” says Ms. Kim, who notes that even top-quality manual toothbrushes should be replaced every three months.
The American Dental Association says the key to preventing tooth decay is using the toothbrush ― electric or manual ― correctly.
And that’s a problem in Korea, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. It says that more than half of the country’s population brushes incorrectly.
Many people brush horizontally rather than up and down, one of the reasons that dentists suspect there are so many Koreans suffering from cervical abrasions, trauma to the roots of the teeth and the gums.
Dentists say that regular brushing with old-fashioned toothbrushes, if done correctly, gets rid of most food particles, the prime cause of plaque build up, which is the major cause of tooth decay.
Cho Eun-young, a dentist in central Seoul, recommends using a manual brush no matter what ― even if you follow up with an electric.
She says a manual brush can remove up to 90 percent of plaque if properly used. An electric brush can be used on hard-to-reach spots. Even an electric brush, Dr. Cho says, will only remove about 20 percent of the plaque if it is used incorrectly.
The bristles of either type of brush should be held at a 45-degree angle against the teeth so as to loosen trapped material. Brushstrokes with a regular brush should be elliptical, and should last about 10 seconds on each tooth.
That means that it should take three to four minutes to brush all the teeth in your mouth ― in sharp contrast to the less-than-a-minute brushing that most people give their teeth.
That’s a whole lot of brushing, which is why the American Dental Association says that electric toothbrushes can be a blessing for people with physical disabilities or arthritis. The association notes that some people have difficulty manipulating old-fashioned toothbrushes.
Oral irrigators must be used in conjunction with regular toothbrushes, most dentists says, because they’re not as effective. “An oral irrigator can only remove up to 9 percent of the dental plaque from your teeth,” says Han Yeong-cheol, managing director of the Korea Dental Association.
Whitening gels, which have gained in popularity in recent years, should only be used in consultation with a dentist because of their acidic nature, says Dr. Cho.
To find out more about the latest dental products, including brush sterilizers and brush dehydrators check out www.buymed.co.kr or www.dentarex. com.
by Park Soo-mee
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