“Eye cream and eau de toilette are secondary,” says Aubrey Sim, our Men’s Health Girl Next Door. “Oral hygiene should be the most important grooming essential. Guys with a dashing smile and fresh breath can make women swoon. “One of the worst first impressions any guy can give a woman is when he opens his mouth and it smells like a sewer,” says Aubrey. “Not only is it a huge turn-off, it also says the guy doesn’t care enough to pay attention to the little details. One thing’s for sure: You definitely won’t get a peck on the cheek at the end of it all, no matter how suave you are,” she adds.
To avoid becoming a victim of your own foul breath and manky teeth, you’ll need to separate the facts from the oral health fiction. These are the hits and myths.
HIT: Artificial sweeteners are good for teeth
Not too sweet on sugar? Then try an artificial sweetener instead. In this case, the advertisements don’t lie: Sweets and artificial sweeteners that contain xylitol (available at Cold Storage and Fairprice Finest) really are good for your teeth.
“Artificial sweeteners have a preventive effect because they do not ferment like sugar,” says dentist Dr Jeff Michelson. “Xylitol, in particular, is a naturally occurring substance that has been shown to be safe for human consumption. It actually has a bacteriostatic effect – meaning it breaks down the germs that contribute to plaque formation and tooth decay.”
HIT: Smoking makes your breath stink
This may seem obvious, but smokers con themselves into thinking bad breath’s only caused by dirty teeth. “Most of us have a degree of halitosis when we wake up in the morning because we breathe through our mouths when sleeping,” says Dr
Michelson. “But, in most cases, bad breath is caused by remnants in your mouth, and is a particular indicator of gum disease. This is always the first consideration when looking for a cause of halitosis. If it’s ruled out, there are many other possible medical causes, including sinusitis, tonsillitis, stomach conditions or even liver and kidney illnesses.” Nonmedical reasons for halitosis would obviously be eating foods like garlic or onions, drinking alcohol or smoking.
HIT: Electric toothbrushes work better
But it really depends on the type of electric toothbrush you’re using. According to a review of 42 studies by Peter Robinson of the UK’s Sheffield University, electric and battery-powered toothbrushes with circular bristle heads that rotate in alternating directions were found to be 17 per cent more effective in reducing gingivitis (gum disease) than manual toothbrushes after three months. But here’s the catch: The same studies found electric toothbrushes that don’t use a brush that rotates in alternate directions are no better at removing plaque and preventing gingivitis than a manual toothbrush. So what makes those rotary electric toothbrushes so good? “They do a better job,” says Dr Michelson. “And when you use that type of brush, the shape and smaller head means you tend to brush individual teeth rather than just giving all a general scrub – and that’s more effective in removing plaque as well.”
Our choice: The Philips Sonicare Easyclean ($99, at department stores), which was voted the best toothbrush at the 2011 Men’s Health Grooming Awards.
MYTH: Brush after eating
Surprise, surprise: “The ideal time to brush your teeth is not immediately after you eat,” says Dr Michelson. “It’s better to either brush a little while after breakfast (or lunch) or even before you eat, because your teeth are almost at their weakest when acidic food substances are present on the surface of the food.” Michelson’s advice: “Brush before breakfast, or half an hour after eating. If you brush after lunch, also wait for half an hour after you’re done with your meal.”
MYTH: Teeth-whitening toothpastes don’t work
The truth about whitening toothpastes is they do work – but to a limited extent, says Dr Michelson. “The action of most is to remove surface stain and, of course, plaque, which is the base to which discolorants initially attach. Some ‘whitening’ toothpastes contain chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness.
Unlike bleaches, these products don’t alter the actual colour of your teeth.” But there’s bad news: “Recent studies have revealed that professionally applied tooth whiteners have minimal or no effect on your enamel,” says Dr Michelson. “Scanning electron microscopes studies of the enamel of teeth that have been bleached have typically not shown any damage either.”