Do you own a tongue scraper? How about interdental brushes? I didn't either before my appointment at RW Perio, a London-based specialist gum clinic. I was there to try out its £250 Polish & Perfect treatment i.e. an advanced form of tooth polishing that aims to refresh your smile by effortlessly removing stains and giving teeth a thorough clean.
I have never been scared of the dentist, per se, but I am scared of the withering glances they give when your oral hygiene isn't quite up to standard. Turns out I'm not alone. According to the Oral Health Foundation, almost half of UK adults are frightened of the dentist. And 12 percent of these have a dental phobia.
But avoiding regular appointments is only likely to end in pain, treatment that could have been avoided, and potentially eye-watering costs. One thing that's commonly overlooked is the importance of a trip to the hygienist. (Research by toothbrush brand Tepe found that almost a third of UK adults had never visited one.) As well as giving teeth a good clean, they school you on how best to look after your pearly whites so you can receive a gold star from the dentist the next time round.
Polish & Perfect "is more extensive than a regular hygienist appointment," says Dr. Reena Wadia, periodontist and founder of RW Perio. It involves three things: an in-depth assessment of your oral health, personalised advice to keep your teeth and gums healthy, and an advanced polishing treatment known as Airflow.
Although its stain removal may appeal to smokers and heavy caffeine drinkers, I was interested to see if the technique would make my smile brighter. Mainly because I'd previously had my teeth whitened and I was not a fan. It works, of course, but many fail to mention just how sensitive your teeth can be afterwards. Pain is not something I feel like paying for.
Dr. Wadia is keen to mention that the treatment is "a great in-between to regular polishing and whitening (without the sensitivity that you can sometimes get with the latter)." Plus, she says, "it will improve the results of whitening, so [it's] worth having either way."
When I arrived at the clinic, I was given the usual questionnaire to fill in before being introduced to Jacqui. She then guided me through what was going to happen, asking me to describe my usual teeth cleaning routine, my diet, and my stress levels.
She explained that good oral health was "80 percent about what you do at home versus 20 percent about what we do here." It was hard admitting that my everyday diet wasn't great, but she wasn't judgemental, instead offering me practical advice that would help minimise the damage to my teeth and gums.
For example, I love a sugary snack or two (or maybe even three). "If you are going to have something sweet, have it at mealtime," Jacqui advised, "because then you're doing all the damage at once." The general rule of thumb, she added, was to only eat five times a day — three meals and two snacks.
Then came the really difficult part: seeing just how bad I was at cleaning my teeth. Jacqui gave me a tablet that would colour the areas I was missing with purple vegetable dye. After chewing it up, she handed me a mirror.
And from the now vibrant hue of my teeth, it seemed like I was truly failing in the brushing department. (According to Jacqui, the average person brushes their teeth for around 34 seconds, rather than the recommended two minutes.)
Following a deep clean, it was time for the Airflow polishing. Combining compressed air, water, and fine powder particles (of which I could choose a mint, cherry, or lemon flavour), it left my teeth feeling smooth and squeaky clean, my smile looking, dare I say, dazzling, and my breath feeling fresh with the scent of cherry.
Jacqui wasn't done there. She proceeded to show me exactly how to keep these results in the long-term. She demonstrated how to use the aforementioned interdental brushes and a single tufted brush for tricky back teeth, how to floss properly (making a C-shape underneath the gum line), and why an electric toothbrush would make life a lot easier.
She also gifted me with a tongue scraper, saying you can get "about a quarter of a teaspoon of bacteria off the back of your tongue." Gross, but good to know. Being told I had generalised gingivitis was a bit of a bombshell, but the inflammation this disease causes is completely reversible as long as I followed professional advice. Also good to know.
Dr. Wadia imparted some final advice over email. To keep teeth stain-free, "use an electric toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste [and] clean in between your teeth." It's also important to "avoid or minimise the frequency of foods/drinks that can stain your teeth." This can include beverages like coffee and red wine. Finally, ensure you book in a regular professional cleaning session, "ideally using Airflow." Regular means every three to six months, depending on your needs.
Spending an extra couple of minutes a day tending to your teeth isn't difficult, but it is easy to bypass. The one thing keeping me going is the regret I'd feel if my teeth and gums were irreversibly damaged. Oh, and the compliments you receive when your teeth are looking their glossy best.