14 Sep 2020

Looking after your oral health with Grace Maguire

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 2:40 pm on 14 September 2020

Dental hygienist and founder of Your Smile is Important To Me Grace Maguire joined Jesse Mulligan to talk about what causes tooth decay and how to prevent it.

Listeners texted in with many questions for Grace; here is a selection.

Inter dental teeth cleaning brush healthy floss action between each tooth to remove plaque.

Photo: 123RF

Whitening toothpaste

It’s pretty abrasive, Grace says.

“I wouldn’t recommend using it long-term as people can get sensitivity and it can cause damage to the enamel.

“Unfortunately, teeth do darken over a lifetime so it’s a natural part of growing older.

“The best way to lift the colour is with bleach, bleaching products which you do have to do with your dentist or dental hygienist to get good results.

Whitening toothpaste can help maintain the colour, but it won’t lift the colour, she says.

Why is toothpaste important?

“It’s cleaning the teeth, so it’s helping remove the plaque and bacteria and the anti-bacterial properties are helping reduce inflammation in the mouth and fluoride helps in preventing decay and can help repair early decay.”

How soon after food should I brush?

“When we eat food the pH in our mouth drops and takes about 20 minutes for that pH to lift back to normal.

“It’s not recommended to brush within 20 minutes of eating because of that acidity on the mouth.”

Mouth ulcers causes and cures

“A mouth ulcer is a break in the epithelium tissues, the main pain is actually the bacteria in the mouth causing an inflammation in the cut.”

They can be caused by stress or eating or drinking a lot of acidic foods or drinks, she says.

In general a mouth ulcer should heal within 7 to 10 days.

Manual or electric – which is best?

“If I have patients who are struggling with plaque control then I would normally recommend an electric toothbrush.”

Soft bristles?

Yes, says Grace, so we are nice and gentle on the gums and the teeth.

“When I was a child we were taught to scrub our teeth and if you are using a hard toothbrush it can cause gum recession and I’ve got patients who have worn away the enamel.”


“Ideally you’d be flossing most days but some people can get away with doing it every second days.

“Lots of decay forms from the space between the teeth if you just brush you’re missing about 35 percent of the tooth’s surface.”

Grace Maguire

Grace Maguire Photo: Supplied

Can gums be fixed?

Gum disease can be repaired to some extent. Gingivitis is fully reversible, she says.

If you are brushing your teeth and finding the gums are bleeding, then I’d definitely recommend getting to a dental hygienist.


“As a general rule I don’t recommend mouth wash.

“The problem with supermarket mouthwashes is people rinse after they brush their teeth which can rinse away the good stuff from your toothpaste.

“I worked with a dentist once who said mouthwash is only good for cleaning your drains.

After you’ve brushed – spit or rinse?

“Spit out but don’t rinse, make sure you leave all those really good qualities of the toothpaste on your teeth so they’ve got time to do the job.”

How much toothpaste?

A pea-sized amount is the general recommendation.

Brush then floss?

“Research supports flossing first, but if you’re in the routine of brushing then flossing just keep doing that.”

Brush after breakfast?

“A lot of people eat breakfast at work so brushing before breakfast is also fine.”

Toothpaste substitutes

“My main concern about just using salt or baking soda is the lack of an anti-bacterial anti-cavity component.”

Brush your tongue?

With a manual toothbrush, it is definitely a good idea.

Dental inequality

Grace told Jesse that public funding for dental care was needed for the adult population in New Zealand.

“Public funding is a massive issue for the dental industry and unfortunately in New Zealand public finding stops at 18.

“It is unaffordable for a lot of New Zealanders and it means people that can afford dental care are really privileged people, and I think that should not be the case.”

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