A trip to the dentist tops the poll of things in life that make us most nervous, according to the Oral Health Foundation, with 14 per cent of people admitting they are frightened to visit.
So it’s hardly surprising that some of us look elsewhere for remedies for dental pain and oral problems.
But which at-home products are worth trying? ADRIAN MONTI asked experts for their views on DIY treatments; we then rated them.
A trip to the dentist tops the poll of things in life that make us most nervous, according to the Oral Health Foundation
TePe Gingival Gel, 20ml
TePe Gingival Gel, 20ml, £3.49, dentaldirect.co.uk
Claim: This antibacterial gel contains antiseptic chlorhexidine to protect against gingivitis (gum disease) and fluoride to prevent cavities. Apply with small interdental brushes once a day either before or after brushing your teeth.
Expert verdict: ‘Healthy gums should be pink and firm, so a sign you have gingivitis is if your gums bleed when you’re brushing,’ says Guy Barwell, a dental surgeon at The Implant Centre in Hove, East Sussex.
‘It can progress to periodontitis, in which damage to the bone that supports the teeth causes them to become loose and fall out.
‘This is a good product. An interdental brush allows you to get to the hard-to-reach parts of the teeth and gums, while two chemicals provide a double whammy of protection. But be aware that chlorhexidine can stain the teeth.’
World-Bio Hot and Cold Face Ice Pack for Jaw, Head and Chin, £17.50, amazon.co.uk
World-Bio Hot and Cold Face Ice Pack for Jaw, Head and Chin, £17.50
Claim: This fleecy band loops under your chin and around your head, fitting tightly over your ears.
It has space for four reusable gel packs, which can be frozen in the freezer or heated in a microwave to ease the pain of wisdom teeth and general toothache, as well as headaches and jaw pain.
The maker says the outer layer is made from durable nylon, meaning the band can be reused hundreds of times.
Expert verdict: Mayur Pandya, a dentist who is the chief clinical officer of the Together Dental chain, says: ‘If you have had a wisdom tooth extracted, using cold gel packs like these could help with recovery straight afterwards, as they will reduce swelling and ease the pain slightly.
‘But eating a bowl of ice cream would have the same effect, as would wrapping a bag of frozen peas to the painful area.
‘I would strongly advise against using a heated pack for any dental problem as it could burn the skin. The heat could also cause any abscesses to swell by increasing the blood flow to them.’
The MyoFree Solution, £46 plus shipping, pressurepositive.com
Claim: This kit contains an instructional DVD and a curved plastic wand to massage the inside of your mouth and loosen stiff and painful jaw muscles, which cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, or clicking jaw.
Expert verdict: ‘Up to one in four of us suffers from TMJ disorder at some point in our lives and it is normally caused by stress,’ says dentist Mayur Pandya.
‘Using this to ease tightness in the muscles that operate the jaw could, in theory, be helpful, but I haven’t seen any firm evidence that it would work.
‘TMJ disorders should be properly assessed by a dentist; if you’re having trouble opening your mouth, chewing, or your jaw doesn’t feel right, you need to have a check-up to rule out anything more serious, such as arthritis or injury.’
The MyoFree Solution, £46 plus shipping
Oravix Tonsil Stone Removal Kit, £9.98, amazon.co.uk
Oravix Tonsil Stone Removal Kit, £9.98
Claim: A trio of tools designed to remove and prevent tonsil stones, hard deposits that form in the crevices in the tonsils. It comprises an LED-lit grabbber for retrieving the stones, a curved-tip syringe to clean the tonsils and a copper tongue scraper.
Expert verdict: ‘Tonsil stones occur when food, dead cells, bacteria and minerals become trapped in nooks and crannies and form hard deposits,’ says dental surgeon Guy Barwell.
‘Up to one in ten of us has them. While they may contribute to bad breath, they are usually harmless and best left alone.
‘Even as an experienced dentist I would never try to remove them, and would instead refer a patient to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if the tonsil stones were causing problems.
‘Tonsils have a good blood supply, so you could easily cause pain and serious damage. I strongly advise you not to do it yourself.’
RONAVO Stainless Steel Tongue Scraper, twin pack
RONAVO Stainless Steel Tongue Scraper, twin pack, £6.99, amazon.co.uk
Claim: Roughly the size of a dessert spoon, you rub this gadget along the top of your tongue twice a day after brushing your teeth ‘for fresher breath in seconds’. Wash after each use or sterilise once a fortnight.
Expert verdict: ‘All of us have a coating on our tongue — called a biofilm — made of food debris, dead cells and bacteria, which can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, as well as bad breath,’ says dentist Mayur Pandya.
‘A tongue scraper is an excellent way to remove this layer gently and improve your oral hygiene. Ideally, everyone should use one daily.
‘I have always used a scraper and think they’re brilliant. If you don’t have one, simply brushing your tongue lightly with a normal toothbrush is helpful, too.’
Bonjela Complete Plus, 10ml, £8.99, boots.com
Claim: Unlike standard Bonjela, this gel forms a protective barrier over the ulcer, allowing it to heal. You dab it on with the kit’s spatula, then keep your mouth open for ten seconds until the gel dries.
Bonjela Complete Plus, 10ml, £8.99
Its maker says it is effective for four hours and can be applied up to four times a day until the ulcer goes.
Expert verdict: Ben Merriman, a pharmacist in Cumbria, says: ‘Mouth ulcers are very common and most of us will be bothered with them at some stage.
‘Standard Bonjela contains choline salicylate, a painkiller and anti- inflammatory that helps speed up healing and numbs pain — but this product works in a different way.
‘It hardens into a protective shell when it comes into contact with saliva, stopping the ulcer and protecting the nerve endings from being irritated by the likes of hot drinks, eating or tooth-brushing. It is well worth trying if standard Bonjela doesn’t do the trick.’
Plackers Grind No More Dental Night Protectors, pack of ten, £8
Plackers Grind No More Dental Night Protectors, pack of ten, £8, amazon.co.uk
Claim: These rubbery-plastic mouth guards are for people with bruxism, or teeth grinding. You wear them while sleeping and each guard can be used for three nights.
Expert verdict: Dental surgeon Guy Barwell says: ‘A mouth guard is a good idea as it keeps your teeth apart when you go to grind them, preventing damage.
‘But I would always recommend a bespoke one, where a mould is first taken inside your mouth, to ensure it fits better. This will stay in place better than off-the-peg ones. Also, if it is uncomfortable, you are less likely to wear it and get any benefit from it. These cost £100 to £150 and last around two years — making them cheaper in the long run.
‘This one-size-fits-all version only covers the back teeth, which means it won’t stop all grinding. It also jams the mouth open, which could be uncomfortable.’
OraCoat XyliMelts, pack of 40, £8
OraCoat XyliMelts, pack of 40, £8, hope2sleep.co.uk
Claim: These button-sized discs slowly release xylitol, a natural sweetener that stimulates saliva production. Stuck to your gum, they are meant to relieve a dry mouth for up to four hours when used during the day, and eight hours at night.
Expert verdict: Dentist Mayur Pandya says: ‘Saliva helps with eating and speaking and protects against tooth decay by neutralising the acids that bacteria produce. Causes of a dry mouth range from dehydration to side-effects of medication and autoimmune disease. It’s important to be assessed by your dentist or GP if it lasts for more than a week.
‘Dentists can prescribe products containing xylitol or other compounds that naturally cause the mouth to “water”. Often these also contain fluoride — these particular ones do not — which is important in strengthening enamel and preventing dental decay.’