Your Gag Reflex is Holding You Back: A Dental Hygienist Weighs In On Our Oral Behavior

Dexter Kendrick
4 min readApr 4, 2022
Oh, the places you’ll go!

In this interview I sat down with my good friend Brittany Class, RDH to discuss EVERYTHING we do with our mouths from whether or not we REALLY need toothpaste, which teeth whiteners actually work, and what natural substance when placed on the tongue can allow you to go deep.

DK: Ok, so on the record, is toothpaste mandatory? I’ve heard varying opinions on the topic.

BC: Toothpaste is doing very little to help you. The only reason toothpaste is on the market is because it gives you that fresh minty taste. But if you just take a toothbrush [to your teeth] twice a day, you’re getting the same effect.

DK: Wow…well now I need to know if mouthwash is doing anything, or if I’m playing myself on that too! Should we use it at all?

BC: It does kill some of the bacteria. Brushing is still the best way to go. The Listerine or Crest Pro -Health Alcohol Free is going to kill any remaining bacteria you didn’t get with the brush. It’s the icing on the cake.

DK: About that, is there a difference between ‘Alcohol Free’ vs. Alcohol Based mouthwash?

BC: Patients with dry [mouth] tissues or an alcohol allergy will want to avoid Listerine. Alcohol-free is not as drying to the mouth or the gums.

DK: Man! You are really dropping some gems! Where does flossing fit in?

BC: Floss is an excellent way to get plaque from the sides of the tooth. Some people ask is the water pick doing the same thing, and honestly, plaque is sticky. The water pick can remove debris from in between the tooth, but you’ll still have plaque on either side.

DK: All I hear from that answer is ‘save your money’. How do we take care of the tongue? Should we at all?

BC: A tongue scraper is best, but at least use a toothbrush. You know all of that white coating on there? It’s filled with foul smelling bacteria. A scraper will get into those spaces and clear it out. You can also use a gel on your tongue in a kit that will protect from bacteria regrowth.

DK: What about gagging when cleaning your teeth? Does salt really help?

BC: Salt really works! A little pinch of salt on the tip of the tongue sidetracks the brain from it’s gagging reflex. I keep some of it at my work station for patients who can’t stand to have anything near the back of their mouth.

DK: What?! I can’t wait to try that. Now I gotta know, will all of us lose our teeth as we age?

BC: NO! That is a huge myth! You lose your teeth because of periodontal disease. That’s why the checkup is so important. We look for things that you can’t see from just your regular routine at home. We can treat and even warn you of any problems happening beneath the surface.

DK: Are there foods that are more dangerous for our teeth? Please go easy on me and my readers…

BC: Yes. Avoid sodas as much as possible. The sugar and carbonation mixed with bacteria in the mouth can erode our teeth with acidity. Coffee, sugar, and juice should be in moderation too.

DK: Any advice for those afraid of the dental checkup?

BC: Listen, you don’t wanna lose your teeth! I’ve seen people as young as 20 who’ve lost their teeth and had to have a plate put in. Diabetics and people with periodontal disease. Stuff that could have been treated and avoided.

DK: 20 years in the game you’ve definitely seen some things! Before we go, what is something we should know about brushing our teeth? There’s so many options for toothbrushes out there, I’m not gonna lie, its confusing.

BC: The electric toothbrush is my recommendation at this time. My patients that use that vs. ones who do not, it’s a huge difference in reduced inflammation and infection.

DK: Gotcha…How often should we be brushing? is there a best time of day?

BC: Definitely in the morning. Probably best to do after breakfast and before bed. You don’t want bacteria sitting on your teeth for 8 hours. Nighttime is most important, but I emphasize both.

DK: What about charcoal and some of these violet tooth whiteners…any validity to those?

BC: They will remove coffee and tooth stains, but your teeth will be the same shade as before. The only thing that will whiten your teeth to a lighter shade is actual “bleach” (dental compounds that include peroxide), such as the Crest Whitening strips and their generic competitors. These can actually whiten to your desired shade.

Happy brushing!

Brittany Class, RDH is a registered dental hygienist with over 20 years in the industry, currently accepting patients at Precious Smiles in Camp Hill, PA.

Dexter Kendrick, D.Ac., L. Ac. is a licensed Doctor of Chinese Sports Medicine, Herbalist, and Spirit worker in love with all things natural. Need answers?



Dexter Kendrick

Spiritual Advisor, Doctor of Chinese Metaphysics, Founder of Love911Tarot Psychic Hotline.Need answers?