• The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

    Even though having good oral hygiene is one of the first responsibilities placed upon us when we’re younger, it’s also one of the easiest to overlook as time goes on and life gets busier. You may have a job five days a week, children to take care of, or any number of tasks that can quickly become excuses for cutting down on time spent in the bathroom.

    Luckily, getting your dental hygiene habits back on track isn’t as hard as it may sound. So, whether you’re simply looking to brush up on best practices, get rid of some bad habits you’ve picked up, or even lay a strong foundation for your kids to follow, you’ve come to the right place.

    Here we’re going to cover everything you need to know about dental hygiene and building a personalized routine that lets your teeth and gums shine their brightest.

What is Good Oral Hygiene?

Believe it or not, oral hygiene originally came into existence more than 5,000 years ago when ancient Egyptians built the first crude toothbrushes from twigs and leaves to clean their teeth. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then and today we have a wide range of products available to help us keep our dental health in top condition.

Between electric toothbrushes, mouthwash, floss, a variety of toothpaste, and experienced dentists (like us!), it’s never been easier to make sure your teeth and gums are looking their best and, more importantly, healthy. Want to see how you measure up? Below, we’ve outlined some of the key indicators that tell us whether or not a patient has good oral hygiene practices in place.

Clean Teeth

One of the first indicators of good dental hygiene is clean teeth. Now, we’re not just talking about teeth that appear white, because even then, there can be layers of plaque and debris between them that remain hidden until closer inspection.

While it’s nearly impossible to keep your pearly whites free of the bacteria 24/7, having good dental hygiene can make sure you’re not exposed to them for too long. When your teeth are truly clean, you’ll not only notice that they literally squeak when running your finger along them, but they’ll also be free of plaque near the gum lines.

So, take a close look at your teeth in the mirror (or with your selfie camera) to see if you can spot any problem areas.

Pink Gums That Don’t Bleed

Another strong indicator of good oral hygiene can be determined by how healthy your gums look. Gums that appear light pink and firm around the teeth are considered in good health, while gums that are bright red and bleed easily from brushing or flossing could use some work. Even if color appears fine and bleeding doesn’t occur, sensitivity can also point to gums that are being negatively impacted by poor hygiene practices.

That being said, gums are a little trickier than teeth because the color can vary from person to person. The best way to figure out how yours measure up is by simply inspecting them after brushing and flossing.

Bad Breath

Let’s face it, no one wants to have bad breath. While you can easily blame the occasional occurrence on something you ate, if it becomes a regular problem, you may need to reevaluate your oral hygiene habits. The number one culprit of bad breath is bacteria that’s leftover from past meals and snacks throughout the day.

When left alone, these bacteria begin to metabolize the remaining food particles and produce an unpleasant odor as the byproduct. Having good dental hygiene that covers your teeth, gums, and tongue is the number one way to combat this issue. Since it’s a little difficult to smell your own breath, using a friend or family member who is feeling brave is the best way to determine whether or not you’re in the clear.

Why Good Oral Hygiene Is Important

Similar to what we were just discussing, saliva on its own isn’t enough to keep your oral health in check. Because the mouth is introduced to so many different microbes and germs on a daily basis, saliva needs a little extra help in the form of brushing and flossing. Even though we are going to cover more best practices later on, brushing and flossing are both great for ensuring no bacteria or food particles get left behind for too long.

If plaque and bacteria are allowed to rest on the surfaces of your teeth for a prolonged period of time, they can start to slowly erode enamel and even impact gum health. This is especially true in those hard to reach areas of the mouth, which often serve as ideal hotspots for bacteria to thrive. Using a thorough brushing routine that covers all of the surfaces of your teeth will make sure that plaque is scrubbed free and neutralized by saliva.

Of course, food and bacteria also love to reside between the teeth, which is where flossing comes into play. Helping you reach those tough areas, floss will prevent harmful bacteria from gaining a foothold along the gum lines and causing further problems. So, as you can see, no matter how strong saliva is as a natural defense mechanism, your oral health also largely depends on your dental routine.

Best Oral Hygiene Practices

Now that you’re an expert on the importance of having good dental hygiene, we’ll move on to the part you’ve been patiently waiting for – tips and best practices. Starting with the most basic hygiene components, we will work our way to new routine additions that you may have never even considered.

So, without further adieu, let’s dive in!

Brushing Twice A Day

Without a doubt, this is one of the first and most commonly heard pieces of advice when it comes to establishing good oral hygiene. Brushing in the morning probably doesn’t need much explaining if you’ve ever struck up a close quarters conversation with someone who just rolled out of bed. When we sleep, saliva production actually slows down, which allows bacteria to flourish overnight, breakdown leftover food, and leave you with the dreaded “morning breath”.

Brushing in the morning is a great way to get rid of all the bacteria, freshen your breath, and make sure your teeth and gums aren’t exposed to harmful plaque all day. Similarly, brushing before bed is the best time for a second session since your mouth has been accumulating microbes from food and the environment throughout the course of the day.

This will ensure you free up all of the food particles and bacteria that are coating your teeth and lodged in between. It also sets the stage for a healthier night’s sleep by lessening the impact of reduced saliva production overnight.

Floss Daily

Going hand in hand with brushing your teeth, flossing is another integral piece to any well-rounded oral hygiene routine. While brushing is the best way to scrub visible tooth surfaces free of plaque, it’s not that great for getting between them. If bacteria is allowed to make a little base between teeth, it can start causing all kinds of problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Floss is perfect for squeezing between these tiny gaps and scrubbing the surfaces free while simultaneously giving the gums a soothing massage. Now, if that last part sounded a little funny to you, one of the biggest reasons people don’t floss is because it can cause some discomfort if your gums aren’t used to it or if they’re inflamed from gingivitis.

When you adopt a regular, daily flossing routine, over time, your gums not only get used to the feeling, but you’ll also enjoy the many benefits of reduced plaque and inflammation. Flossing once per day is typically more than enough, and best done before bed to ensure you’re not leaving any plaque behind. That being said, if you feel like being an overachiever, flossing after every meal is another popular approach!

Choose Your Toothpaste Carefully

Even though it’s easy to assume all toothpaste is created equal, that’s not always the case. Depending on what your specific needs are, you’ll find a wide variety of toothpaste types at just about any convenience store. Between the different brands, ingredients, and product features, a simple trip to re-up on your toothpaste supply can quickly become overwhelming.

To help make the decision easier, we’ve provided a short guide below to help you focus on a few key areas:

ADA Seal of Approval

One of the first things to look for on any toothpaste you’re considering buying is the ADA seal of approval. Brands that carry this prestigious seal have been personally tested by the American Dental Association to ensure all claims are accurate and that the toothpaste meets their standards for oral care.

This can greatly help you narrow down the choices and give you peace of mind in knowing you’re using toothpaste that has been tested by dental professionals.

Meet Your Specific Needs

Thanks to modern technology and advances in the field of dental health, many toothpaste brands include additional ingredients that are designed to address specific problem areas. That’s not to say these extra ingredients replace a semi-annual checkup and cleaning, but they do help keep your smile in top shape between visits.

Firstly, you always want to make sure the toothpaste your using contains fluoride, a natural mineral that strengthens enamel. Once that requirement is met, you can choose between brands that help with things like sensitive gums, anti-gingivitis, and anti-cavity (which all should cover anyway).

Avoid Whitening Agents

While it’s completely natural to want your smile looking as white as possible, toothpaste brands that include whitening ingredients can actually cause more harm than good. Depending on the ingredient used, ranging from plastic beads to walnut shells, permanent damage can be done to the enamel as a result of the abrasive nature some agents have.

Brands that advertise activated charcoal as an ingredient can actually have the opposite effect and cause discoloration in addition to enamel erosion.

Use Proper Brushing Technique

As silly as this oral hygiene tip may seem, you’d be surprised how many people brush their teeth using poor technique! Because brushing is part of the daily dental routine, it’s all too easy to get lost in thought or sidetracked doing something else while brushing and let your form become compromised.

Good brushing technique ensures you’re reaching all of the tooth surfaces and scrubbing away stubborn plaque that’s trying to eat away at your enamel. For the best results, we recommend using a slightly angled grip so that the bristles of the brush make contact with where the teeth meet the gums.

Brush using small, circular motions and light pressure so as to not aggravate your gum line as you work along the outside, inside, and chewing surfaces of each and every tooth. In order to make sure you’re giving your teeth and gums enough attention, we strongly recommend brushing for at least two minutes.

Another area that gets looked over far too often while brushing is the tongue. Similar to your teeth, the tongue also serves as a breeding ground for bacteria (the most common culprits of bad breath) which is why you should give it a light brushing.

Choosing the Right Toothbrush & General Brush Maintenance

Now that you have a better understanding of just how important selecting the right toothpaste is, it’s time to talk about the other piece of the puzzle – your toothbrush. Generally, there are two factors that should be considered when buying a new toothbrush, which we’ve covered below.

Toothbrush Size

The first factor you’ll want to take into consideration is the size and shape of the toothbrush itself. Depending on who you’re shopping for, toothbrush heads range in size from small to large and come with a variety of different handle types.

For adults, we typically recommend selecting a brush that’s about half an inch wide and an inch long so you get sufficient tooth coverage while still being able to reach the back of your mouth. As far as the handle goes, select whichever one feels the most comfortable in your hand.

Bristle Type

The next consideration when selecting the perfect toothbrush is bristle type. Ranging from soft to hard, it’s generally best to stick with a softer bristle unless otherwise instructed by your dentist since hard bristles can irritate and damage the gums if you’re not careful.

Softer bristles are perfect for gliding gently over tooth surfaces since they bend easier and slide between tough to reach spaces. Hard bristles, on the other hand, are recommended when you have hardened plaque buildup that requires a little extra scrubbing action to get rid of.

Opting for an Electric Toothbrush

If you’re ready to leave the old manual toothbrush behind, there’s never been a better time to start using an electric one. Coming in a variety of different styles, electric toothbrushes are an excellent option for just about anyone since they can greatly reduce the risk of overbrushing and plaque build up.
With manual brushes, it’s not only easier to use poor form (sawing motions instead of small circular motions), but it’s also easy to end up brushing too hard which can cause damage to the gums. Some electric toothbrushes even come with built-in timers that help you keep track of how long you’ve been brushing and notify you when it times to focus on a different section.

For the best results, we recommend doing some research or consulting with your local dentist when purchasing an electric toothbrush since some are far better than others.

Toothbrush Maintenance

As with anything else you use on a daily basis, your toothbrush needs to be kept up with and replaced over time. Because they’re responsible for keeping our teeth, gums, and tongue free of plaque, it should come as no surprise that the very brushes keeping our mouths clean can become breeding grounds for bacteria.

As a good rule of thumb, you should thoroughly wash the brush head with warm water and antibacterial soap after each use. This will eliminate any lingering bacteria and extend the functional life of your toothbrush. Another sign of wear and tear that you should look out for over time is frayed bristles. Resulting from regular, daily brushing, frayed bristles are far less effective at keeping your mouth clean, ultimately putting a damper on your well-polished dental routine.

Lastly, it’s good practice to replace your toothbrush entirely (just the removable head for electric toothbrushes) every three to four months. This ensures your teeth are always getting the quality brushing job they deserve and no bristles every become too ineffective. The only exception to this rule is when you get sick.

Anytime you come down with something, it’s best to immediately change your toothbrush so you’re not re-exposing yourself to the bacteria or virus that caused you to get sick in the first place. It may even be a good idea to buy your toothbrushes in pairs.

Use Mouthwash

Despite their effectiveness, we find that many patients simply don’t consider mouthwash an oral hygiene essential. Serving as a great addition to any dental routine, mouthwash can help your mouth stay clean and free of harmful bacteria in a number of different ways.

Similar to toothpaste, different mouthwash brands contain different ingredients that are designed to tackle specific problems. Whether that be bad breath, fluoride to further bolster your enamel, or even an antiseptic to stop bacterial growth in its tracks, mouthwash can work wonders for your dental health.

In addition to everything we just mentioned, mouthwash can also help clean those hard to reach areas of the mouth, reduce or eliminate harmful acids, and re-mineralize weakened teeth.

Visit Your Local Dentist

As great as all of the dental hygiene tips are that we just shared, especially when used in conjunction, nothing can replace the occasional visit to your local dentist. Going in for semi-annual checkups can help make sure nothing more serious is going on, and aid with the removal of hardened plaque that home-based techniques are unable to handle.

At Inland Family Dentistry, we pride ourselves in our comfort first approach that focuses on fostering a genuine relationship with each and every patient.

Whether it’s your first time seeing the dentist in several years, of your bringing your child for their very first checkup, come give us a visit and experience the Inland Family Dental difference that all of our patients have come to love so much.