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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.