Last time we discussed how what we eat and drink affects our mouth. Now let’s move on to good oral hygiene habits.
Practicing good oral hygiene habits plays a huge role in preventing dental problems. Let’s break down some key elements:
Brushing— It is recommended to brush at least twice a day for at least 2 minutes. Use a “Soft” bristle tooth brush, never “Medium” or “Hard”. Brushing too aggressively can cause tooth erosion and gum recession. Try moving the brush head in small circles or up and down on the tooth surface. Make sure to clean all surfaces (cheek side, tongue side, chewing surface, etc.). Powered toothbrushes often clean better than a manual toothbrush. Whichever you use, replace the brush at least every 3 months. If the bristles are starting to splay out, it’s time to replace. Remember, you want to be thorough but gentle when brushing
Toothpaste— Always use a Fluoride toothpaste. There are many types and flavors of toothpastes out there. It can sometimes be confusing as to which one to choose. Look for a toothpaste with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval. If you have sensitive teeth, trying one of the desensitizing toothpastes may help. Conversely, some of the whitening or tartar control toothpastes can be abrasive and may increase sensitivity.
Flossing— Everyone’s favorite. (OK, maybe just mine) Flossing is the best way to clean in between teeth and under the gums. There is no getting around it. If you never floss, you’re leaving roughly 30% of the tooth surface dirty. You wouldn’t take a shower and skip washing 30% of your body, would you? (You don’t have to answer that).
Start with a good length of dental floss (8 inches or so) holding 1 end in each hand. Slide the floss in between the teeth and “hug” the side of 1 tooth, curving the floss around the tooth’s surface. Then gently slide the floss down the tooth and under the gumline. Move the floss up and down this length, 8-10 times, and then do the same to all of the teeth. Once you get the hang of it, you can floss your entire mouth in about 1 minute. If dexterity is an issue, there are various flossing tools with handles that may help.
Fluoride— Using Fluoride (in addition to Fluoride toothpaste) can be beneficial. It can be in the form of an over the counter mouth rinse or gel, a prescription strength paste or rinse, or a professionally applied varnish. Fluoride, in addition to preventing cavities and strengthening tooth structure, can help with tooth sensitivity.
Professional Dental Care— Seeing a dentist regularly is a vital part of a healthy mouth. In addition to getting your teeth cleaned, you will be checked for cavities and broken teeth, periodontal disease, infections, jaw problems and oral cancer. Your dental team can get you back on track if you have dental needs. They can offer personalized instruction on how best to care for your mouth and to keep you healthy.
We all know the adage, “An ounce of prevention..”. Certainly this can be true for our oral health. Good habits can definitely help to keep you healthy, and when you feel good it’s all the more reason to smile.