When it comes to oral health, we’re bombarded by products, tools, and trends all claiming to deliver great results, and many of them do. But with so much information and so many options, how do you know what makes the best oral hygiene routine?
The best oral hygiene routine is simply that: routine. More importantly, it’s a routine that you can stick with consistently for long-term health. A healthy smile is important to your appearance, your confidence, and your overall well being, and there’s a lot you can do to make sure your smile is making a big impact that lasts a lifetime.
Although keeping your mouth healthy isn’t hard, there are a lot of factors that go into how you do it. Diet, culture, pH Balance, age, and occupation are just a few of these factors that can not only affect your oral health but shape what your oral hygiene routine looks like.
However, regardless of the details in our daily lives, there are a few basics that are universal when it comes to taking care of your teeth and gums. No matter what the condition of your oral health is or what your routine looks like, it’s important to remember your BFF: brushing, flossing, and fluoride.
The general recommendation is to brush your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. (Bonus points for finding time to brush a third time.) And, how you brush is just as important as how long or how many times. Ideally, you should be spending 30 seconds brushing each quadrant (upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left). In reality, we all get distracted by work, kids, or TV, and spend 3 minutes brushing just the front right tooth, so at the very least, just try to make sure you cover all sides of each tooth–cheek, tongue, and top.
It’s best to use a soft bristled brush held at a 45 degree angle pointing toward the gum and moving in gentle circles (no sawing back and forth) and any toothpaste with fluoride and the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval will do. If you have problems with sensitive teeth or gum health, your dentist may recommend a special toothpaste to help treat it.
Note: For after-breakfast morning brushes, be sure to wait at least 30 minutes to an hour after having acidic foods or beverages like coffee before brushing. These acids can loosen the enamel on your teeth, and brushing too soon after consuming them may cause damage.
Flossing is one of the most important yet most frequently skipped steps of a good oral hygiene routine. Flossing helps maintain healthy teeth and gums by removing plaque buildup and food debris from in between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. Although it’s preferable to floss before brushing once a day at night, anytime will do.
To floss properly, you’ll need about 18 inches of floss. Wrap each end around the index fingers and pull the floss tight. Gently slide the floss between each tooth up and down either side, using a clean part of floss as you move from tooth to tooth to remove as much plaque and food debris as possible. Flossing gently is key; floss trauma, or flossing with too much pressure, can irritate the gums and cause bleeding. If you aren’t sure how much is too much, always consult your hygienist or dentist.
Many patients ask about “flossers” or water picks as a substitute for traditional string floss. Flossers have a plastic handle and about 1 inch of floss and can be used effectively as well. Water picks have become popular as well. While not a perfect replacement for floss, water picks can be a good substitute for the patient that has no desire or is unable to floss. Whatever tool you decide to use is up to you, but it is always better doing something than leaving the plaque and bacteria between the teeth as that is a common place to get cavities and gum disease. Cleaning between the teeth also helps reduce bad breath, and helps your teeth feel clean for much longer throughout the day.
Although it’s composed of minerals, tooth enamel is stronger than bone and essential in protecting your teeth against the bacteria that cause cavities. However, things like age, poor health, and acidic foods and beverages can strip enamel of its mineral content and strength, leaving teeth susceptible to erosion and decay.
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that can help strengthen the enamel of your teeth, guarding against erosion and decay. It attracts minerals to the surface of your teeth, helping to replenish lost mineral content.
In the U.S., fluoride is present in most drinking water; however, that may not always be enough to protect your teeth. Be sure there’s fluoride in your toothpaste as well as in your children’s, and look for mouthwashes with fluoride. During routine dental checkups or well-child exams, many pediatricians and dentists will apply a fluoride gel or varnish to tiny teeth, but adults can ask for fluoride treatments, too.
If you’ve got the basics down and are looking to improve your oral hygiene routine even more, consider:
Mouthwash can be a great way to help reduce bacteria in the mouth and leave it feeling refreshed. Look for an alcohol-free formula approved by the ADA for a mouthrinse that won’t burn or leave your mouth feeling dry. One capful is usually enough; swish for 30 seconds after brushing and flossing to remove any remaining plaque, food, or toothpaste and spit it out. If your mouthwash also has fluoride, you’ll get better results if you refrain from rinsing with water afterward and let the fluoride stay on your teeth.
The tongue can harbor bacteria as well, so it is always a good idea to brush the tongue along with the teeth. There are tongue scrapers that can be used as well, but remember to not scrape too hard.
Although you’ll still need a dental visit to determine the full condition of your oral health–such as cavities, gum disease, or any other problems–and for a professional cleaning, there are a few indicators you can look for to check the effectiveness of your oral hygiene routine.
Whether you’re diligent about your dental health or just don’t know where to start, Dental Depot of DFW can help. Our team of dentists and dental hygienists are experts when it comes to building a good oral hygiene routine, and with comprehensive services like cleanings, fluoride treatments, and more, we can help make sure your smile stays beautiful and healthy. We can check for things you won’t see in the mirror and provide helpful recommendations for improving your oral health.
At Dental Depot of DFW, we believe your family deserves the best, and you’ll find it at any of our DFW metro locations. Schedule an appointment today!
Dr. Jacob Abbott is a graduate of BYU-Idaho and Texas A&M College of Dentistry. Dr. Abbott, a native of Flower Mound, is excited to be involved as a general dentist in his local community.
During his undergraduate education, Dr. Abbott had the opportunity to serve a volunteer humanitarian mission in the wonderful country of Thailand from ’07-’09. Even though he is a little rusty, he can speak, read, and write in Thai and of course enjoys Thai food as long as it’s not too spicy (but don’t ask him to cook it).