Oral Hygiene Tips
Toothbrushes: Manual or Electric?
For good oral hygiene, the American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice daily. Generally speaking, we find electric toothbrushes to be most effective for patients; however, patients with excellent oral hygiene who have successfully used manual brushes should keep doing so. The saying really is as true with teeth as it is with everything else: it’s not so much the tool, but how you use it!
There are two primary types of manual toothbrushes: soft-bristled and hard-bristled. Avoid using hard-bristled toothbrushes, as they can be too harsh on your gums. The truth is, you don’t need hard bristles or intense pressure to clean your teeth. It’s better to use a soft-bristled brush and to glide it across your teeth in a gentle manner.
Many patients find electric toothbrushes more enjoyable to use. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, these brushes have been able to motivate reluctant brushers to clean their teeth, making them a great invention indeed. Plus, electric toothbrushes aren’t just fun; we also find people can be more effective with them. In a recent study, dental professionals saw positive change in 80.5% of patients who used an electric toothbrush, including better gum condition and removal of plaque.
When it comes to oral hygiene, no habit is harder to take on than flossing—even for us! Nonetheless, flossing is definitely worth the effort, as it yields unparalleled benefits. Nothing else can get in between the teeth, right into those hidden nooks where cavities form, the way floss can. In fact, the American Dental Association advises flossing every day in order to most effectively remove plaque and food particles stuck between teeth and under gums.
Types of Floss
- Woven: Gentle on gums
- Waxed: Slick for sliding easily between tight teeth
- Teflon: Made especially for tight spaces
- Wide: Ideal if you have a lot of bridgework
Today’s market also offers a variety of alternative flossing methods, from picks and sticks to brushes. Some of these wonderful new products make flossing less annoying and much more enjoyable.
A floss threader is a pointed plastic loop designed to get floss into hard-to-reach places like beneath bridges or between braces. This tool can guide floss through tricky spots to ensure removal of plaque.
Other Flossing Aids
For people who have a difficult time working floss between teeth, there are many flossing aids available. From brushes to picks and disposable picks you can use and throw away, you’ll find there might be an option that makes the task easier for you. These aids often have slim handles that make them easier to control than traditional floss thread.
One of the best flossing tools on the market today is the Waterpik®. Even for us, it makes the process of flossing so much easier and fun! The Waterpik is also called a water flosser, a dental water jet, or an oral irrigator. It was designed specifically to improve gum health, and it has been proven to be more effective than regular floss. According to one study, the Waterpik is actually 93% more effective than string floss at reducing gingival bleeding.
There is a bit of a learning curve in using the Waterpik: the first time you try it out, you might feel like a hurricane went through your bathroom, leaving water everywhere! But once you get the hang of it, you may find it a preferable flossing option.
That said, as much as we like the Waterpik, it isn’t for everyone. For patients with extensive plaque and tartar below the gum line, it can push that damage even deeper under the gums. For that reason, we recommend seeing a dentist for a periodontal evaluation and a thorough cleansing before using.
Bad breath is no laughing matter, especially to those you suffer from it. In most cases, bacteria are to blame, although sometimes more serious gastric and sinus problems are the root. Whatever the case, all the habits of good oral hygiene encourage fresh breath, from regular brushing to daily flossing. That’s because a clean mouth smells better, and by keeping your mouth clean, you improve your breath!
- Brush your tongue: When brushing your teeth, take time to also gently brush your tongue. Your tongue harbors lots of germs that can create bad breath.
- Watch what you eat: Certain foods may temporarily cause unpleasant breath as they affect your mouth, transfer to bloodstream and lungs, and get expelled through your mouth. To see if your diet is causing problems for your breath, log what you eat and track the changes.
- See dentist if bad breath continues: It’s not just poor oral hygiene that causes bad breath. See your dentist if you have dry mouth (xerostomia), which decreases saliva, results from certain medications or conditions, and makes breath smell. Tobacco products may also lead to bad breath, among other oral problems, and your dentist may be able to help you stop the habit. Your dentist will also be able to tell you if the breath problem stems from something other than your mouth, in which case you may want to see a general physician. These causes may include infections, postnasal drip, gastrointestinal illness, diabetes, or liver or kidney problems.
Q: Is oral hygiene still important if my bad breath comes from another source?
A: Yes! No matter the cause of bad breath, you will benefit from good oral hygiene.
According to the American Dental Association, antimicrobial mouth rinses reduce bacteria and their activity in plaque, which means they essentially work against gingivitis. Convenient and inexpensive, mouth rinses take very little time to implement in your regular routine.
Mouth rinses usually contain a blend of basic ingredients such as water, cleansers, flavors, colorings, and sometimes alcohol, which can potentially dry out the mouth. These components combine with active ingredients like fluoride, astringent salts, or antimicrobial agents that help reduce plaque.
Fluoride mouth rinses: Available over the counter, these products have a small percentage of sodium fluoride, which attacks plaque in your mouth. Higher strength rinses are available by prescription only.
Antiseptic mouth rinses: Antimicrobial agents combat the bacteria in your mouth to prevent oral disease and bad breath.
Natural Dentist Mouth Rinse: We recommend the natural dentist mouth rinse, both because it is effective and because it is made with all natural, safe ingredients. A recent study has shown the Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Oral Rinse to work better than Listerine at limiting the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Created from herbal extracts, it helps treat even serious gum issues.
Whatever kind you choose, remember a mouth rinse does not substitute for brushing and flossing, but rather it is an extra weapon in the fight against plaque and build up of germs.
Q: Do all mouth rinses help reduce plaque?
A: No. Cosmetic mouth rinses only deodorize and freshen the mouth, providing a temporary solution for bad breath. Only mouth rinses with active ingredients made to combat bacteria will help reduce plaque.
Q: Should I brush first or rinse first?
A: According to the American Dental Association, whether you brush, floss, or rinse first, it makes no difference.
When it comes to brushing your teeth, method is key. The way you take care of them can make all the difference—not just in preventing cavities but in keeping your teeth for a lifetime!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Begin brushing early: There’s a reason we’re always telling kids to brush their teeth: good oral hygiene begins at a young age! The sooner you start caring for your teeth, the greater the rewards.
- Take your time: If you’re only spending a minute or so brushing your teeth each morning, you’re not brushing long enough. Although most of the population spends only around 45 seconds brushing, a recent study has shown that patients need to brush for at least two minutes to really remove plaque and reap noticeable benefits.
- Don’t press too hard: Using too much pressure with your toothbrush can lead to gum recession and tooth abrasion. Remember, the technique is more important than the tool! Be gentle with your brush, and work slowly.
- Be thorough: Good brushing begins with the outer sides of your teeth, moves to the inner teeth, and continues to the flat chewing surfaces. Place your brush at a 45-degree angle and gently move it back and forth slowly.
- Brush below the gum line: Don’t stop with your teeth. Continue brushing even below the gum line to help remove bacteria.
- Don’t forget your tongue: You also don’t want to overlook your tongue. Brush the surface of it each time you brush your teeth. This will clean out germs and give you a fresh feel!
Review: Recommended Products for Oral Care
These are the resources that are most beneficial for patients on a regular basis:
Sensitive Toothpaste: Sensodyne Pronamel Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
Why? Gentle and effective, Sensodyne Pronamel Toothpaste is an excellent toothpaste for patients with sensitive teeth. Chosen by Dentistry Today as one of the top 100 products of 2007 and clinically proven to relieve hypersensitivity in just two weeks, this toothpaste is designed to comfort and soothe nerves and harden softened enamel, in addition to offering all the benefits of regular toothpaste. That’s why it remains the #1 dentist-recommended toothpaste of its kind.
Mouth Rinse: Natural Dentist Healthy Gum Rinse
Why? We recommend the natural dentist mouth rinse, both because it is effective and because it is made with all natural, safe ingredients. Created from herbal extracts, it helps treat even serious gum issues. Plus, it comes in two flavors: peppermint twist or orange zest.
Flossing Aid: Waterpik by Phillips
Why? Fun and effective, the Waterpik is one of the best flossing tools on the market today. It’s not only more enjoyable to use than traditional floss, but it’s also more successful. According to one study, the Waterpik is actually 93% more effective than string floss at reducing gingival bleeding.
Toothbrush: Sonicare Electric Toothbrush
Why? We have found that patients can actually be more effective with electric toothbrushes. Not only are they more enjoyable to use, but they also remove plaque in a way that manual toothbrushes can’t.
Toothpaste: Colgate Total
Why? Colgate Total is an overall excellent toothpaste choice, offering all kinds of benefits. It contains Triclosan, an antibacterial ingredient that works against plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and cavities. Plus, Colgate Total also strengthens enamel, helps gums, improves breath, and whitens teeth.