Visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings is crucial to maintaining good oral hygiene. Even more important, however, is what happens at home between these visits. Developing healthy oral care habits at home is vital for preventing cavities and gum disease and can help keep your teeth strong for years to come. The more time you spend cleaning your teeth at home, the less time you need to spend in the dental office; the less time you spend cleaning your teeth at home, the more time you need to spend in the dental office and the more money it will cost you once those dentist’s and doctor’s bills start stacking up — your choice.
Many people incorrectly believe that the benefits of good oral hygiene end with a bright smile, but taking care of your teeth and mouth have far-reaching effects on your overall health that go well beyond aesthetics. Researchers have linked diabetes, heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes back to periodontal disease. And it isn’t just those: Studies show an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, kidney issues, and pregnancy complications in women. These studies’ results make it clear: Implementing an effective at-home oral care routine is imperative for your overall health and wellbeing.
How to implement an effective oral care routine at home
By following a few simple tips and implementing some healthy habits into your daily routine, you can ensure that you’re doing everything possible to keep your mouth and your entire body in the best health possible. The object is to remove the bacteria from your teeth without damaging the tooth or gums. Brushing can clean about 60% of your tooth surface. The remaining 40% will require floss, directed water irrigation, or tiny brushes that fit between your teeth.
Brush your teeth properly
Brushing your teeth is extremely important. Brushing removes plaque buildup from the surface of the teeth and helps reduce the harmful bacteria that live in your mouth. It also stimulates your gums, increasing blood flow and keeping them healthy.
Thoroughly cleaning your teeth once a day is better than doing a less than complete job two or three times a day. To be thorough, it takes eight to 10 minutes to properly execute brushing, flossing and/or directed water irrigation. To check on how well you did, you can chew a disclosing tablet or paint disclosing solution onto your teeth (these are available over the counter and online). Once you rinse that out, wherever you have red or blue stain on your teeth is where you still have bacteria, so go back in again and clean the stain off. That’s when you learn what it takes to thoroughly clean your teeth. It’s more challenging than you might think!
Choose the right toothbrush
The toothbrush that you choose can make a significant difference in how well you can clean your teeth. Select a soft-bristled brush that is the right size to fit your mouth and can easily reach all surfaces. Make sure you rinse your toothbrush well with hot water to remove residue and bacteria after every brushing. If your bristles become frayed and worn out, they won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth, so replace your brush at least every three or four months, or earlier if necessary.
Personally, I like an electric toothbrush. You get thousands of brushstrokes per minute versus the dozens you get when doing it manually. You can thoroughly clean your teeth with either a manual or an electric toothbrush, but it takes less time with the electric option. Choose whichever electric toothbrush you’ll use every day, whichever brand it happens to be. Some even include timers and pressure sensors to help you make sure you’re doing a great job.
Choose the right toothpaste
Toothpaste is essentially the solution that cleans your teeth, and not all kinds of toothpaste are created equal; some will do a better job at removing plaque and protecting your teeth than others will. There are various products on the market, some promising whiter teeth while others offer protection for sensitivity. For many people, the whitening and tartar control toothpastes create sensitivity, so that may be a factor you want to take into consideration when making your choice.
Floss your teeth
Even with regular, thorough brushing, food particles get stuck between your teeth where they stay, turning into plaque and tartar and increasing your risk of cavities and tooth decay. Flossing regularly can help remove these particles, reducing bad breath, preventing gum disease, and significantly reducing your risk of cavities.
There’s a right way to do it, though: Are you flossing or popping? Most people who think they’re flossing their teeth are actually only popping. Popping is when you pop the floss in between your teeth, wiggle it around a little, then pop it back out and move on to the next space.
Proper flossing is where you pop the floss in between the teeth, wrap the floss around one of the two teeth creating the gap you’re in so that you’re hugging the tooth with the floss, and slide it up and down several times, removing the bacterial plaque stuck on the tooth. Then you move the floss to the tooth on the other side of the gap and do the same thing. Then you can move on to the next space. It takes a little longer, but it’s effective. Popping instead of flossing leaves you vulnerable to more cavities, gum disease, and expense when you have to go get it all fixed.
Directed water irrigation
Shooting a jet of water in between your teeth for a minimum of five seconds will help remove food particles, toxins and bacteria stuck between your teeth and under your gums. Use warm water, aim directly over the gum in between the teeth, and press the button. Don’t forget the back of the last tooth, too! You can use a Water Pik, Shower Breeze, or any other water irrigating device that lets you shoot a stream of water in between your teeth.
Eat a healthy diet
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to maintain healthy teeth and gums is to eat a healthy diet. Choose fresh, whole foods high in protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals to ensure that your body gets all of the nutrition it requires. Dairy products, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts are all excellent choices.
Stay away from foods high in sugars or highly acidic foods as these can wear down the enamel on your teeth, promoting tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
While having a bright, white smile is an excellent advantage to practicing good oral hygiene at home, even more important are the overall health benefits it can provide. By doing the work to keep your mouth free from cavities, gum disease, and other periodontal issues, you can help protect your entire body from a wide range of complications and illnesses.
So what are you waiting for? Get cleaning!