Even dentists state that the most important aspect of dental hygiene occurs outside of the dentist’s office. Brushing, flossing, and good dietary habits, along with the necessary dental checkups, will significantly reduce your likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay.
Importance of Brushing
Plaque, which consists of bacteria that becomes layered on your teeth, is the single greatest cause of tooth decay. Flossing once each day and brushing your teeth twice daily are a great start to keeping your teeth in mint condition. Along with removing plaque, brushing your teeth also serves to keep the gums healthy and therefore prevent the occurrence of gum disease.
Any good toothpaste contains one or more foaming agents, detergents, and abrasives. The most common of toothpaste’s active ingredients, fluoride, is crucial to healthy teeth and gums. Fluoride plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay.
Tartar, which is essentially plaque that has hardened, is quite difficult to eradicate. Fortunately, there are toothpastes and mouthwashes currently available that help to remove and prevent the buildup of tartar. Approximately 10% of people develop tartar quicker than normal.
For individuals with sensitive teeth, sensitive toothpastes are available. However, sensitivity can indicate a serious problem that should always be discussed with a dentist. Examples of causes of sensitive teeth include irritation due to inflammation of the nerves as well as cavities.
How to Properly Brush
According to dentists, no less than 2 minutes should be spent twice each day in brushing one’s teeth. Unfortunately, the vast majority of persons do not spend nearly long enough brushing their teeth.
The following are a series of steps that should be followed when brushing your teeth to ensure that you do a proper job:
- Hold the brush against gums at an approximate 45 degree angle.
- Brush from where the gums meet the tooth to the area used for chewing, using short strokes. Do so gently as brushing with excessive force can lead to sensitivity and receding gums.
- Repeat this brushing process on both the inside and outside of all teeth.
When brushing the chewing area, make sure that the bristles of the brush reach all of the crevices in the top of the tooth. For the inside tooth surfaces, turn the toothbrush so it is almost completely vertical and brush both the gums and teeth. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, from back to front, as bacteria can build up on tongue and significantly impact your tooth and gum health.
If you have difficulty judging how long to brush your teeth, use a timer or a favorite song that is the right length. If you have an electronic toothbrush, you may have it easy. Many of these toothbrushes have timers that tell you when you have brushed your teeth for the appropriate amount of time.
Choosing a Toothbrush
The consensus by most dentists is that soft-bristled brushes are the best at removing debris and plaque. Choose a brush with a small head as opposed to one with a large one, as smaller brushes will more easily be able to access all of the mouth’s hard to reach areas. Powered toothbrushes have come a long way and they are a great choice for an efficient brush.
Toothbrushes should typically be changed out for new ones once every three months. Make sure to keep track of how long you have had your current toothbrush so that you can replace it at the appropriate intervals. Toothbrushes should also be replaced when you become sick as they can accumulate germs that can cause reinfection and a delay in recovery.
Choosing a Toothpaste
It can be overwhelming trying to choose the right toothpaste with all of the options available. Many toothpastes have been designed to combat various conditions such as gingivitis, cavities, stained teeth, tooth sensitivity, and tartar. If you have particular issues with your teeth, ask your dental hygienist or dentist which toothpaste is best suited for your needs.
For the most part, toothpaste should, at the very least, contain fluoride. Fluoride both prevents the occurrence of cavities as well as serves to strengthen any weak areas of the teeth.
Flossing with Healthy Teeth in Mind
Although brushing is certainly crucial, it is by no means the only required dental hygiene practice. Flossing is better able to remove food particles and plaque that builds up between the teeth, under braces, or under the gums. Because of this, flossing should be performed once per day, at the least.
Following these steps and tips will ensure that you clean your teeth thoroughly while eliminating any injury to the gums:
- Gently wiggle the floss between the teeth and floss carefully back and forth.
- Make sure the floss reaches your gums but don’t force the floss downward as this could hurt the gums.
- Make a C curve around each tooth and slide the floss along the tooth’s side.
- Repeat on all teeth, making sure to floss the back of the teeth as well.
When choosing the best floss, keep in mind that the majority of dentists recommend that you use unwaxed floss, which is thinner and therefore able to fit more easily between the teeth. Despite this, research has not shown a significant advantage of unwaxed over waxed floss.
Using Additional Tooth-Whitening Products
Although many toothpastes claim to help in your quest for white teeth, they are often not the best way to obtain a white smile. As long as the toothpaste contains fluoride, however, there is no reason not to choose a toothpaste that boasts a tooth-whitening agent.
If you watch T.V., you have doubtless been bombarded with commercials advertising products designed to give you the whitest smile possible. If you are a younger individual, it is unlikely that you even need to purchase tooth-whitening products. Teeth yellow with age, so most of these products are targeted towards the elderly.
If, however, you believe that your teeth are not a white as they should be, discuss options with your dentist before using any whitening agents. Professional treatments are also available and typically are significantly more successful than any product you can obtain over-the-counter. Many of these over-the-counter products contain bleach that can lead to damage to the mouth and gums.
The Importance of Nutrition to a Healthy Mouth
Everyone knows that sugar is a no-no when it comes to healthy teeth and gums. However, hardly anyone wants to cut out sugar completely. Eating sugar is something that should be timed more than anything else.
Consuming sugar during the day, either from food or drink, causes the teeth to come in contact with damaging acids. The most egregious offenders are cough drops, breath mints, and hard candies as these sugary items dissolve slowly over time. Dental professionals suggest taking 3 hour breaks between eating sugary foods.
Starchy and/or sugary foods are far less damaging when they are eaten in a meal than if they are consumed alone. This is probably due to increased saliva production during meals that serves to clean the mouth of both harmful bacteria as well as sugar. Sugary foods should also not be consumed before going to bed as less saliva is produced while sleeping.
The following tips will reduce the effect of sugar on your overall dental health:
- Snack on foods that do not contain sugar, such as raw vegetables or popcorn.
- If you are not able to brush your teeth after consuming sugar, use mouthwash, rinse out your mouth, or chew some sugar-free gum.
- Eat sugars or starches as part of your meal instead of alone.
About Dr. Joseph T. Hung
Dr. Joseph T. Hung is a New York orthodontist educated at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. He is known as an Invisalign expert, having used his ability to straighten teeth with clear braces and achieved Top 1% status by Invisalign. Currently, he offers orthodontics in Manhattan through his practice, RockCenter Orthodontics. Under Dr. Hung’s guidance, patients have achieved straight, beautiful smiles. As the founder of Orthodontist Insight, he helps to promote oral health awareness to adults and children. His Invisalign Cost NYC website offers resources on Invisalign prices in Manhattan.