Regular checkups and professional cleaning (officially known as dental prophylaxis) are crucial for both your oral health and your overall wellbeing. But how you care for your mouth at home is every bit as important.
Dr. Sangha and her staff encourage a preventative program to ensure that patients maintain optimal oral health. Start at home with a balanced diet and routine dental care (including brushing, flossing and rinsing), which will set you up for success when coming in for your scheduled cleanings.
Protecting your teeth from decay is a continual battle. The sugar from the food you eat in combination with the bacteria in your mouth leads to the formation of plaque. Plaque produces acids that gradually damage your teeth. Your teeth are robbed of minerals during this time, making them weaker.
This plaque must be cleared away before it forms tartar or calculus, a hard substance that can only be removed by a professional. Likewise, your teeth need a break from the acid and a chance to remineralize before the damage caused by the acid becomes permanent and a cavity forms. Additionally, lots of beverages these days are very acidic as well, making them a risk factor for decay. To reduce that risk, we recommend either reducing your intake of modern beverages or having them with meals.
At TLC Dental Care, we offer our CariFree program, which is designed to determine what your risk level is and how we can help minimize it! Make an appointment today to get started towards a healthier mouth. Make sure you have a home care routine that will keep your smile healthy even after you leave our practice.
To care for your teeth at home…
- You should be brushing your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice a day. Use a toothpaste with fluoride to help keep your enamel strong.
- You should floss your teeth each day to remove plaque from the spaces between your teeth and in the areas below your gumline, where your toothbrush can’t reach. Don’t skip flossing; it’s your best defense against gum disease!
- Rinsing with a mouthwash can help.
- A healthy diet is important for a healthy mouth. Try to make sure you aren’t snacking frequently between meals, as this exposes your teeth to acid more often.
- Avoid all types of tobacco use.
- Be sure to let us know if you have any concerns such as sensitivity, bleeding, or oral pain.
It’s important to note that, while brushing and flossing are necessary, they may not be as effective as they could be if you’re using improper technique. In fact, it’s possible to damage your teeth if you use the wrong toothbrush or brush with too much force.
Please see our guides to brushing and flossing to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
What’s the Best Way to Brush My Teeth?
Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, when you wake up and before you go to bed. Brush all the surfaces of your teeth – inner, outer, biting areas. Don’t forget to brush your tongue. That’ll remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
To brush properly:
- Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
- Move the brush gently back and forth in short strokes.
- Be sure to brush the entire surfaces of your teeth—the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, the chewing surfaces, and even the backs of those hard-to-reach molars.
- For the inside surfaces of your front teeth, tilt your brush vertically and brush with up-and-down strokes.
- Don’t brush too hard! Plaque only needs to be brushed gently to be removed, and too much force can hurt your enamel.
Some other important factors:
- Be sure to use a brush with soft bristles. Hard bristles can wear down your tooth enamel, causing it two weaken.
- You should replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
- Use a toothpaste with fluoride.
Here’s a video from the American Dental Association to show you how it’s done.
An electric toothbrush can be a helpful tool in that it’s easy to use, it removes plaque well and the electric brush really does the work for you. Studies have even shown that electric toothbrushes work significantly better than a manual brush. We recommend the Oral B Triumph for your in home use.
What Kind of Toothbrush Should I Use?
Dental professionals and researchers concur that a traditional toothbrush could provide the exact same cleanliness that a powered toothbrush can…but only if it’s used properly. This means being very attentive with how you brush and being sure you do it for the full two minutes, two times a day—something only a few very diligent people are likely to do.
This is where the ease of an electric brush can give it an edge; <https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/08/electric-toothbrush-vs-manual/index.htm> they have the ability to do all of the work for the user. With a variety of different modes and brush heads, like deep cleaning, sensitivity, and whitening, it makes a good teeth cleaning a simple matter. Some models even come with the ability to time how long the user is taking to brush one location and informs the user to switch to the next through vibrations. Though this may seem like a gimmick to some, these advances are ideal for those with specials needs or dexterity issues.
In the end, choosing between a manual or an electric brush is up to the user and whether or not they will use the proper technique. Regular toothbrushes are cheap, travel-friendly, and do not need batteries, but they do require the extra attentiveness that many of us might not give it each and every time that we brush. For this reason, at TLC Dental Care, we feel the ease and good results of electric toothbrushes are absolutely worth it, and recommend the Oral B Triumph to our patients.
Caring for Your Toothbrush
Brushing and flossing properly is crucial to good oral health, but caring for your toothbrush is something that often goes overlooked, even though it’s important as well. If your toothbrush is not properly taken care of it can spread more germs into your mouth and not clean your teeth properly. For proper toothbrush care, be sure to keep the following in mind:
Rinse off the toothbrush
After you brush your teeth, make sure you rinse off your toothbrush completely with water. You should also allow it to air-dry. If you store your toothbrush in a container, the moisture can create an environment that allows microorganisms to grow.
Do not share your toothbrush
Sharing a toothbrush can lead to an increased risk of infection.
Replace your toothbrush
It is recommended that you replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. The bristles become worn and less effective over time.
How Do I Floss Properly?
To ensure optimal oral health it is essential to floss. Flossing helps clean the space between teeth, stops plaque from building up and prevents damage to the gums, teeth and bone.
For best results:
- Take about 12-16 inches of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers so that you have about 2 inches between your hands.
- When flossing, you will be gradually unwinding clean floss from the one finger, while wrapping the dirty floss around the finger of the other hand.
- Use your thumbs and forefingers to guide floss between your teeth in a back and forth motion.
- Use a gentle rubbing motion to guide the floss between your teeth. Be sure not to use too much force or to snap the floss into your gums.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, wrap it into a “C” shape around one tooth and slide it gently into the space between the gum and tooth.
- While holding the floss tightly against the side of the tooth, move the floss away from your gums with an up-and-down motion.
- Complete this process until you have rubbed the floss along the side of each of your teeth.
- Don’t forget to floss the back of your last molar!
You should be sure to floss once a day in order to prevent cavities in places where your toothbrush can’t reach and to ward off gum disease. If you find it a bit difficult to use conventional floss, a floss holder might be best.
Why Is It Important to Floss?
Most people will brush their teeth, but many are reluctant to floss as instructed. Some feel that brushing alone is sufficient, while others were influenced by a 2016 news article citing the lack of studies done on the effectiveness of flossing. Others are concerned when flossing causes discomfort or makes their gums bleed.
The truth of the matter is that toothbrushes are incapable of reaching all surfaces of the tooth. There are spaces between teeth where tiny food particles and bacteria can cause plaque formation. While mouthwash can reach these areas and kill the bacteria, it’s not capable of removing the plaque. This plaque will eventually become tartar, a hard substance that can only be removed by a dentist.
Plaque in areas between teeth can result in cavities that are difficult to spot, and beneath the gumline, it can cause irritation and eventually lead to gingivitis and gum disease. This is typically the real reason why gums bleed when flossing. Flossing helps keep these areas clean and allows the gums to heal and return to normal.
A study performed at Mashhad University of Medical Sciences found that flossing increases the effectiveness of brushing, allowing higher concentrations of fluoride to remain in the mouth for longer periods of time. While the study found evidence leading us to believe that flossing before brushing may be more effective, the most important thing is that we DO floss!
When you brush and floss your teeth, are you cleaning your tongue as well?
The germs in your mouth that cause tooth decay, gingivitis, and gum disease tend to form together in groups known as colonies. Colonies of bacteria are less destructive when they are broken up during your oral hygiene routine. However, they don’t just live on your teeth; bacteria can be found on your tongue as well.
The surface of the tongue is covered with many little tissue projections, called papillae, which serve various functions such as detecting taste. These papillae also make great hiding places for bacteria. In addition to being the type of bacteria that can result in tooth decay, they are also typically the source of bad breath.
Just using mouthwash isn’t enough to eliminate this bacteria; it needs to be manually dislodged with a toothbrush.
How to clean your tongue
Cleaning your tongue is relatively simple. Use your toothbrush first to go back-and-forth, then switch to side-to-side. Be sure you don’t overdo it, as you don’t want to damage your tongue. When done, rinse out your mouth with water.
A tongue-scraper may also be used but isn’t necessary. The ADA explains that, so far, there is no evidence that they work any better than using a toothbrush.
Should You Be Using a Mouthwash?
Brushing and flossing are the most crucial elements of a home oral hygiene routine and should be your main focus. There are some cases where a mouthwash/mouthrinse can be helpful, however, and mouthwash has the benefit of reaching areas that might be missed by a toothbrush.
Types of mouthwash
The best type of mouthwash for you will depend on your needs. You should be aware that there are two main types of mouthwash: therapeutic and cosmetic. The latter type may be used to control bad breath and leave a pleasant taste behind, but as they don’t kill bacteria, they offer no health benefits.
Therapeutic mouthwashes can be available over-the-counter or by prescription, and can be used to treat a number of different conditions.
Mouthwashes containing fluoride can be helpful for those who struggle with tooth decay, or who have braces and have a hard time reaching every part of their tooth with their toothbrush.
Antibacterial mouthwash can help disrupt bacteria, and help those with chronic gingivitis, but shouldn’t be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing—the bacteria will begin to return within 20 minutes. (For disturbing bacteria in hard-to-reach areas when your toothbrush isn’t available, sugar-free chewing gum (such as those with sorbitol) may be more effective.)
For those who suffer from dry mouth (xerostomia)—which can make teeth more prone to decay—some types of mouthrinse are specially formulated to help with this problem.
Some other conditions different kinds of therapeutic mouthwash has been created for include:
- Plaque control
- Bad breath
- Dry socket
- Topical pain relief
- Teeth whitening
Is mouthwash right for you?
Before deciding to use a mouthwash, consult Dr. Sangha or a member of her staff to see if one is recommended for your specific needs. An ADA-approved, over-the-counter mouthwash may be suggested, or in some cases, the dentist may suggest a prescription mouthrinse.
Whether to use the mouthwash before or after brushing, or if you should rinse with water between the two, can depend on the type of mouthwash; some can react to the chemicals in the toothpaste, making them less effective. Be sure to check before starting with a new mouthwash.