The great thing about our mouths is that most common dental problems (save the occasional emergency) are preventable. Things like tooth decay, gum disease, and toothaches can usually be avoided — generally speaking — with good home care.
Since most of us tend to make oral hygiene a routine part of our daily activities, it can be easy to overlook some of the most important aspects of each step. Here’s everything you need to know about how to take care of your teeth on a day-to-day basis, and why it will pay off over time.
Health Importance of Oral Hygiene
One of the most common sayings you’ll hear about oral health is that “your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body.” Essentially, the health of your mouth gives us a peek inside to see what else is going on.
Anytime there is an active infection in our mouths, there is a risk for bacteria to spread elsewhere in our body. The inflammatory side effects can also raise the likelihood of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Numerous studies have found that untreated, aggressive gum disease cases can statistically raise your chances of:
- Diabetes and uncontrolled blood glucose levels
- Heart attack
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Preeclampsia and stillbirth
…and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease. In turn, eliminating those oral bacteria and reducing the inflammation in your mouth can play a positive role in your overall wellness. We see from numerous reports that people who treat oral disease typically see improved health within just a few months.
Best Way to Brush Teeth
Make a point to brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes, twice per day. If possible, invest in a high quality electric toothbrush, as it will be able to remove more plaque biofilm than using a manual brush. With an electric brush you simply have to place it in the correct location and it does all of the work for you.
When brushing, angle your brush slightly toward your gum tissues and focus on one or two teeth at a time. For manual brushing, make short back-and-forth strokes, then move to the next 1-2 teeth. Avoid scrubbing back and forth, as harsh brushing can cause gum recession and enamel abrasion. Repeat this pattern across the outside and inside of all of your teeth, then brush each of the chewing surfaces.
Always select a toothbrush with soft or extra-soft bristles. Harder bristles tend to be too rough for gum tissues, plus, they tend to skip over the curves of your mouth. Whenever you start to see the bristles begin to splay out, it means you’re either brushing too hard or that it’s time to replace your toothbrush.
Dental Cleaning Frequency (What’s Best?)
People with healthy teeth and gums typically respond best to a professional scale and clean every six months. These preventative care appointments allow our dentist and hygienist to consistently monitor changes in your oral cavity to pinpoint areas that require attention. That way minor issues can be intercepted earlier — or even reversed — before they have a chance to evolve into something that requires complex treatment.
On the other hand, someone who is currently struggling with periodontal disease may need to schedule a maintenance cleaning as often as every 3-4 months. Particularly because of the deep ‘pockets’ around their teeth that tend to accumulate plaque and tartar.
During your cleaning, we’ll make you aware of any specific areas that may need a little more attention. As you adapt your home hygiene routine you can maintain those areas between visits, rather than have to schedule more frequent cleans.
On a related note, most people with dental benefits can receive 100% coverage on two cleans per year. The terms fluctuate from one plan to the next, but the fact that preventative services are generally covered makes it worthwhile to plan your checkups out in advance. Taking advantage of your included clean and exam could potentially help you save hundreds or thousands in treatment over the lifetime of your smile.
How Often Should You Floss
If you aren’t flossing every day, the spaces between your teeth and just under the gumlines in those areas aren’t getting cleaned. A toothbrush physically can’t reach into those spaces, which is why people who don’t floss will typically see more cavities and gum disease than individuals who do.
When you’re using floss, you want to wrap it in a ‘C’ shape around the side of the tooth to conform to the curves. Then slide it gently up and down several times, slightly slipping below the gumlines each time. Just don’t force it. Once you’ve completed one side, lift the floss up and over the gum tissues and wrap it around the adjacent tooth.
Hate flossing? You’re in luck. Swapping your strand of floss out for a powered water flosser is also an option. Although they’re a bit messy, most people get used to them with a little practice. Simply use the jet of water to trace along the gums and flush between the teeth. Water flossers are also helpful for cleaning the deep gum pockets caused by periodontal disease! We suggest getting a design that allows you to adjust the pressure flow, for improved comfort. There are even designs out there that have interchangeable heads, making them useful for cleaning around braces and other fixed appliances.
Side Note: A lot of people stop flossing if their gums bleed. In reality, healthy gums do not bleed. If there is bleeding, it isn’t the floss that’s causing it. Rather, it’s likely due to inflamed and infected gum tissues being extremely sensitive. Typically, gingivitis-induced bleeding gums can be reversed within two weeks as long as you’re brushing and flossing properly each day. If it doesn’t, you may have a more aggressive form of gum disease that requires professional attention.
Is Mouthwash Bad for You?
Mouthwash can be a helpful add-on to your brushing and flossing routine. Especially if you have a bit of gingivitis or are more prone to buildup. But if you choose the wrong type of mouthwash, it could actually lead to some unwanted side effects.
A lot of mouthwashes contain alcohol, as it helps to stabilise the solution while it’s on the shelf between production and use. The ingredient also helps to combat certain types of oral bacteria. On the other hand, alcohol is a natural drying agent. So if you have dry mouth or sensitive gum tissues, using this type of a mouthwash can lead to burning or increased dryness. And the dryer your mouth is, the higher risk you’re at for developing tooth decay. Xerostomia (chronic dry mouth) can also exacerbate complications related to burning mouth syndrome or salivary gland deficiencies in cancer patients.
If you’re looking for a generally family-safe mouthwash, the best option is to select an alcohol-free blend that contains fluoride and essential oils. These ingredients can help to strengthen teeth, reduce tooth sensitivity, improve gum health, and ward-off gingivitis.
Foods to Avoid for Healthy Teeth
Generally speaking, the ‘worst’ foods (and drinks) for your teeth are those like processed carbs, higher acid content, or contain natural and artificial sweeteners. Anything that’s too sticky can also be harmful, as it tends to cling to your teeth for an extended period of time.
While most of us tend to look out for foods with sugar in them, it’s the liquids that tend to catch us off guard the most. Anything from your coffee creamer to your sports drink you’re sipping on during workouts could be increasing your risk for tooth decay. Especially if it’s something you’re drinking multiple times a week. All those liquids and sugars (including artificial flavourings that are ‘sugar free’) coating your enamel can create an acidic erosion process that lasts about half an hour every time you take a drink. So if you’re able to, rinse your mouth out well with water afterward.
Avoiding Common Injuries
Oral injuries are some of the most common types of accidents to occur during athletic and recreational activities. Whether it’s cycling, football, or something else, if there’s a risk of you getting hit or elbowed in the mouth (or simply falling down) there is an increased chance of broken and knocked out teeth.
Athletes — whether casual or professional — are encouraged to invest in a protective mouthguard to wear during their activities. Not only do professional sports guards offer the highest level of protection against broken teeth, they can also reduce your chances of suffering from a concussion.
Getting a sports mouthguard made is as simple as stopping by our office to have an impression taken of your teeth. We can even customise the appliance to match your favourite colour or team jersey. It’s a smart investment you won’t regret making.
Schedule Your Checkup Today
Has it been six months or longer since your last dental checkup? Are you able to see signs of tartar buildup or stain on your teeth? Contact Hawthorn Road Family Dental today to reserve your next appointment.