A good oral hygiene routine is about more than brushing and flossing. Here are all the ways you can make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy, clean and disease-free.
Regular Professional Cleanings & Checkups
Visiting the dentist at least two times a year is extremely important to your oral health.
Your dentist has the tools and expertise necessary to remove plaque and tartar buildup from your teeth that brushing and flossing in alone can’t get rid of.
Your dentist can also identify and repair dental problems in their earliest stages. Oral diseases and problems like cavities, gum disease and even abnormalities like tumors and cysts may not be immediately noticeable to the untrained eye. The sooner they are identified and dealt with, the less damage they’ll cause in the long run.
You should brush your teeth 2 - 3 times a day, for two minutes at a time. Spend 30 seconds brushing the teeth in each “quadrant” of your jaw (upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left). Make sure to carefully brush all exposed surfaces: the fronts, the backs and the biting surfaces.
Pro Tip: Try an electric toothbrush
An electric toothbrush allows you to clean your teeth more efficiently than a manual one does, because the brushing movement is quicker and they require less work. Select an electric toothbrush with a small head that rotates, as this mimics the ideal circular brushing motion. The small size of the head also makes it easier to clean those awkward, hard to reach places.
You should floss your teeth every day, ideally right before you go to bed. Flossing removes debris and plaque from between your teeth that is lodged in the places your toothbrush can’t reach.
Insert the floss between your teeth and run it carefully up and down the sides of each tooth, pulling it into a “c” shape. Move along slowly and be thorough!
Eating a healthy diet rich in calcium is also an important component of maintaining good oral health. Avoid sugars and starches, as oral bacteria thrive in these.
It may surprise you to learn that staying hydrated can help prevent cavities! Drinking enough fluids will help you maintain a good saliva flow, and saliva washes away food debris and particles that would otherwise collect on your teeth and allow bacteria to thrive. That means you'll have fresher breath as well.
Supplementary Hygiene Aids
Add hygiene aids to your brushing and flossing routine for an addition oral hygiene boost. Some good supplementary aids include mouthwash, interdental cleaners, oral irrigators, and tongue cleaners.
These can all help you maintain fresh breath and prevent plaque build up between brushing and flossing sessions.
Keep in mind that these types of tools should not replace brushing and flossing in your hygiene routine, but they can certainly help take it to the next level.
Eliminating Bad Habits
Certain bad habits can also cause cavities. Chewing your fingernails or hard objects (like the cap of a pen, for example) can chip or crack your dental enamel, making it easier for cavities to form in those spots.
Snacking between meals can also create more opportunity for bacteria to build up.
And of course, smoking is also bad for your oral health. It hinders the ability of your mouth to fight infection, making it easier for bacteria to thrive, resulting in cavities and gum disease. It also significantly increases your risk of oral cancer.