Preventive dentistry is the best investment you can make in the health and beauty of your smile. The most important component of preventive dentistry is your home hygiene routine.
Here are guidelines to help you maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Brush Teeth Twice Daily with Fluoride Toothpaste for Two Minutes
The American Dental Association (ADA) makes it very clear that this recommendation is based on strong scientific evidence.
Brushing twice a day leads to a lower risk of cavities and gum disease than less frequent brushing. For gum disease, this includes the risk of receding gums and serious gum disease (periodontitis) that can lead to tooth loss.
The use of fluoride toothpaste is very important for protecting your teeth from cavities. Compared to toothpaste without fluoride or a placebo, fluoride toothpaste reduced cavity risk by up to 30%.
Finally, the recommendation for brushing at least two minutes is based on studies showing that it leads to greater reduction in plaque than shorter brushing duration. To make sure that all your teeth get cleaned properly, dentists often phrase the recommendation as 30 seconds per quadrant to ensure you are brushing all your teeth adequately. Most people don’t brush their teeth long enough. Consider using a timer to help you spend the full time brushing.
Toothbrushing Technique Recommendations
Specific tooth brushing techniques have less scientific support. However, there is broad agreement about some aspects of toothbrushing.
Brush All Sides of Teeth: When brushing, make sure you get the side of the tooth closest to the tongue, as well as the one closest to the cheek, in addition to the top of the tooth. In two minutes, there’s plenty of time to give all sides of the tooth adequate care.
Brush at a 45-Degree Angle to Your Gums: Holding your toothbrush at this angle can help you sweep away plaque at the gum line.
Other aspects of toothbrushing have less widespread support. Some possibly beneficial practices include: using an electric toothbrush and brushing more than twice a day. An electric toothbrush can be beneficial for many people, and in some cases brushing more than twice a day can help. Try these strategies if you’re not getting your teeth fully clean.
Some people recommend brushing your tongue. This may be effective at helping to control bad breath. However, the impact on the health of your teeth and gums is unclear. Some evidence suggests that oral bacteria are specialized, and the majority of bacteria living on the tongue aren’t adapted to living on the teeth and gums, so cleaning your tongue may have little impact on the health of your teeth and gums.
Clean Between Teeth Daily
Although brushing is effective at cleaning the exposed tooth surfaces, it doesn’t reach the interproximal sides of the teeth–those that are close to other teeth. It’s also important to clean these surfaces, too.
The problem with flossing is that it can be hard to do properly. Dentists say this is the primary reason why there isn’t stronger support for the benefits of flossing. Interdental brushes show better results because they’re easier to use properly. There is limited evidence to support the use of other cleaning tools, such as water flossers and cleaning sticks.
If you don’t transition to interdental brushes, it’s worth it to take the time to practice flossing and get better at it until you see the benefits of less gingivitis and a lower risk of cavities between your teeth.
However, overall the best tool for cleaning between your teeth is the one that you will use. If you’re having trouble with this part of oral hygiene, talk to your dentist for personalized guidance.
Not Everyone Benefits from Mouthwash
There is limited evidence that mouthwashes provide additional benefits over brushing and cleaning between teeth for most people. However, for people at elevated risk of cavities, the use of a mouthwash daily can provide significant benefit. The evidence is strongest for children. Some adults may benefit, especially if they are at risk for root cavities.
Your dentist will recommend a mouthwash if it seems beneficial for you. If you choose to use a mouthwash without a recommendation from your dentist, choose one that contains fluoride but is alcohol free. Alcohol can lead to dry mouth, which promotes the growth of oral bacteria.
Choose a Healthy Diet
As part of its oral hygiene guidance, the ADA recommends that people choose to eat a diet that is low in added sugars. Although oral bacteria can consume essentially all food ingredients, the presence of excessive free sugars sets up conditions that favor oral bacteria which are unhealthy for your mouth. These bacteria contribute disproportionately to cavities and gum disease. Eating less sugar makes conditions more favorable for harmless–and even helpful–bacteria.
Make Regular Dental Visits
Although your home hygiene routine is the most important part of preventing oral disease, regular dental visits also play an important role. There are three main benefits of seeing the dentist regularly:
- Remove dental deposits that you can’t safely remove yourself
- Assess the state of your oral hygiene
- Detect dental problems early
It’s almost impossible to remove all plaque from your teeth, even with the most fastidious oral hygiene routine. Plaque that remains in the mouth will harden into tartar, which you can’t safely remove at home. Left untreated, tartar buildup is both unattractive and unhealthy.
By looking at the presence of tartar on your teeth, your dentist and/or hygienist can give you recommendations about how to improve your home hygiene routine.
Finally, your dentist will be able to detect dental problems like cavities and gum disease as they develop. When detected early, changes in hygiene can sometimes be the only treatment you need to let the body heal itself.
Protect Your Oral Health in Irvine
If you are looking for a dental practice that will be your committed partner for maintaining your oral health, look to Rice Dentistry. We’ve been helping people in Irvine maintain beautiful healthy smiles for decades.
Please contact us today for an appointment.