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Did you know there is a right way and a wrong way to clean your teeth? And when you slack off on your routine, one problem can cascade into other problems that could impact more than your mouth? Yes, plaque and bleeding gums can escalate into dangerous health problems like heart disease and preterm labor.
So if you’d like to stay healthy and keep your teeth for a lifetime, heed these dentist–approved tips for a healthier, brighter smile.
How to choose a brush
Patients often ask whether an electric toothbrush is better than a manual.
Dentists agree that the best type of toothbrush is the one you like best and use. Electric toothbrushes with timers are particularly good for people who don’t brush long enough: Two minutes is recommended. In a National Institutes of Health study, oscillating toothbrushes removed slightly more plaque than standard electric toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes.
If an electric toothbrush makes you brush longer or you just like it better, go for it. Just be gentle. A soft brush, a light hand and thorough coverage will go along way in keeping your teeth decay free. Brush at least twice per day. The longer bacteria blankets your teeth, the more damage it can do.
Replace your toothbrush or brush head every two to three months or when the bristles begin to splay.
Here are some tips for proper brushing. Your dental team will advise you if extra steps are needed.
- Tilt the brush to a 45-degree angle toward the gums.
- Keeping the brush at this angle, brush the surfaces, front and back and biting area, of each tooth.
- Brush using a circular motion.
- Brush your tongue to remove more bacteria.
How to choose a toothpaste
The American Dental Association considers fluoride the most important ingredient in toothpaste. If your toothpaste has the ADA seal of approval, you’re good. Look at labels so you know what you’re getting, including checking for any ingredients you are allergic to. If you have frequent sores in your mouth, some research suggests sodium lauryl sulfate, which makes toothpaste foam, could be to blame. You might do better with a natural toothpaste.
If you notice your teeth are sensitive to hot and cold, a desensitizing toothpaste might help block pain. If the over-the-counter brands don’t provide relief, ask your dentist if you are a candidate for a prescription toothpaste.
No need to waste toothpaste, either. You only need a pea-sized amount.
Whether to whiten
Life can make our teeth less than sparkling white. Whitening toothpastes are an easy way to remove light yellow staining from coffee, tea, colas, wine, curry, red sauces, dark fruits, and artificially colored foods and drinks such as candy and slushies. Whiteners won’t remove brown stains from trauma or those on crowns or veneers.
Whitening toothpastes, over-the-counter bleaching strips and trays, and dentist-office whitening are options. It’s best to ask your dentist what kind of whitening procedure is best for you.
How to floss
The ADA recommends cleaning between teeth daily. Though many people opt for waxed or unwaxed flossing string, some prefer dental picks or water flossers. Ask your dentist for recommendations and try several options until you find one you like best. Any of these tools will do the job, so choose the tool you’ll actually use.
If you use dental floss, make sure you are using it correctly.
- With an inch of floss between your two hands, gently rock the floss between each tooth.
- When the floss gets to the gum line, curve it into a C-shape and then scrape down the side of each tooth.
- Floss the back of your last teeth as well.
Whether to use a mouthwash or rinse
Though they’re not a substitute for regular brushing, therapeutic mouthwashes or rinses can be a helpful addition to your dental care routine. They help control or reduce bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to plaque, tooth decay and gum disease. Read the labels. If the mouthwash doesn’t kill bacteria, it may freshen breath and taste good but do little else.
As a caution, if you find you are using mouthwash due to bad breath, tell your dentist. Bad breath can be a sign of poor dental health and other general health problems.
How often are dental checkups necessary?
Even if you have a healthy diet, don’t smoke, and take care of your teeth, you still need regular dental checkups. Why? Because dentists and their diagnostic tools can see problems in the earliest stage, making treatment easier. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, which can be reversible. However, untreated it can lead to periodontal disease.
Wondering what the right interval is between dental checkups? Every year? Six months? Three months?
It depends. Six months is recommended for those with a low risk of problems. However, your dentist may ask to see you more often, especially if you have problems with tartar buildup, decay and pain. Additionally, your stage in life could influence whether you need shorter intervals between checkups. For example, a study by the School of Dental Medicine at Case Western and Cleveland Clinic found that postmenopausal women may need checkups more than twice per year. So ask your dentist and keep those appointments. Your health depends on it.
The renowned dentists at Herald Square Dental and The Denture Center help thousands of people each year restore their healthy smile. Well known for their warmth and caring, in addition to the quality, precision care that is their hallmark, Herald Square Dental and The Denture Center have been caring for patients for more than 40 years. When it comes to your smile, an experienced dental team counts.
—Laura Strom for Herald Square Dental & The Denture Center
The above content was provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider for medical advice, or reach out to Herald Square Dental and The Denture Center to schedule an appointment.