Bad breath and bleeding gums are probably some of the most embarrassing problems we have to deal with when it comes to our oral hygiene. These problems can sometimes get so bad that dealing with people becomes awkward and uncomfortable. You become self-conscious and some of the thoughts that are constantly in your head are “Am I too close? Can they smell my breath?” “If I eat that apple at work will my gums explode into another bleeding episode?” These problems are just some of the consequences of incorrect oral hygiene practices.
Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping one’s mouth and teeth clean and free of any diseases such as bad breath, gum disease, and teeth decay. Proper oral hygiene practices should turn into lifetime habits that are not only essential for maintaining your oral health but also your overall well-being. A comprehensive oral hygiene routine consists of tooth brushing, flossing, using mouthwash and regular preplanned visits to your dentist.
We all know that we should be brushing our teeth 2-3 times every single day but isn’t that just theoretical? Most people seem to think so and will reduce that down to just once a day in the morning to try and get the fresh minty breath before facing other humans. Once is definitely not enough to ward away that bad breath not to mention other oral diseases.
Twice is the minimum number of times to brush your teeth per day, once in the morning and another at night. Brushing at night is the absolute most important time. So, the next time you’re tired and go to bed without brushing your teeth think again because bacteria and food are fermenting all night on your teeth and gums and your oral hygiene will pay the price for your laziness. It is always better to wait at least 30 minutes after you eat to brush your teeth. So, if there are any acids in your food, you won’t be brushing your teeth with acid causing some damage to the surface.
The recommended duration for brushing your teeth is at least 2 minutes, 30 seconds on each section (upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left). According to the American dental hygienist association, the proper technique for tooth brushing is:
Step 1: Place the brush bristles along the gum line at a 45-degree angle. The bristles should contact both the tooth surface and the gum line.
Step 2: Gently brush the outer tooth surfaces of 2-3 teeth using a vibrating back & forth rolling motion. A rolling motion is when the brush makes contact with the gum line and is moved downward toward the chewing surface. Move brush to the next group of two to three teeth and repeat.
Step 3: place the brush on the inner teeth surfaces of the teeth and place it at a 45-degree angle with bristles contacting the tooth surface and gum line and again gently brush using back, forth, and rolling motion.
Step 4: Tilt brush vertically behind the front teeth. Make several up & down strokes using the front half of the brush.
Step 5: Place the brush against the biting surface of the teeth & use a gentle back & forth scrubbing motion.
Step 6: Brush the tongue from back to front to remove odor-producing bacteria.
If you find that applying proper technique and maintaining the appropriate time for tooth brushing is too hard for you, there is always the option of using an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes perform very rapid motion on the surface of the teeth and leave surfaces clean and bacteria free.
When it comes to choosing your toothbrush, pick one that has soft bristles and won’t injure your gums or scratch your teeth. It should also fit comfortably into your mouth without being too big. Some toothbrushes also come with a tongue scraper which comes in really handy when cleaning your tongue. If it doesn’t come with one you can just use the normal bristles to scrape your tongue clean. After each use, you should place your toothbrush under running water and make sure it is completely clean from any food particles. Your toothbrush should be replaced every 3-4 months (shockingly it shouldn’t last for years!) and if the bristles look damaged you should replace it even sooner.
Toothpaste helps clean your teeth and leaves them feeling fresh but how can you differentiate which type is best for you? When picking toothpaste chose something that tastes pleasant to encourage you to brush your teeth regularly. Check for the presence of fluoride which is an important component of toothpaste to help fight decay and reduce teeth sensitivity. To get the maximum benefit out of the fluoride in your toothpaste don’t rinse out your mouth after you brush your teeth.
Whitening kinds of toothpaste are controversial because although they may whiten your teeth with regular use. But in the long run, they may cause sensitivity and should be completely avoided by people that already have sensitive teeth.
As opposed to what most people think flossing is not a luxury, it is not an expensive piece of thread used to remove food stuck between your teeth. Flossing is actually an essential part of a proper oral hygiene routine that helps remove bacteria and food from areas that the toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing should be done once a day preferably at night before brushing your teeth. Proper technique is essential because if you use floss aggressively and gam it between your teeth into your gums you may cause more harm than good. According to the American dental hygienist association the proper technique for flossing is:
Step 1: Wind 18 inches of floss around the middle fingers of each hand. Pinch floss between thumbs and index fingers, leaving a 1″- 2″ length in between. Use thumbs to direct floss between upper teeth. You want enough floss to keep a clean segment in place as you move from tooth to tooth.
Step 2: Keep a one- to the two-inch length of floss taut between fingers. Use index fingers to guide floss between contacts of the lower teeth.
Step 3: Gently guide floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag motion. Be careful not to let the floss snap or “pop” between teeth. Contour floss around the side of the tooth, making a C shape with the floss as you wrap it around the tooth.
Step 4: Slide floss up and down against the tooth surface and under the gum line, and don’t forget to floss the back side of each tooth. As you move from one tooth to the next, unroll a fresh section of floss from the finger of one hand while rolling the used floss onto the finger of the other hand.
It doesn’t matter what type of floss you use it is a matter of personal preference as long as you apply the correct technique. If flossing is too challenging you can try a water pick or an oral irrigator it pushes a stream of water between your teeth and helps reduce the number of bacteria between teeth. Electrical options in the case of flossing are not as effective as normal flossing but it’s a good option if you absolutely won’t floss.
Finally an easy part of our daily routine that everyone probably does anyway to get that fresh minty breath we all eagerly seek. Mouthwashes are basically two types; cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwashes freshen up breath and taste pleasant but they don’t reduce bacteria in your mouth or treat the cause of bad breath. Their use should be limited to rinsing out your mouth after a meal.
In the case of a constant problem related to bad breath then therapeutic mouthwashes should be used. Therapeutic mouthwashes kill bacteria that cause bad breath and can help reduce inflammation of the gums. Therapeutic mouthwashes are usually prescribed by dentists but if you would like to use an over-the-counter therapeutic mouthwash, choose one that is antibacterial or antiseptic. There are also mouthwashes that contain fluoride and can help reduce sensitivity and cavities. Mouthwash can be used before or after tooth brushing unless stated otherwise on it and should never be used to substitute tooth brushing or flossing.
Regular dental visits are essential for the maintenance of oral hygiene and health. These visits should be every 6 months to a year and shouldn’t be related to pain. The dentist can check your teeth for cavities and gums for infections that cause bad breath and eventually pain.
This covers the basics of everything you need to know when it comes to oral care. Now grab your toothbrush and floss and get going! If you want to perfect your smile check out: Everything You Need To Know Before Whitening Your Teeth