Oral hygiene should be a part of your daily life. While you might not think that much about the health of your teeth and gums, doing what you can to keep them in great shape is crucial for the overall health of your body. Gum disease is connected to other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Doing what you can to minimize the chance of developing gum disease can help reduce your chance of developing other problems.
But, what exactly is involved in a good oral hygiene routine? It’s more than just brushing your teeth. If you haven’t thought much about the state of your teeth or if it’s been a while since you’ve really thought about your teeth and gums, read on for a refresher course.
The Basics of Oral Hygiene: Brushing, Flossing, Rinsing
You know what they say: Great oral hygiene starts at home. When it comes to keeping your teeth healthy and clean, much of the work you need to do is done at home. Depending on your needs, oral hygiene at home is a two or three step process.
Step one is brushing your teeth at least twice a day, using a toothpaste that contains fluoride. While there are toothpastes that don’t contain fluoride available, only those that have it get the stamp of approval from the American Dental Association. That is because fluoride is a mineral that not only helps protect your teeth from decay, it can also reverse decay in its early stages. Toothpastes without fluoride will help get your teeth clean by removing bacteria and food bits, but they won’t actually protect your teeth.
When you brush, hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and use short, circular strokes. Make sure you get the top, sides, and back of the teeth to really get your mouth clean. Although using a lot of pressure and force might seem like a good idea, it’s actually better to be gentle. Too much pressure can cause the enamel of your teeth to wear away and can contribute to receding gums.
Step two is flossing your teeth, either before or after brushing, at least once a day. While your toothbrush and toothpaste will clean the outside areas of your teeth, they usually can’t reach the crevices between your teeth or around your gums. But, floss can.
It can be difficult to remember to floss or to get in the habit of flossing. If you’re struggling with it, you can try setting a reminder on your phone or putting a post-it note by your bed, so that you don’t fall asleep without flossing.
Step three is rinsing your mouth out with mouthwash. While not an essential like brushing and flossing, rinsing with mouthwash can help freshen your breath, kill any lingering bacteria and, if it contains fluoride, strengthen your teeth and further protect against tooth decay.
Seeing a Dentist
While you can take pretty good care of your teeth at home, it’s still important to see your dentist regularly for a thorough teeth cleaning and exam. Although daily brushing and flossing removes plaque buildup, it doesn’t remove tartar, which is the hardened form of plaque and which can only be removed by your dentist. Left alone, tartar buildup can increase your risk fro gum disease, as it gives bacteria a place to hang out and hide.
Regular dental exams also help you detect and treat gum disease and other issues before they have a chance to become big problems. For example, in the earliest stages, gum disease is reversible and can be cleared up with a deep cleaning by your dentist. In the later stages, it’s more difficult to treat and might require surgery to correct.
Watching Your Diet
A good oral hygiene routine at home and regular dental appointments are essential to good mouth care. But, so is keeping an eye on what you eat. If your diet is full of sugary foods, such as candy, starchy salty snacks, and soda, you’re making it more difficult to keep your mouth in good shape, as the bacteria that cause decay and gum disease thrive on sugary foods.
A poor diet also has a negative effect on your overall health, which can affect your dental health. For example, if you’re eating a lot of junk food, you might not be getting the nutrients you need to fight of infection or to keep your teeth’s enamel strong.
Your dentist can give you specific tips about what foods are best to eat for the sake of your teeth, but a general rule to follow is to avoid or limit sugary snacks, sticky foods, and foods that are very crunchy (as these can increase your risk for chipping or cracking a tooth). A diet full of vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will help your mouth stay in great shape.
Protecting Your Mouth
Along with keeping your mouth clean, part of caring for your oral hygiene involves protecting your mouth. The teeth are somewhat delicate, even though they are made from some of the hardest materials in your body. If you play a sport, remember to always wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth from flying elbows or balls.
Another way to protect your mouth and improve oral hygiene is to quit smoking. Tobacco users have a dramatically increased risk for gum disease and other oral problems compared to non-smokers. Plus, smoking makes your breath smell bad and yellows your teeth.
Miami periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas are able to discuss oral hygiene 101 with you further. If it’s been a while since you had a cleaning or you’re concerned about the health of your gums, call 305-447-1447 to schedule an appointment at Gallardo & Lamas today.