Good oral health is essential to your overall wellness. Along with having strong teeth and healthy gums, taking care of your mouth correctly can potentially protect you from issues such as endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia and pregnancy or birth complications.
While regular brushing is a great place to begin, there’s much more you can do to elevate your dental hygiene routine. From the proper toothbrush and the best tongue scraper to selecting the right food and drinks, learn how you can upgrade your at-home dental care.
Choose a Good Brush
Although it might seem like a firmer toothbrush would do a better job, experts recommend using a soft-bristled brush. A firm brush can stress your gums and lead to gum recession.
The size of your brush matters, as well.
“It’s very important to choose a toothbrush head that matches your mouth, so if you have a smaller mouth, you want to have a smaller head,” Deborah Foyle, DDS, MS, MSc, clinical assistant professor and director of pre-doctoral periodontics at the Texas A&M College of Dentistry, told Texas A&M Health. “Often people just prefer a smaller head because it’s easier to manipulate in their mouth.”
An electric toothbrush is an upgrade to consider, as studies have shown them to be more effective at removing plaque.
Brush at the Best Time
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice daily. For most people, this is in the morning and at night. However, for best results, you should time toothbrushing around your meals.
“We definitely recommend holding off on brushing after consuming anything acidic, whether it’s fruit, soda, juice, or sour candy,” Ezzard Rolle, DDS, assistant professor of dental medicine at Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine, said in a statement. “The reason for that is that when acids are in the mouth, they weaken the enamel of the tooth, which is the outer layer of the tooth.”
The ADA recommends waiting to brush for one hour after eating acidic foods. This allows your saliva to wash away acids and re-harden your enamel naturally.
Cleaning between your teeth can remove plaque that brushing alone can’t reach. The ADA recommends using dental picks, string floss, interdental brushes or a water flosser.
Unlike brushing, you only need to floss once a day. It doesn’t matter when you floss as long as you do a thorough job. Choose a time when you’re most likely to stick with it.
Don’t Forget Your Tongue
Your tongue is an essential part of your mouth and deserves special treatment. Using your toothbrush to clean it is beneficial, but the best tongue scrapers will elevate your dental hygiene.
“…Tongue scraping can do a better job at removing that plaque and bacteria off the tongue’s surface,” dental hygienist Tenika Patterson, RDH, told the Cleveland Clinic. “Brushing is OK to do, but think about it this way — if your carpet is dirty and you scrub it, the dirt’s going to get embedded down in there. But if you scrape it, it’s going to come right off the surface.”
Although it can make your breath smell minty and your mouth feel fresh, mouthwash should never replace brushing your teeth. However, therapeutic mouthwash with active ingredients that kill bacteria can help reduce plaque, gingivitis and cavities while fighting bad breath.
If you use mouthwash, pick the best time to rinse to boost your oral health. For instance, the U.K.’s National Health Service recommends rinsing with mouthwash at a different time than when you brush. For example, you can rinse right after eating lunch. Avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes afterward.
Drink More Water
If you need another reason to increase your water intake, here it is. Drinking plenty of H2O can improve your dental hygiene.
Water with fluoride can strengthen your teeth. In addition, drinking water helps wash away sugar and food residue. It can also help prevent dry mouth, a problem that could promote tooth decay over time.
Choose Foods That Support a Healthy Mouth
You are probably aware that hard, sticky, sweet foods and beverages can be detrimental to your dental health. Even nutritious foods can be hard on enamel if they are highly acidic, so eating them with other foods as part of a balanced meal is essential.
Foods high in calcium and phosphorous can strengthen your teeth and rebuild protective enamel. Fruits and vegetables high in water and fiber balance sugars and help clean your teeth. They also stimulate saliva production and contain vitamins that promote healthy gums and build tooth enamel.
With a few simple modifications, you can create a daily dental routine that will give you a great reason to smile.