Practicing good oral hygiene is essential for keeping your teeth and gums healthy. This will not only keep your smile looking great, but it also will improve your overall health, as infections from decaying teeth can affect the rest of your body as well. It is important that you have your teeth cleaned at least twice per year, and that you see your dentist at the first sign of a cavity or other problem. However, dentists will tell you that the oral hygiene procedures that you perform on a daily basis are the most important for the health of your teeth and gums.
Brushing Your Teeth
Your dentist recommends that you brush your teeth a minimum of twice per day; however, for the best prevention of tooth decay, you should brush when you get up, after each meal, and before you go to bed. Each time you eat or drink, your saliva and a natural substance that is formed from food particles, acids, and bacteria, called plaque, coats your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque can erode the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities. Plaque hardens quickly when not removed from the teeth, forming a harder substance called tartar. When tartar forms, only a special procedure performed by your dentist can remove it. By brushing away the plaque after you eat, it does not have the chance to build up.
Choosing A Toothpaste
There are various types of toothpaste on the market, and each promises a different effect, such as whitening, cavity prevention, or tartar control. With all of the many possibilities, choosing the best one can be difficult. Most dentists recommend choosing a toothpaste that has been approved by the ADA, the American Dental Association. This approval seal can be found on the tube and packaging, and ensures that the toothpaste is safe for use and effective for preventing tooth decay.
Dentists typically recommend a general tartar control formula that contains fluoride. This type of toothpaste will clean your teeth and polish the enamel, and the fluoride will help prevent cavities. There is no recommendation in terms of which consistency of toothpaste is best, such as a paste versus a gel, so you can choose the type that you prefer.
Dentists also recommend flossing twice per day as well. Flossing removes any food particles that have become lodged between your teeth. Flossing also helps to remove the plaque that has built up between teeth. If not removed, the plaque can cause tooth decay, gingivitis, and it can cause tartar to form between your teeth.
Waxed floss is recommended because it slides more easily. To floss your teeth, pull off an 18” strand and wrap it around your fingers so that it is taut. Gently slide the floss between teeth, and pull the floss upward so that it cleans along your gum line as well. Floss along both sides of each tooth, pulling down the floss to use a clean piece for each tooth. Rinse your mouth with a rinse that contains fluoride after you floss.
Dr. Steven DeLisle is a Las Vegas dentist currently practicing sedation dentistry and specializing in dental implants.