Have you heard the saying that the mouth is a gateway into your overall health? You might be surprised to learn that multiple studies have linked oral health to various diseases, medical events, and nutritional deficiencies. Luckily, there are some easy ways you can help keep your mouth healthy and happy.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some simple ways you can practice good oral hygiene at home in between your six month dental check ups.
Brush at least twice per day
This is the most classic of all dentist recommendations, but not without reason. Brushing your teeth helps remove food and plaque from your teeth, lowers your risk for cavities, and prevents gum disease. What’s not to love?
We recommend brushing your teeth for a minimum of two minutes, twice a day.
One study in 2012 found that the amount of plaque removed from brushing teeth averaged 27%, but when brush time was increased to 2 minutes, the plaque reduction nearly doubled to 41%.
Floss every day
Flossing helps reduce the amount of plaque that builds up in the hard-to-reach areas between your teeth. If you think about it, your teeth have a lot of surface area that bacteria can reach. Brushing covers most of the surface, and flossing in between the teeth finishes the job!
If you’re having trouble remembering to floss your teeth after brushing, some of our patients have been able to incorporate the habit between commercial breaks or episodes while binge watching on Netflix.
Don’t be deterred by flossing challenges
Perhaps you’ve noticed that since you had a cavity filled, it’s harder to floss around that tooth. Or maybe you have arthritis and flossing hurts your fingers. Ask us about using a water flosser to remove plaque from in between your teeth, or about the different types of flossers you can use to ease your discomfort.
Try using a mouthwash
Using mouthwash regularly is a simple, 30-second task that you can easily add to the end of your daily dental hygiene routine.
When paired with regular brushing and flossing, mouthwash helps balance the acid in your mouth and reduces cavity-causing bacteria. Plus, it can reach areas in your mouth that are hard-to-reach when brushing.
During your next appointment, ask us what mouthwash we recommend for your situation. In general, look for a mouthwash with fluoride to help discourage plaque build up.
It’s great for your health to drink water throughout the day, but drinking water after a meal is especially good for your dental health. This will help wash away some of the sticky bacteria that your food or beverage leaves behind. Additionally, drink tap water over bottled water. Most counties in Ohio and throughout the US add fluoride to their water source, which will strengthen the enamel of your teeth.
Limit your intake of acidic and sugary drinks
It’s no secret that sugary and acidic drinks are bad for your teeth. They promote plaque build up that can lead to cavities and other problems, and wear away at tooth enamel over time.
When considering a soda or a citrus drink, it’s a good idea to consume in moderation. Better yet, think twice about drinking the beverage in the first place! We know it’s hard to pass up an ice cold soda at a BBQ or the refreshing bite of a glass of lemon water. Just take care to limit your consumption when possible.
Here are some things to consider when consuming these common beverages.
Did you know our saliva has a neutral pH of 6-7? Acidic drinks, like diet sodas, lemon water, and citrus fruit juices have an average pH of 3. This is considered pretty acidic on the pH scale, which ranges from 0-14.
The acid found in these drinks wears away at the tooth enamel, which is permanent.
Think of your tooth enamel as a barrier that prevents your teeth from appearing yellow and protects the layer of dentin beneath it. When dentin becomes exposed, it not only discolors your teeth, but also leads to uncomfortable tooth sensitivity.
It’s best to drink acidic drinks in moderation. When you do drink an acidic drink, try the following:
- Sip with a straw to avoid direct contact with the teeth
- Drink quickly rather than slowly
- Drink water shortly after the acidic beverage to wash away some of the acid
- DON’T brush your teeth immediately following an acidic beverage — this can rub the acid all over your teeth. Instead, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing to allow the pH of your mouth to start evening out.
When you hear “sugary drinks,” do you think of soda? Us, too! Unfortunately, there are many other sugary drinks out there that promote plaque build up and, when consumed regularly, can lead to cavities or gum disease. These include fruit juices, premade smoothies, Vitamin Water and other drinks marketed as “healthy”.
As an example, one bottle of Vitamin Water has 32 grams of sugar, about as much as you would drink in a Coca-Cola!
Limiting your intake of sugary drinks helps decrease your chance of tooth decay.
Clean your tongue
This one might sound weird, but another easy daily oral hygiene habit is to clean your tongue every day. You can use a toothbrush or a designated tongue scraper. Cleaning your tongue not only helps keep your breath fresher for longer, but it also decreases the amount of harmful bacteria floating in your mouth.
The bottom line: Easy habits + regular 6 month dental exams = good oral hygiene
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