When you’re thinking of making out your New Year’s resolutions this January, consider adding improved oral hygiene to your list. Brushing and flossing daily is a great way to prevent cavities and gum disease, as well as maintaining an appealing smile. Making a habit of good oral hygiene will save you time, money and discomfort!
Flossing keeps your gums healthy and invigorated while removing food particles and plaque from between teeth and beneath the top of the gumline. Toothbrushes just can’t reach between teeth as effectively as good quality dental floss can. Flossing is essential to the prevention of plaque buildup. Plaque is a sticky film of decaying particles of food and bacteria that eat those particles. In doing so, they release toxins that attack the gums. Plaque must be brushed and flossed away, or it will turn into tartar. Tartar is also filled with bacteria that produce toxins that irritate and damage the gums. Daily flossing removes plaque as well as stimulating blood circulation in the gum tissues. Oral irrigators, sometimes called water picks, aren’t as helpful as dental floss, but they can remove food particles from between teeth. Plaque is very sticky and needs floss to remove it. Once plaque hardens into tartar, it takes a dentist to remove it.
If your gums bleed during flossing, you may have gingivitis. Gingivitis is the first phase of periodontal disease, but take heart. Gingivitis is reversible. Two weeks of daily gentle flossing and brushing should return your gums to health.
The signs of periodontal disease include receding, swollen and bleeding gums. Pay attention to the appearance of your gums as you floss and you’ll be able to get ahead of any problems.
Use a high-quality toothbrush
Always use a soft-bristled brush, whether you’re using a manual or electric toothbrush. Your goal is to brush away plaque and food debris, not scrub it off. Scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush abrades gum tissue and puts unnecessary wear and tear on your enamel. Aggressive brushing can cause gum tissue to recede or even become infected.
High-quality electric toothbrushes tend to be more effective at removing plaque than manual brushes. The result is healthier teeth and gums. Most electric toothbrushes have interchangeable heads and offer separate modes for regular brushing, brushing sensitive teeth, etc.
Get a professional cleaning twice a year
As with all issues surrounding healthcare, prevention is worth its weight in gold. Twice yearly visits to your dental hygienist helps keep your smile appealing and healthy. Regular cleanings remove tartar, which can build up in hard-to-reach places even with conscientious flossing. Sometimes tartar can build up along the roots of your teeth, which requires a procedure called scaling and planing. Scaling removes tartar beneath the gum line, while root planing helps smooth the tooth roots to make them less vulnerable to plaque and tartar accumulation.
Smoking damages gums and other oral tissues. Smoking causes the gums to thin and pull away from teeth while causing pockets to develop between the gums and teeth. Plaque and tartar accumulate easily in those pockets and cause tooth loss. Smoking tends to dry up saliva, which deprives the mouth of natural protection from bacteria.
Consider limiting staining beverages
Beverages that are darkly pigmented like red wine, tea and coffee stain teeth. Enamel is filled with microscopic tubules that trap staining material easily. Daily brushing will remove surface stains, but the stains trapped in the enamel’s tubules must be removed by your dentist. However, there are many over-the-counter whitening products that work, albeit much more slowly and less effectively than professional whitening.
You can find whitening toothpastes, gel pens, whitening strips and more that offer up different benefits. These products work best when you use them consistently. Make sure that any whitening toothpaste you use has fluoride. If it doesn’t, you will need to brush with a separate fluoride paste.
Drink plenty of water every day and limit sugary drinks
The best drink for your teeth (and the rest of you) is water. It irritates your oral tissues, helps dislodge food particles, and washes at least some bacteria away. Tap water is superior to bottled water for your teeth because it has fluoride. Bottled water may or may not have any fluoride, and while we can’t argue its purity, teeth need fluoridated water.
Drink as few sugary beverages as possible, and that includes sports drinks and diet sodas. If you drink something like a soda, it’s vital for the health of your teeth that you rinse your mouth out vigorously with water, then brush as soon as you can. People rarely do that, and the sugar from a soda or sports drink lies on teeth, giving bacteria a ready-to-devour food source. Diet soda isn’t a big improvement. Sodas that contain phosphoric acid break down the structure of enamel on a microscopic level, giving cavity-causing bacteria places to thrive.
Brush your teeth twice daily
It’s an absolute must to brush your teeth daily. Brush 30 minutes after meals and before bedtime. Don’t forget to gently brush your tongue.
Most New Year’s Resolutions don’t make it past the end of January but make this year your best year ever for great oral hygiene. Your teeth and mouth will thank you!
If you want to jumpstart this year’s dental health with a checkup, call us to set up an appointment!