Good dental hygiene is key to good oral health, the prevention of gum disease and to that great smile we all want. Your oral health is closely linked to your overall health as well, so regular check-ups and cleaning and a quality oral hygiene routine mean more than pearly whites and avoiding bad breath.
Follow this 10-point checklist each day to promote good oral health and keep your mouth free of disease-causing bacteria.
1. First, choose the right tools to clean your teeth and gums.
Always use a brush that has a small enough head and bristles that it is able to effectively reach into the crevices between your teeth where food can hide. You usually need to choose a soft to medium toothbrush head with multi-tufted, round-ended bristles. Children need smaller brushes that can reach into the back parts of the mouth.
Electric toothbrushes are a good option, particularly for people with limited hand or arm movement, as they are effective at removing plaque in hard to reach places.
It is important to change your toothbrush every three months or after illness.
2. Use proper brushing technique.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is brushing incorrectly or too aggressively. When brushing your teeth, it’s key to position the bristles at a 45-degree angle and to move them across the teeth in a back-and-forth, up-and down motion. Use the same motion and angle when brushing the inside and the biting surface of your teeth.
3. Don’t ignore your gums and tongue.
In order to thoroughly clean your mouth and remove bacteria, it is important to also give your gums and tongue attention during your morning and evening routine. Use the same motion that you used for your teeth to clean your gums properly and to ensure plaque and food are removed. Gently cleaning your gums will prevent gum disease and keep blood circulation which will minimise bacteria growth.
It’s important to also brush the surface of your tongue to remove bacteria and to help freshen your breath. You can use a tongue scraper for your tongue, or some toothbrushes have a feature on the back of the bristles specifically for this area of your mouth.
4. Don’t skip flossing.
Despite the hectic lives that we live, it’s important not to skip flossing each day. There are a variety of floss threads, water flossers and interdental cleaning aids available. When making your choice, select a floss that is easy to use and doesn’t get stuck between the teeth.
When flossing your teeth, break off about 45cm of floss so you don’t reuse a section with bacteria on it. Wind the floss around your teeth and use a rocking motion to guide the floss between your teeth. When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it into a c-shape and gently scrape up the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum.
Repeat on all teeth and don’t forget the back of your last tooth.
5. Use a fluoride toothpaste.
Toothpaste that contains fluoride is a good option as it works to prevent the erosion of your teeth’s enamel. The fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth, preventing tooth decay.
6. Incorporate a mouthwash into your routine.
Mouthwash certainly isn’t the ultimate solution to good teeth hygiene – think of it as the icing on top of a good oral routine. A mouthwash can help control plaque and reduce gum disease, however it’s important to speak to your dentist before choosing a product as not all mouthwashes are beneficial.
Rinse the mouthwash around in your mouth for a minute twice a day after brushing before spitting it out.
7. Clean your toothbrush properly.
You don’t need proper equipment to keep your toothbrush clean. Simply rinse your brush after use and leave it to air dry. In fact, putting your toothbrush in a cover after use can actually breed bacteria on the bristles that will then transfer into your mouth when you brush your teeth next. Remember to replace your toothbrush once the bristles begin to show signs or wear.
8. Time your routine right.
When it comes to brushing, many of us already know that twice a day is recommended. Naturally, many people thing that the best time to brush is straight after breakfast. However, if you eat a sugary breakfast or juice at the start of each day this can cause the pH levels in your mouth to drop and your teeth enamel to soften, making them more vulnerable to abrasion from even a soft bristled toothbrush. The best thing to do in this situation is to brush before breakfast or at least 30 minutes after your meal.
On the flipside, it’s important to finish your day by brushing your teeth before bed.
9. If you have difficulty flossing, try an oral irrigator.
Oral irrigators (such as a waterpik) use a stream or jet of water to remove hard to reach plaque and food in and around your teeth. This can be a good option for people who have difficulty flossing or with teeth that are difficult to clean due to their structure or an orthodontic appliance, such as people who have braces or a fixed bridge.
10. Get a regular dental check-up every 6 months.
A regular dental check-up and exam will allow your dentist to identify and diagnose any dental problems early before they cause serious damage to your overall health. For example, a filling for a dental cavity is more affordable and easier to treat than root canal treatment for serious cavities, so it’s important to stay on top of your check-ups.