You might think you know how to take care of your teeth and mouth at home. Are you sure you’re doing it correctly? Below are the proper steps for maintaining proper oral hygiene at home in under five minutes.
Step 1: Brushing Your Teeth
The first step in proper oral hygiene is brushing your teeth. So that comes down to two things:
A) The type of toothbrush you use
B) The type of toothpaste you’re using
What Kind of Toothbrush Should You Use?
So let’s talk about toothbrushes first. There are a variety of brushes out there with small head shapes, large head shapes, soft bristles, medium bristles, hard bristles, etc.
We recommend that you steer away from hard-bristle toothbrushes. They tend to cause damage to the enamel and the gum tissue. Generally speaking, people that use these toothbrushes put a lot of force and pressure on the gum tissue and teeth. We see a lot of erosion and damage caused by forceful brushing with hard bristles. This can also be said about medium-bristle toothbrushes as well. They cause more damage than good. My recommendation is a soft or extra-soft toothbrush bristle.
The head size is dependent on what’s comfortable for you. We have some patients with smaller mouths and a larger headed toothbrush is not going to fit in there or be comfortable while brushing. We have patients with bigger mouths and it’s going to take them longer to cover all areas with a smaller toothbrush.
The take-home message: Soft or extra soft bristle firmness. Test out what size toothbrush head works best for you.
Using Your Toothbrush Correctly
Once you’ve got the right toothbrush, you need to make sure you’re using it correctly. Brushing every area in your mouth is important but make sure when you do the sides, you’re not coming straight down at a 90-degree angle because that’s just going to dig into the tissue and not really clean the teeth.
If you come in at a 45-degree angle, you’ll notice that the bristles split on the tooth. So not only are you cleaning the outer surface, the cheek surface, but the bristles are kind of pushing down and getting down in the sulcus, right at the gum line, and the top corner of the teeth. The sulcus is that little tiny pocket where the tooth meets the gum tissue. A lot of the time that’s where bacteria can be harbored.
A good rule of thumb is to do that for about 10 seconds on each side, and then you want to rotate and do the exact same angle on the inside. Same thing for the front teeth. You should do a 45-degree angle on the front side and a 45-degree angle on the backside. This technique is called the Modified Bass technique.
You will repeat this process all the way around the mouth for two or more minutes. The 45-degree angle is important because if you just go straight in, you’re not giving the bristles a chance to go down into the sulcus and you’re going to damage the tissue.
How Long Should You Brush Your Teeth For?
The best practice is to brush your teeth for 30 seconds in each quadrant. You need to get the outside of the teeth, the insides of the teeth, and the tops of the teeth. If you spend about 10 seconds on the outside, 10 seconds on the chewing surface, and 10 seconds on the top in all four quadrants, that’ll put you at two minutes.
It is best to brush for over two minutes because you will miss spots if you do any less than that. Repeatedly missing spots can lead to plaque build-up and cause decay.
How Long Can You Use a Toothbrush?
It is best to change your toothbrush about every six months. That also coincides with how often we see you. We give all our patients new toothbrushes. Some of the newer toothbrushes actually have indicator strips on the bristles that will kind of wear down. Generally speaking though, once you’ve gone past the six-month mark, the bristles get weaker, and they’re not as stiff. This means that they’re not strong enough to get in all those nooks and crannies. You would be doing yourself a disservice by using a frayed toothbrush.
Should You Use an Electric Toothbrush?
One of the options that we have now apart from conventional toothbrushes is electric toothbrushes. They provide a lot of advantages over conventional toothbrushes. We have a lot of patients in which dexterity is an issue and the ability to get the toothbrush into all the areas they need is limited.
Electric toothbrushes come in two types: Sonic waves or an oscillating head. At the end of the day, they are two different approaches to the same end result. The Sonic toothbrush sends out waves as the bristles are moving, and so it disrupts the plaque in the biofilm. The oscillating head does the same thing, but it’s more of a rotation and movement. We’ve seen phenomenal results with patients that switched to an electric toothbrush. It really allows them, in that same two-minute time period, to get all the areas in their mouth. For the best results, make sure that you are moving it around and kind of adhere to the same 30-second per quadrant principle.
Step 2: Choosing the Right Toothpaste
As far as toothpaste goes, there’s a whole aisle in the grocery store on toothpaste. The key message here is you want to make sure you have an ADA-approved toothpaste. ADA stands for the American Dental Association. They’re an organization that, as dentists, we trust and we financially support to make sure all the products that we recommend and that are put on the market are not only safe, but healthy for your mouth. There are lots of different options for toothpaste, from super whitening to sensitive formulas, they are all designed to help protect your mouth.
Avoid Extra Whitening Toothpaste
We recommend that you avoid anything with extra whitening on the package. Especially ones that claim the wow, super bright factor. A lot of those kinds of toothpaste, in order to get that bright result, will have really large particles. The problem with that is they tend to not only remove the debris, but they can also scratch your enamel. When you scratch the enamel all of a sudden, it’s more susceptible to stains.
So it tends to create this cycle where you brush your teeth with this aggressive toothpaste and everything looks great, but you’re gonna be more prone to stain. At the end of the cycle, you’re actually damaging your teeth a little bit.
Make Sure Your Toothpaste has Fluoride
Another key factor is you want to make sure it has fluoride in it. Now in our everyday diet, we’re drinking a lot of bottled water, so people aren’t getting fluoride. With people not drinking faucet water, they aren’t receiving fluoride regularly. We simply don’t have the teeth strength that we used to have. Due to this, we are seeing more cavities at the gum line area where the enamel used to be really strong. Essentially, fluoride helps remineralize that outer tooth structure. So make sure your toothpaste has fluoride in it.
Use Special Toothpaste to Fight Sensitivity
There are some fluoride intense toothpaste like Sensodyne and other brands that are for people that have sensitive teeth. Those are great because they actually have a greater content of fluoride and it helps the tooth rebuild itself.
If you’re having tooth sensitivity, come see us. Let us take a look, and make sure there’s nothing going on. If everything’s healthy, but you just have thinned-out enamel, sensitivity toothpaste is great because it can help the tooth really rebuild itself. You also don’t need to use too much, just a pea size amount on the toothbrush and you’re good to go. Any more than that, you’re just wasting toothpaste. Any less than that, you’re not quite getting enough.
A lot of time tooth sensitivity is a result of a cavity, a failing restoration, or a crown that’s breaking down around the edges. These are things that sensitive toothpaste might help with, but it’s not going to solve the problem. See your dentist and if everything looks good and you just have sensitive teeth, those toothpastes are great. They do a really good job of helping build the tooth back up and helping knock out any of those other minor issues. But it’s better to see your dentist first to help make the decision of which toothpaste is best for you.
So before you go to the grocery store and buy that sensitive toothpaste, keep in mind, there are a variety of reasons you could be having sensitive teeth. The best thing to do is come in and see us to discuss the possible causes of the sensitivity and make sure everything is healthy.
Step 3: Flossing and Additional Cleaning Steps
The next step is flossing. Essentially, with flossing, you’re addressing all those areas where your toothbrush can’t get to. It’s a vital part of keeping your mouth clean. In addition to flossing your teeth, I would definitely recommend adding mouthwash to your routine. Not only does it remove all the extra debris that you’ve created from brushing and flossing, but it can get to areas where you don’t typically brush and floss, like your tongue and your cheeks.
Tongue scrapers are a great option if you suffer from bad breath or if you’re not feeling well. Tongue scrapers are basically plastic instruments that scrape your tongue. It does a really good job of cleaning off any kind of plaque or biofilm on the surface of your tongue.
If you have bone loss, gum recession, or any areas where floss doesn’t feel adequate, I would highly recommend interproximal brushes or go-betweens. They will help you get in those areas and floss and help keep them clean.
There’s no reason that the whole routine every morning and every night should take more than five minutes. If you’re brushing your teeth for two minutes, that leaves three more minutes to get the rest of your mouth clean.
Schedule a Cleaning with Your Dentist
Cleaning your teeth properly at home is the first step in maintaining a healthy mouth. However, regular cleaning appointments are vital to your overall health and help identify problem areas that can be corrected before developing into bigger issues.