Taking measures to keep your mouth clean is essential for excellent dental health. A daily oral hygiene regimen is needed to remove the dental plaque that causes tooth decay and gum disease. And good oral hygiene not only helps prevent cavities, but is necessary to battle bad breath. After all, we go to great lengths to look and smell pretty -- why not treat our teeth as well as we treat our bodies?
Making an effort to focus on your dental health will not only produce a dazzling smile, but has some added benefits as well. Since oral health is linked to overall health, good oral hygiene can improve your well-being. When your oral health is neglected, bacteria multiply and wreak havoc on your mouth.
If gums become infected with periodontal disease, harmful bacteria can actually enter the bloodstream and make its way to other parts of the body. Practicing good oral hygiene can reduce your chances of developing complications or illnesses from a dental disease and could prevent the need for a costly gum disease treatment.
A beautiful smile starts with an excellent oral hygiene regimen, so we've provided a few guidelines to help you lay the foundation for at-home care:
Brushing is a common oral hygiene practice, yet many people don't do it correctly. Dentists recommend you brush at least twice a day and after meals. After eating, sugars and carbohydrates from food left on teeth combine with the bacteria in your mouth. This produces acids that attack your teeth, leaving you susceptible to tooth decay. A good tooth cleaning after eating will help remove dental plaque bacteria and reduce your chances of getting dental cavities.
Learning how to brush properly is vital. For proper brushing techniques, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle towards the gums. Brush in a back-and-forth motion, making sure to reach every surface of each tooth. And don't forget the tongue -- brushing the tongue will further remove the bacteria that cause bad breath! Your toothpaste may also play a role in the success of your oral hygiene routine -- since there are several toothpastes to choose from, it's best to ask your dentist which will benefit you. The American Dental Association recommends brushing with fluoride toothpaste to greatly reduce dental plaque bacteria.
Remember, a great rule to live by is to brush longer, not harder. You should brush for at least two minutes to remove as much dental plaque as possible. Harder brushing won't actually get teeth cleaner -- it can irritate the tissues in your mouth and actually cause gum damage! Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to protect your gums, and be sure to replace your toothbrush every three months.
No matter how well you brush, there are some areas you just won't be able to reach. Flossing removes dental plaque that's hiding in between teeth. Learn how to floss properly with these tips: Start by holding the floss securely with each hand, and ease the floss between teeth. Gently rub the floss up and down, and curve it towards each tooth to cover more surface area. Once you reach the top, slide it under your gum line to remove plaque from beneath the gums. And be sure to use a fresh section of floss for each tooth -- you don't want to put food particles and bacteria back in your mouth!
Flossing at least once a day is recommended to remove the ongoing accumulation of dental plaque that forms between teeth. If you have trouble flossing, dental products are available to help -- waxed floss makes for easier maneuvering and floss holders assist those who have trouble handling the stringy material.
Antibacterial mouthwashes can also remove the bacteria that cause dental plaque. This helps prevent gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Like fluoride toothpastes, fluoride rinses help strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay.
You're probably surprised by this one! But healthy eating habits are an equally important part of your oral hygiene regimen. Since sugars and carbs promote tooth decay, the more you eat, the better chances you have of ruining your teeth! Instead, focus on protecting your oral health by eating nutritional foods.
Regardless of how well you practice oral hygiene at home, regular dental visits every six months are essential to your dental health. A professional dental cleaning will remove dental tartar that you can't remove on your own. If necessary, your dentist may even perform an in-office fluoride dental treatment. And an exam is not only a good time for a checkup, but for checking in -- a dental hygienist can provide tips on brushing and flossing, and show you areas that need improvement in your oral hygiene routine.
What happens when you don't practice proper oral hygiene on a daily basis? Well, not to mention the bad breath problems you're likely to encounter, you'll be a shoe-in for many dental problems, which can lead to tooth loss! And without flossing, cavities can form between teeth, which are harder to spot and even more difficult to treat.
When it comes to optimal oral hygiene care, remember the "Rules of Twos" -- brush at least twice a day, and see a dentist twice a year. Oral hygiene is an ongoing practice that requires your attention, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be happy with the results. Unfortunately, you can't take a vacation from your teeth, but you can set them up for a lifetime of dental health!