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Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home

Who doesn’t want the benefit of great oral hygiene: a sparkling white smile, fresh breath and healthy pink gums.  Making sure your mouth stays healthy is one of the most important reasons for regular visits to the dentist.  But, in between visits, its up to you to maintain a healthy mouth.

Here is a list of things you can do at home to help improve oral health and get all the benefits that come with it!

  1. DO use the right toothbrush.  That means a soft-bristled multi-tufted toothbrush with a head that’s small enough to get comfortably around your entire mouth.  And don’t forget to change your brush every 3-4 months.

  2. DON’T brush too hard.  Brushing too hard can cause gum recession and damage the root surfaces of your teeth by abrading them.  Exposed roots may be more sensitive and are at greater risk for decay.  Use a gentle, sustained effort when brushing.

  3. DO floss at least once a day.  Flossing is the best way to remove plaque in places where your toothbrush just can’t reach.  Plaque that isn’t removed leads to tooth decay and gum disease, so don’t neglect this important part of your oral hygiene routine.  You’re only half done if you just brush!

  4. DON’T snack on sugary foods.  According to the National Institute of Health, tooth decay is the most common chronic  disease in both children and adults – even though it is almost entirely preventable.  Sugary foods in the diet are a major contributor to the problem.  Sugars are consumed by oral bacteria, which then release acids that attack the teeth and lead to cavities.  If you must have sugary treats, restrict them to mealtime, which gives saliva a chance to neutralize the acids.

  5. DON’T start bad oral health habits.  Some of these you already know: chewing on fingernails or pencils, using any form of tobacco, and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol – all have negative consequences on your oral health.  But other bad habits are less known.  For example, oral piercings increase the chance of tooth chipping and gum problems.  Playing sports without a mouthguard multiplies your chances for dental injury.  And clenching or grinding can cause damage to your teeth, jaw joints and muscles, especially during sleep.

  6. DO use fluoride toothpaste. Research has consistently shown that fluoride is not only effective at preventing cavities, it also helps to repair tooth enamel.  The American Dental Association recommends using just a smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste on the brush for children younger than age 3.  Children age 3-6 should use a pea-sized dab.

  7. DON’T brush immediately after drinking acidic beverages (soda, sports drinks, juices).  Acids “soften” the hard enamel covering your teeth by dissolving the superficial layers.  Acids in sodas, juices and sports drinks dissolve calcium out of the surface enamel by a process called de-mineralization.  However, saliva – which is rich in minerals – has a natural neutralizing ability to re-mineralize enamel surfaces affected by acid. But this takes 30-60 minutes.  That softened surface layer can easily be removed with a toothbrush.  Just like brushing too hard, brushing right after you consume acidic food or drink can have negative consequences for your teeth leading to significant enamel erosion.  Its best to wait one hour to allow your saliva enough time to neutralize the acidic attack.

  8. DO drink enough water.  Drinking plenty of water and keeping well hydrated has a number of health benefits for your entire body.  In your mouth, it keeps sensitive tissue moist and promotes the healthful action of saliva.  As mentioned above, saliva buffers acids, but it also aids in digestion, helps the mouth fight germs and even has a role in protecting teeth from decay.