A good oral hygiene routine involves more than brushing and flossing your teeth. Here are all the steps you should take to keep your teeth and gums stay healthy, clean and disease-free.
Regular Professional Cleanings & Checkups
Regular visits to the dentist (for most people, that’s at least two times a year) are extremely important to your oral health.
Your dentist has the tools and expertise necessary to remove plaque and tartar buildup that you just won't be able to get rid of yourself, no matter how thoroughly you brush and floss.
Your dentist can also identify dental problems in their earliest stages, and treat them before they get worse. Cavities, gum disease and even abnormalities like tumors and cysts may not be noticeable straight away to the untrained eye, and the sooner oral health problems are dealt with, the less damage they’ll cause.
You should brush your teeth 2 - 3 times a day, for two minutes each time. To make sure you thoroughly brush all your teeth, spend 30 seconds brushing each “quadrant” of your jaw (upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left). Make sure to carefully brush all the exposed surfaces, including the sides and biting surfaces.
Pro Tip: Try an electric toothbrush
An electric toothbrush will allow you to clean your teeth more efficiently than with a manual one, because they require less effort, and the brushing movement. Choose an electric toothbrush with a round rotating head, as this mimics the ideal circular brushing motion. The small size of the head also makes it easier to clean those awkward, hard to reach places.
You should floss your teeth daily, ideally after you eat for the final time that day. Flossing removes the food debris and plaque from between your teeth, where toothbrush can’t reach.
Insert the floss between your teeth and run it up and down the side of each tooth, pulling it into a “c” shape. Go slowly and be thorough!
Eating a healthy diet that is rich in calcium is also important when it comes to keeping your teeth healthy from the inside out. Keep sugars and starches to a minimum, as oral bacteria thrive on these.
Staying hydrated can help prevent cavities! Drinking enough fluids will help you maintain a sufficient saliva flow, and saliva washes away food debris and particles that would otherwise collect on your teeth and allow bacteria to thrive.
Supplementary Hygiene Aids
You may find it helpful to add oral hygiene aids to your brushing and flossing routine for an extra hygiene boost. Some good supplementary aids include mouthwash, interdental cleaners, oral irrigators, and tongue cleaners.
Hygiene aids like these can help keep your breath fresh and prevent plaque build up between brushing and flossing sessions, but remember that they are not sufficient replacements for a thorough brushing and flossing routine.
Eliminating Bad Habits
There are some bad habits not directly related to oral hygiene that may cause cavities. Chewing your fingernails or hard objects (like the cap of a pen, for example) can damage your dental enamel, making it easier for cavities to form in those spots.
Snacking between meals can also give bacteria more opportunities to build up.
Smoking causes a great many oral health problems as well, unsurprisingly. It hinders the ability of your mouth to fight infection, making it easier for bacteria to multiply, resulting in cavities and gum disease. It also increases your risk of oral cancer.