You know the basics of oral health care: brush twice a day, floss your teeth, avoid sugary snacks, and visit your dentist at least twice a year. Here are 10 tips for oral health care you may not know (and a good refresher if you do!)
Which is better: a humble manual toothbrush or a fancy electric one? They can be equally effective, but what really matters is your brushing technique.
Don’t just brush up and down or back and forth. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and use a gentle, circular motion to clean each surface of the teeth, including the chewing side and the side facing your tongue, for at least two minutes. Brushing harder or faster doesn’t do you any good. In fact, it can actually lead to tooth and gum damage!
People often think flossing is secondary to brushing, but they are both essential to good oral health. If you aren’t flossing, you’re leaving a third of the surface of the teeth unclean.
The ideal flossing technique is a forward or backward motion, with the floss forming a curved ‘C’ shape around the tooth. Use a fresh part of the floss for each tooth so you aren’t re-inserting the bacteria you just removed.
Sensitivity to heat and cold is a common dental complaint, and it’s often a sign of an underlying issue like tooth decay, gum disease, or tooth grinding. It’s important to find and treat the source of tooth sensitivity, even if the pain is mild. See your dentist at the first signs of sensitive teeth.
You’ve heard it since you were a kid: sugar causes cavities. True, a diet high in sugar can lead to cavities, but the real cause is plaque, produced by bacteria in your mouth that eats the carbohydrates left on teeth after a meal.
While sugar is the biggest cavity culprit, even healthy food leads to some plaque formation. This is why you should brush after every meal, not just after dessert, and avoid eating or drinking anything, aside from water, after you have brushed your teeth at night.
Do you have fillings? If so, you can usually expect them to last for eight to 10 years. However, some fillings break down earlier than that. When a filling starts to chip and break apart, food and bacteria can get caught underneath, causing decay deep in the tooth. Be sure to make a dental appointment if your tooth filling is not holding up.
Mouth guards are standard equipment for contact sports like hockey and football. However, less confrontational sports—such as baseball, skiing, and skateboarding—can also pose a risk of injury to your teeth. Even minor dental injuries can lead to long-term consequences, so a mouth guard is a good investment for anyone who participates in a sport on a regular basis.
What’s in your toothpaste? Different kinds of toothpaste—those for desensitizing, tartar control, whitening, et cetera—consist of different active ingredients. Understanding how these ingredients work will help you choose the right toothpaste for you. You should always choose a toothpaste containing fluoride, even if your tap water is already fluoridated.
There are many possible causes of bad breath, but poor oral hygiene is a common source. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, odor-causing bacteria can accumulate between teeth and in the back of your throat. However, bad breath can also be a sign of a medical problem, so have a dentist rule out any oral hygiene issues first.
Mouthwash cannot replace proper brushing and flossing, but it can help boost your oral hygiene and control issues like bad breath, plaque, and oral sores. Be sure to read the instructions on the bottle before using it. Depending on the ingredients, the manufacturer may recommend using it either before or after brushing or flossing for the best results.
Do not wait until you have a problem to see your dentist! Even if your teeth and gums seem fine, the dentist might notice things you can’t feel or see. Scheduling regular dental exams will help you detect and treat cavities, tooth decay, gingivitis, and other oral health issues before they become painful and/or expensive to fix.
An inviting smile can open doors and our oral health is also important to our overall well-being. Most of us brush and floss regularly to ensure our teeth remain clean and free of cavities, though some people go the extra step of having their teeth whitened.
Such measures can be quite expensive and inconvenient, so wouldn’t it be wonderful to have another more cost-effective way of ensuring your dental health you could do at home? Not to mention one that may also result in fresher breath?
Oil pulling might be the way to accomplish this. While there is no definitive scientific evidence to say this method works, many people swear by it. Although oil pulling is a hot topic on the internet, it is actually a case of renewed interest in a cleaning method dating back several centuries.
Oil pulling is the practice of swishing raw coconut oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes each day. If you are interested in trying this, don’t worry—you won’t have to be splitting or milking coconuts. You can find bottled coconut oil in your grocery store. You can also use sesame or sunflower oil, though most people find the taste of coconut oil preferable.
Coconut oil is solid in form, but quickly liquefies as it mixes with your saliva. Take a generous tablespoon of the oil, place it in your mouth, and swish. You don’t need to swish as vigorously as you would with mouthwash as your jaw would become quite tired.
Do the oil pull first thing in the morning before you eat to get rid of the bacteria build-up in your mouth that occurred overnight. Once the time has elapsed, spit out the oil, and gargle for one minute with a mixture of lukewarm salt water. Then brush your teeth using a brush separate from one used normally. After brushing, rinse the brush thoroughly in warm water.
It is important to avoid swallowing. While the coconut oil will not harm you, swallowing means you will ingest all of the oral bacteria you want to purge from your body.
Those who swear by oil pulling say it is a great way to detox your mouth. Tooth decay results from a build-up of harmful bacteria in the mouth. These germs can lead to plaque, gingivitis, cavities, and even gum disease. Brushing your teeth regularly helps to eliminate such germs, but could oil pulling provide extra help for you in this area? Possibly, but there is no concrete proof.
We all want whiter teeth. Could oil pulling provide a cheaper and easier way to attain this without having to go to the dentist or deal with those annoying whitening strips? Oil pulling enthusiasts enthusiastically claim yes, your teeth will look cleaner.
They also claim oil pulling will make your breath fresher, though this is not something that would last throughout the day.
Should you try oil pulling? Doing so will not cure cavities or correct any major dental issues, and it is no replacement for daily brushing and flossing. There is no scientific basis for the claims made on behalf of oil pulling and some dental professionals feel you can get comparable results using mouthwash and possibly even just water.
However, oil pulling certainly cannot harm you in any way and will not worsen your oral health.