Oral Hygiene Guidelines
There are many benefits to practicing good oral hygiene such as a germ-free mouth, a whiter smile, and fresh breath. In the scientific community, brushing and flossing are viewed as routine mouth hygiene practices — daily habits that remove dental plaque (the sticky, whitish residue that builds up on tooth surfaces) and bacteria in the mouth. Aside from a cleanliness aspect, oral hygiene is important because dentists have shown a link between plaque and dental disease. In fact, large deposits of bacteria or plaque in the mouth are the primary causes of dental disease in most cases. Some of the most common diseases in dentistry including periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay are problems that are directly related to excess plaque. Many people may not realize that dental disease is largely a preventable condition. Patients can lower their chances of disease by simply having adequate home dental-care and using plaque-control techniques daily.
Education is Key to Keeping Teeth for a Lifetime
Forget any folklore you may have heard about oral hygiene: teeth can last a lifetime with a regular brushing routine. Oral awareness combined with simple training is the first step in changing a bad dental hygiene routine. Of course, many people would argue that brushing your teeth for improved hygiene is considered a relatively small behavior modification in comparison to giving up alcohol or smoking, problems that involve more complex habits of addiction. With encouragement from your dentist or dental hygienist, adequate oral hygiene can be a lifestyle change for the long-term.
Ways to Improve Oral Hygiene Behavior
Brushing and flossing are sure methods to manage plaque-buildup, but proper technique is required to ensure proper oral hygiene effectiveness. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Hold the toothbrush with your fingertips at a 45 degree angle and avoid using a fist grip
- Practice a “soft scrub” technique — Apply minimal pressure and use small, circular motions in a mini-scrub fashion to keep from
damaging the surrounding gum tissue
- Be gentle as more is not better when brushing and can be harmful
- Be mindful of bristle placement and don’t scrub the tooth brush into sensitive areas of the gum line
- Thoroughly brush teeth for two minutes before carefully flossing between each tooth
Here are some best practices when flossing:
- Position floss by wrapping it into a “C” shape around each tooth surface —Make three or four vertical strokes
- Lightly jiggle floss between teeth at the point of contact to remove plaque
- Avoid making harsh or saw-like movements
Evaluate After Cleaning
How do you know if you’re doing a good job of cleaning? Aside from going to the dentist, you can conduct a quick test by gliding your tongue across the surface of your teeth after brushing and flossing. This is a great way to gauge if plaque removal is adequate. Teeth should feel slick and smooth when properly cleaned. In the presence of plaque, teeth will have a sticky-type substance along the surface, a sign that more brushing and or flossing may be required. Also, be sure to inspect your teeth after brushing and flossing to check for bleeding. If you’re starting a new oral hygiene routine, slight bleeding may occur at the gum line. This is considered normal and it usually subsides within a few days of implementing a new dental hygiene regimen. Be aware, however, that healthy gums shouldn’t bleed under a normal brushing and flossing routine. If you notice continued bleeding, be sure to consult with your dentist, as this may be a sign of gingivitis.
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