8 Secrets of Good Dental Hygiene
Learning about new (and tried and true) techniques for caring for your oral health is always a great idea to consistently maintain a healthy mouth. Along with obviously beneficial habits like brushing, flossing, and avoiding sugary drinks, discover lesser-known strategies, such as drinking enough water and tongue-scraping.
1. Protect your teeth from sugar and acid
Acid and sugar are the enemies of teeth. Specifically, acid can erode tooth-protecting enamel, leading to tooth decay. Meanwhile, when mouth microbes consume sugar, they produce acids, which can also cause tooth decay. So, instead of fruit juice, soda, sweet tea, and carbonated drinks, reach for plain old H20, unsweetened tea, milk, or low-sugar vegetable juice.
When you do opt for acidic or sugary drinks, use a straw, to cut down on the contact they make with your teeth. Then rinse well with plenty of water. If you’re going to brush your teeth, wait at least 30 minutes after drinking or eating acidic substances—any sooner, and the action could damage your tooth enamel.
2. Steer clear of tobacco
Along with many other negative side effects, tobacco reduces the production of saliva. Less saliva can lead to bad breath and increase the risks of gum disease and cavities.
Drinking water helps remove food particles—which feed cavity-causing bacteria. Water also dilutes the acids that your mouth produces. Plus, drinking plenty of water assists in preventing dry mouth, a condition that can increase your risk of tooth decay.
4. Brush at least twice a day
By brushing, you’ll help remove dental plaque from the surfaces of your teeth. If you instead allow it to accumulate, the plaque can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities, tooth decay, gingivitis, and tooth yellowing.
What you need
Choose a soft-bristle brush, or an electric toothbrush if you have dexterity issues. Opt for a natural toothpaste, or a product without the following chemicals or additives:
Sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate
How to do it
Two or more times daily, brush for about two minutes (30 seconds per quadrant of your mouth). Position the bristles at a 45-degree angle along the gumline, making sure they touch the tooth surface and gumline, suggests the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA)1. Two to three teeth at a time, brush the outer tooth surfaces in a back and forth rolling motion, starting at the gumline and moving downward. Don’t neglect the inner teeth and biting surfaces.
Every three to four months, replace your toothbrush, suggests the ADHA. That’s because thousands of microbes grow on the bristles and handles—some of which can cause cold and flu viruses and periodontal infections.
5. Use a tongue scraper twice a day
To help prevent bad breath and remove food and bacteria that can lead to gum issues and cavities, add this step when brushing your teeth. Stick out your tongue, press the tool to the back of your tongue, and then drag it to the front of your tongue. Rinse the scraper after use.
6. Floss at least once per day
Flossing helps remove plaque between the teeth and decrease the buildup of harmful bacteria that can lead to gum issues. If you’re using threaded floss, place a strand between your teeth, making a c-curve around each tooth and working it up and down.
For those who struggle with flossing, use a water flosser instead. According to a 2021 study, “the water flosser was as efficient as regular floss in removing interdental plaque on single use.”2 Researchers recommend this alternative for anyone undergoing orthodontic treatment or with manual dexterity issues.
7. Protect your teeth from grinding
Grinding can damage tooth enamel and break or crack teeth. To determine whether you’re engaging in this habit, look out for potential signs, like tooth chipping, jaw or face pain, or headache. To cut down on the negative effects, wear a mouthguard while you sleep and try to reduce your stress levels.
8. Visit the dentist regularly
Subpar dental hygiene is not the only cause of poor oral health, according to a 2022 article in The Conversation3. Another factor is insufficient visits to the dentist. The American Dental Association recommends seeing your practitioner “regularly” for prevention and treatment.
1 [Proper brushing techniques]. (n.d.). American Dental Hygienists’ Association, adha.org
2Abdellatif, H. et al. (2021). [Water flossers and regular floss in removing plaque]. The Saudi Dental Journal, PubMed Central
3 McNeil, D.W. et al. (2022). [Poor oral health in American children]. Theconversation.com
[Home oral care]. (2020). American Dental Association, ada.org
[Drinking water and oral heath]. (2017). University of Illinois Chicago, College of Dentistry