Maintaining a Healthy Mouth: 5 Simple Tips
Having a healthy mouth is important for many reasons. It allows you to speak, chew, taste, and swallow tasty and nutritious foods. Your mouth is also home to countless bacteria, some of which are helpful, and others that cause damage and bad breath. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your oral hygiene in top shape in addition to regular dental exams.
1. Choose the right toothbrush
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that everyone brushes their teeth for two minutes twice daily. Certain toothbrushes are better at removing plaque than others.
Look for flexible brushes that have a small, angled brush head to help get to harder-to-reach places. Buy a toothbrush with soft or extra-soft bristles to minimize gum damage and erosion of your enamel.1
The vibrations of electric toothbrushes can help remove plaque but they’re not necessarily better than a manual for everyone.
After you’re done brushing, it’s a good practice to scrape the layer of film from your tongue to remove the remaining bacteria. While tongue scrapers are a separate tool, some toothbrushes also have a scraper on the back of the brush head.
2. Practice proper brushing techniques
There is a proper way to brush your teeth for the most efficient cleaning and the least amount of damage. One is the Bass Brushing Technique, which is recommended for people who don’t have receding gums. To do this, you’ll place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle where your teeth meet your gums.
The toothbrush should be moved back and forth using short strokes, with the tips of the bristles staying in one place and the brush head moving back and forth, up and down. You can also opt to do small circles with your toothbrush, allowing the bristles to gently slide under your gums and remove plaque. Repeat this pattern for every tooth, inside and outside.
You can also choose to practice the Modified Bass Brushing Technique, which follows the guidelines above but then also sweeps the bristles over the crown of each tooth.
See this tutorial video for a visual guide.
3. Floss regularly
Aim to floss at least once per day, according to the ADA. Flossing can help prevent cavities and gum disease by removing plaque.2 Flossing can be done using traditional dental floss, pre-threaded flossers, or water flossers.
If plaque isn’t cleared, the bacteria it contains eats food or sugar particles that are leftover in your mouth. This releases an acid that can promote tooth decay and cavities.
Furthermore, when plaque isn’t removed it can become tartar, which is a hardened substance that accumulates along the gums and can promote gum disease. Tartar can only be removed by your dentist.
4. Pick a good toothpaste
Most toothpaste contains fluoride, which is added to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay. It helps prevent cavities and fight bad breath. Look for fluoridated toothpaste that bears the ADA seal, which indicates it has been independently tested for effectiveness and safety.
You might consider a foaming toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate to help reach more surface area, or one that contains baking soda and hydrogen peroxide for a whitening effect. If you have sensitivity when brushing, choose a toothpaste that contains the active ingredients sodium fluoride and potassium nitrate, which help strengthen enamel. Some toothpaste also contains the sugar alcohol xylitol, which fights bad breath causing germs.
Whichever toothpaste you choose, be sure to spit and rinse out excess to prevent ingesting too much of it.
In addition to good toothpaste, you might consider using mouthwash to remove additional bacteria that cause gum disease and bad breath.
5. Eat a healthy diet
Research shows a link between an unhealthy diet and a higher risk for chronic diseases that are associated with oral diseases.3 One of the biggest dietary links to poor oral health is a high added sugar intake. When added sugar from things like packaged snacks, desserts, and beverages like soda isn’t removed, it promotes tooth decay.
Other diet-related tips for oral health include getting enough fiber from fruits and vegetables, bone-strengthening nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, and using sugar-free chewing gum.4,5
Simple tips like proper daily dental hygiene practices and enjoying a nutrient-rich diet go a long way when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy and happy. Be sure to visit your dentist for regular oral health checkups and cleanings as well.
“Toothbrushes.” American Dental Association. Updated 26 Feb 2019. Available from: https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/toothbrushes
“Flossing.” American Dental Association. MouthHealthy.org. Available from: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing
Scardina GA, Messina P. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:720692. doi:10.1155/2012/720692
“Nutrition and Oral Health.” American Dental Association. Updated 11 Oct 2021. Available from: https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/nutrition-and-oral-health
Guo A, Wide U, Arvidsson L, Eiben G, Hakeberg M. BMC Oral Health. 2022;22(1):190. doi:10.1186/s12903-022-02227-w