What hygiene products should you be using to maintain good oral health? Most of us know to use toothpaste and a toothbrush, but what kinds should you use? And are there other products that you should be using daily to prevent tooth decay and gun disease?
Yes, there are guidelines for what you should use. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you use the following 4 products daily: an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste, a soft-bristled toothbrush, an antimicrobial mouthwash and dental floss.
Today, let’s discuss the reasons for (and importance of) each.
1. Fluoride toothpaste.
Despite what the anti-fluoride hysteria (all completely based on falsehoods and half-truths, akin to anti-vaccination propaganda) that has made the rounds on the Internet and on late-night conspiracy theory radio shows over the past several years would have you believe, a fluoride-fortified toothpaste has long been proven to be the single most effective type of toothpaste a person can use to prevent cavities.
How does it work? Fluoride — one of the most basic elements found in nature — is a catalyst in some reactions that help remineralize teeth.
Fluoride helps to neutralize harmful acids that sugary foods and bacteria form in our mouths. Those acids attack tooth enamel and de-mineralize teeth — they tend to cause calcium and phosphorous atoms, which are integral components of the molecules that make up bone and tooth enamel, to leach out of the teeth.
The presence of fluoride in the mouth, though, keeps some of those acids from forming. Essentially, fluoride helps keep calcium and phosphorous atoms (both necessary for building strong teeth) from leaching out of your teeth, leaving them stronger, harder, healthier, less susceptible to breakage and better able to keep harmful bacteria from penetrating to their soft, pulpy interiors.
2. Soft-bristled toothbrush.
One would think that the harder the bristles, the better able a toothbrush is to clean away plaque and bacteria, right? Wrong. Effective brushing has less to do with the hardness of the brush bristles and much more to do with frequency and technique (here’s how the ADA recommends you brush). And, in fact, harder-bristled brushes are actually worse for your mouth.
Why? The problem is that medium and hard-bristled brushes are particularly harsh on soft gum, cheek and tongue tissues. They strip away the epithelial cells that form the surfaces of the gums, etc., and leave little cuts that bacteria can get into and infect.
The mechanical stripping away of gum tissue leads, over time, to recession of the gum line away from the teeth, exposing sensitive nerve endings and giving bacteria more access to the roots of the teeth.
So if they’re so bad, why do toothbrush manufacturers still make medium and hard-bristled brushes? Simple: consumer demand. People who don’t know about the damage harder-bristled brushes can do still demand them — and money talks.
3. Antimicrobial mouthwashes.
Are you rinsing with a mouthwash after you brush? You should be. It does more than give your mouth a fresh, minty feeling — it washes away or kills many of the bacteria that cause tooth decay and helps prevent periodontal disease.
Although some people don’t like the strong taste of mouthwashes, they are an essential product for maintaining good oral hygiene. Toothbrushes can’t scrub every little nook and cranny around the teeth, no matter how thorough you may be when you brush.
Mouthwashes, on the other hand, are liquid so they can penetrate under the gum line, into the spaces between teeth and, if gargled, to the back of the tongue and throat, killing harmful germs that hang out in those places.
Listerine, Scope and other ADA-approved antimicrobial mouthwashes can help you prevent gum disease, reduce unsightly tartar and plaque, kill the germs that cause bad breath and keep your smile sparkling. There are even fluoride-fortified mouthwashes, which can help you strengthen sensitive teeth.
4. Dental floss.
If you aren’t flossing daily or between meals, you’re doing your mouth a real disservice. There is no more effective way to remove decaying food debris, tartar and plaque, and harmful germs that cause tooth decay and malodorous breath from between your teeth and under the gum line.
Waxed, non-waxed, minty, cinnamon, or unflavored — it doesn’t matter which type of floss you use, as long as you are disciplined enough to use it regularly. Keep a roll in your desk at work, in your car console, or in your purse or pocket, plus one in the bathroom cabinet at home, that way you’ll always have ready access to it after you finish a meal.
Flossing is essential for preventing gum disease. It leaves your gums looking and feeling healthier. If you notice bleeding when you floss, you’re not flossing enough. It goes away as flossing becomes routine and gum health improves.
Practice good oral health by incorporating these 4 products into your daily oral hygiene routine.
If you have additional questions about what you should use, or how to use it, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist to see what they recommend. And make sure that you are going for cleanings and screenings twice a year!