Improving your oral health doesn’t have to be a huge chore. There are a few simple actions you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy and prevent oral health problems.
1. Brush Before Bedtime
When you’re tired at the end of a long day, it’s tempting to skip brushing your teeth before bedtime. There are a few reasons why food and plaque build-up should be brushed away at the end of the day to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Saliva has antibacterial properties, but saliva production decreases when you’re sleeping, so food particles remain on your teeth. These food remnants are a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes plaque and gingivitis. Plaque build-up on your teeth can calcify if not brushed away. The hard yellow substance, known as tartar, continues to grow when you skip brushing, and it can only be removed by a dentist.
2. Improve Your Brushing Technique
It’s not how hard you brush that’s important; the biggest factors in proper brushing are time and technique. In fact, brushing your teeth too hard can damage your enamel and gums, causing sensitivity.
Brush your teeth for two minutes, concentrating not only on the outside but also the inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue.
The American Dental Association recommends brushing in this manner:
- Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
- Move the brush back and forth gently in short circular strokes.
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inside surfaces and the chewing surfaces of all teeth.
- To clean the inside surface of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh. (Source: American Dental Association)
3. Floss Daily
Although plaque and food debris do build up on the outer surfaces of your teeth, it’s important not to forget what’s lurking between teeth. A quick floss daily will improve your oral health by removing bacteria between teeth and above the gumline.
Be sure to floss your teeth the right way, to remove the bacteria that cause periodontal disease and its precursor, gingivitis. Follow our tips on flossing your teeth here.
4. Use Antiseptic Mouthwash
Mouthwash isn’t a substitute for brushing and flossing, but certain mouthwashes add an extra defense against bacterial attack of teeth and gums. Antibacterial mouthwashes can benefit oral health by reducing the bacteria that cause bad breath, plaque, and gingivitis.
A study showed that Listerine completely killed microorganisms in the mouth within 10 to 30 seconds. Listerine and other products that contain thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, and menthol are the only over-the-counter antibacterial mouthwashes to earn the ADA Seal of Acceptance for effectively reducing gum disease and plaque.
5. Change Your Brush Regularly
Caring for your teeth and gums begins with using a clean brush that’s in good condition. Keep your toothbrush clean by rinsing well after each use. Covering your toothbrush can breed bacteria, so allow it to air dry and store it uncovered.
Change your toothbrush every three months, as the bristles will deteriorate with use. Select a toothbrush that is gentle on teeth and gums, while being comfortable in your hand and able to cover tooth surfaces. Toothbrushes with a head that is a half-inch wide and one inch tall, with soft, rounded bristles work well.
Signs of Oral Health Problems
The Mayo Clinic recommends contacting your dentist if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms that could suggest oral health problems:
- Loose permanent teeth
- Red, tender or swollen gums
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
- Gums that begin pulling away from your teeth
- Painful chewing
- Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold
- Persistent bad breath or an unusual taste in your mouth
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