Oral hygiene is a set of practices that help to preserve oral health and prevent the spread of oral diseases. These practices include regular toothbrushing, flossing, mouth rinsing, eating a healthy diet, and regular visits to the dentist. Good oral hygiene can keep your mouth clean and free of dental diseases such as dental caries, gum disease, and bad breath. Also, it can help you feel good about your teeth appearance. Learn more about why is oral hygiene is so important and how to improve your oral health to make yourself feel and look better. In this article, we will discuss:
- Does bad oral hygiene affect your health?
- What are the basics of oral hygiene?
- What is the best way to brush your teeth?
- What is the best way to floss your teeth?
Why Oral Hygiene is so Important?
Your teeth are not just there to make you look good. Teeth play an important role in overall health. They aid in digestion. With the help of the tongue, your teeth cut and crush the food and prepare it for swallowing and digestion. Also, they play a crucial role in speech and making correct pronunciation, and contribute to your personal appearance. Without good oral hygiene, dental caries and gum disease may occur which can lead to tooth loss. Missing teeth can lead to health problems associated with poor nutrition. Also, they can cause speech problems and changes in facial appearance and profile. According to researchers, gum disease is linked to a variety of other health problems such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tooth Brushing and Oral Hygiene
Frequency and Duration of Tooth Brushing
You should brush your teeth twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening). The brushing time should be 2 to 3 minutes. The best time to brush your teeth is after eating, but not immediately. Because acidic foods and drinks can soften the tooth enamel for a short time. So, brushing your teeth immediately after eating acidic foods and drinks can damage tooth enamel. You should wait for at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after eating.
Tooth Brushing Pattern
Tooth brushing should be done in a fixed pattern. To ensure that you don’t forget any tooth surfaces during tooth brushing. For example, you can brush the outer surfaces of upper teeth (from right to left) then the inner surfaces, and lastly the chewing surfaces of upper teeth. Then, you can proceed to the lower teeth as well, following the same pattern. You should brush your teeth with a gentle pressure because otherwise, you can damage the tooth enamel and gums.
Proper Tooth Brushing Technique
With proper brushing technique, you can achieve good oral hygiene. Use a toothbrush with soft, round-ended, and nylon bristles to prevent the damage of tooth enamel and gums.
- Place the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gum line, contacting the tooth surface and gum line.
- Brush your teeth using a vibrating and rolling motion (from the gum line to the chewing surfaces), to loosen the dental plaque and penetrate the interdental spaces.
- Brush your teeth in groups. Every group contains 2 – 3 teeth.
- Start with the outer surfaces then, the inner surfaces, and lastly the chewing surfaces of upper teeth (from right to left). Then, brush the lower teeth in the same pattern.
- Clean the inner surfaces of upper anterior teeth with the front part of the toothbrush in a vertical direction (up and down strokes).
- Brush your tongue to remove bad breath producing bacteria (from back to front).
The Toothbrush: How to Choose The Right Toothbrush?
The choice of an appropriate toothbrush is important to maintain good oral hygiene. Unsuitable toothbrush bristles can damage tooth enamel and gum. The requirements of a toothbrush are simple. An appropriate toothbrush is characterized by the following features:
- Soft bristles: use a toothbrush with soft bristles to remove dental plaque and food debris. Toothbrush with hard bristles can damage tooth enamel and gums (gum recession).
- Small head: use a toothbrush with a small head to reach all areas in the oral cavity especially, hard to reach posterior teeth.
- Rounded ends: use soft bristles with rounded ends, to prevent the damage of gums.
- Nylon bristles: they dry quickly, and make it difficult for bacteria to colonize.
- No natural bristles: they are not recommended. Because they dry slowly and provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
Toothbrush Care: Cleaning, Storing, and Replacement
To maintain good oral hygiene, you should keep your toothbrush clean. The toothbrush can harbor bacteria that could cause oral and systemic diseases. Therefore, these are general recommendations for toothbrush care:
- Clean your toothbrush after brushing: thoroughly rinse your toothbrush with water to remove any food debris and toothpaste.
- Keep your toothbrush dry: don’t cover the toothbrush or store it in a closed container. Keep it in the open air. A moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Therefore, put your toothbrush in a toothbrush-holder with head upward.
- Replace your toothbrush regularly: replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or if the toothbrush bristles become frayed.
- Don’t share your toothbrush: sharing your toothbrush leaves you more susceptible to oral and systemic infectious diseases. Because of the exchange of bacteria and body fluids between the users of the toothbrush.
Toothpaste: Components of Toothpaste
An effective toothpaste not only removes dental plaque but also removes tooth stains. Almost every toothpaste in the market contain the following ingredients:
- Fluoride: fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to the attacks by bacterial acids.
- Abrasives: the toothpaste contains mild to normal abrasives to remove tooth stains.
- Antibacterial agents: such as chlorhexidine, sanguinarine, or triclosan. They can reduce the number of bacteria that damage teeth for a limited period of time.
- Surfactants: also known as foaming agents. Surfactants enable the distribution of toothpaste in the oral cavity and promote the removal of dental plaque.
Flossing and Oral Hygiene
The interdental spaces are areas between teeth and they can’t be reached by a normal toothbrush. The possible consequences are dental caries and gum disease. Dental floss can clean the interdental spaces, which are not accessible by a normal toothbrush.
Dental floss is available in a wide variety of designs (fluoridated, waxed, and fluffy). Choosing the right one depends primarily on teeth condition. Normal dental floss is suitable for normal interdental spaces (neither very narrow nor very wide). Closer interdental spaces are easier to clean with waxed dental floss. Fluffy dental floss is recommended for wide interdental spaces.
Proper Flossing Technique
The use of dental floss is not easy at first and requires some exercise. Follow these steps to floss your teeth correctly:
- Cut 18 inches (approx. 45 cm) of dental floss and wrap one end a few times around the right middle finger.
- Wrap the other end of the dental floss around the left middle finger.
- 4 inches (approx. 10 cm) of dental floss remain between the hands.
- Press both thumbs on the dental floss. In between, about 2 inches (approx. 5 cm) remain free to work with.
- Gently, slide the dental floss between your teeth with a zigzag movement.
- Gently, curve the dental floss around the tooth (c-shape), and move up and down about seven times.
- After each interdental space, use a clean section of the floss.
- When cleaning the lower teeth use the index fingers instead of thumbs.
You should floss your teeth at least once a day. In the beginning, slight bleeding may occur.
Dental Floss Holder
A dental floss holder is a small plastic holder that facilitates the cleaning of the interdental spaces. Anyone who has problems with the finger technique should try the floss holder.
An interdental brush is used to remove food particles from wide interdental spaces. Toothpaste is not used with the interdental brush. When it used for the first time, light gingival bleeding may occur. However, this is rapidly improved with regular use.
Mouthwash and Oral Hygiene
A wide range of mouthwashes has been developed to help you maintain good oral hygiene, to reduce the number of oral bacteria, or simply to improve your breath. Mouthwashes can help in the prevention of dental caries, gingivitis, and bleeding gums. However, the prevention of dental caries and gum diseases with mouthwashes only is not possible. There are 2 types of mouthwashes:
- Medical mouthwashes: they can help in the prevention of dental plaque, caries, gingivitis, and gum bleeding.
- Cosmetic mouthwashes: they can improve your breath (masking the bad breath) but don’t treat the causes of bad breath or kill the bacteria that cause bad breath.
Medical mouthwashes usually contain chlorhexidine, an antiseptic that kills bacteria, and is used for a short term in the following cases:
- In the treatment of gingivitis and periodontitis.
- After an oral surgery to support the healing process.
Chlorhexidine is considered the most effective substance to reduce bacteria. However, the daily long-term use of mouthwash with chlorhexidine is not advisable, because it can cause teeth discoloration and taste irritation as a side effect.
Tongue Cleaning and Oral Hygiene
Don’t forget the tongue in daily oral hygiene, because it provides an ideal environment for food particles and harmful bacteria. Approximately 50 million different bacteria live in the oral cavity. When bacteria find an excess of food and good living conditions, they multiply and produce sulfur compounds. These compounds are the main cause of bad breath. Dentists estimate that more than two-thirds of oral odor cases are due to tongue bacteria. You can clean your tongue with tongue scraper or brush, at least twice a day. To keep your breath fresh.
- Place the tongue scraper on the back of the tongue and pull it forward.
- Repeat until no residue on the scraper.
- A mouthwash can be helpful as a supportive measure.
- Integrate the process of cleaning your tongue in the daily oral hygiene routine.
Nutrition and Oral Hygiene
A good and balanced diet is important to maintain good oral hygiene. Inappropriate diet is one of the main causes of caries and other dental problems.
- Avoid high sugar foods and drinks. Bacteria break down carbohydrates and produce acids that attack tooth enamel, causing dental caries.
- Eat raw fruits and vegetables, because they can clean teeth surfaces and stimulate saliva production. The saliva neutralizes the acids produced by bacteria and delivers minerals to tooth enamel.
- Some fruits are not so favorable from a dentist’s point of view even if they are healthy. These include fruits with a lot of fruit sugar or sticky consistency such as dried foods. Also, fruits with a high proportion of fruit acids such as citrus fruits. Sticky or acidic substance attack the tooth enamel and promote the development of dental caries.
- Meat, fish, eggs, and milk provide the body with important nutrients and are also healthy for the teeth.
- Water and milk are the drinks of choice. Water is sugar-free, so it is healthy for teeth. Milk helps to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth.
Professional Teeth Cleaning and Oral Hygiene
If oral hygiene is insufficient, the dental plaque will form on your teeth. Then, it will harden into tartar (also known as calculus). Tartar can’t be removed by toothbrushing or flossing. Also, it can cause dental caries and gum disease. So, you should visit the dentist for professional teeth cleaning. Professional teeth cleaning supports daily oral hygiene but doesn’t replace it.
Preventive care by regular professional teeth cleaning is recommended by dental specialists to maintain good oral hygiene. It should be carried out every six months (twice a year). Most dental clinics offer professional teeth cleaning. It’s performed either by a dentist or an oral hygienist. It includes:
- Dental plaque and tartar removal: the dentist will remove the dental plaque and tartar with special instruments and devices that work with ultrasound. Also, he/she will remove teeth discoloration that is caused by tea, coffee, or smoking (cosmetic effect).
- Tooth polishing: the dentist will polish your teeth to make teeth surfaces smooth.
- Fluoridation: in order to strengthen the tooth enamel, the dentist will apply fluoride gel or varnish on teeth.
Children Oral Hygiene
Oral hygiene is one of the main ways to preserve our overall health. It’s a part of our daily hygiene during all stages of life since the lack of it could lead to many diseases. Inadequate or incorrect oral hygiene can lead to oral problems such as plaque formation, bad breath, dental caries, gingivitis, and periodontitis.
When the first teeth appear (about six months), you should start to care. You should clean your baby’s mouth with a wet gauze after food intake and pay special attention to the gums. It’s advisable to visit the dentist to verify that teeth are developing properly. It’s the responsibility of parents and pediatric dentist to create good oral hygiene habits in children. It’s important to choose a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean teeth and gums. Also, the parents should seek professional advice for the selection of paste or gel toothpaste. In most cases, fluoride application is recommended to strengthen the tooth enamel.
Your teeth are not just there to make you look good. They play an important role in overall health. Also, they help you talk, chew, swallow, and contribute to your personal appearance. So, maintaining good oral hygiene is important to prevent oral and health problems such as problems associated with poor nutrition. According to researchers, oral problems such as gum disease are linked to serious health problems such as heart attack, poorly controlled diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. So, brush and floss your teeth regularly. Also, visit your dentist at least once every 6 months for professional teeth cleaning.