Proper dental home care involves the combination of having an adequate diet, exercising proper brushing and flossing techniques, and utilizing additional adjuncts such as tongue scraping and rinses. A summary of these various facets of home care is summarized below:
Diet – Any food or snack that can become trapped within the pits and grooves of your teeth or between your teeth can become harmful if not cleaned properly. Chewy candy (i.e. Taffies, caramels, jellybeans, and licorice) are among the biggest cavity culprits. However, you may be surprised to know that nuts, raisins and dried fruits can also cause a lot of damage, since they too get readily stuck in and around the teeth. The complex carbohydrates such as pretzels and potato chips get broken down into the same sugars that are found in cakes and cookies. Any food debris left on the tooth creates an acid attack in the mouth to break it down. The less likely the food is to dissolve or rinse away, the longer the acid attacks will be. Chocolate, which is full of sugar, is actually not as bad for your teeth as dried fruit and nuts, because chocolate dissolves quickly. However, you can prolong any acid attack by eating or drinking things slowly over a longer period of time. Additionally, if you can’t get to a brush right away, you should rinse well with water, and can chew sugar-free gum for 5 minutes to help neutralize the acids in your mouth and lift out the debris from within the grooves of your teeth. This is especially important in those individuals with a dry mouth.
Brushing – It is recommended that everyone brush at least twice each day with a soft-bristled brush or electric brush. The first time should be in the morning, after breakfast, so your child’s teeth are clean before leaving for school. It defeats the purpose of brushing if you give your child their sugary vitamin after they brush, or give them their breakfast to nibble on the bus, because these substances will stay lodged in the top grooves of their molars and in between their teeth for hours to come, contributing to the formation of cavities. The most important time to brush is right before you go to sleep at night so that nothing is left on or in between your teeth when you are sleeping. The reason is that when you are awake, your saliva helps to bathe and rinse your teeth, but while asleep, you do not salivate that much, and your teeth is more susceptible to developing cavities from the debris left on them. Additionally, if you have the chance to brush after other meals or snacks, it would be advisable. And don’t forget to brush their teeth after they are given medicine, as the acids contained in medicines may break down the tooth enamel.
An electric brush has a few advantages over a manual brush. First it generates more brush strokes per second; making it more effective for the amount of time it is being used. Keep in mind that while it is recommended to brush for 2 minutes, the average person only brushes for 30 seconds. With an electric brush it is easier to clean behind the back teeth. Many of these electric brushes have certain extra bells and whistles such as a digital timer so you know when 2 minutes are up, and an indicator light to show if you are pressing too hard. There is usually less trauma to the gums and teeth when brushing with an electric brush since many over-zealous manual toothbrush users bang into their gums with the wrong technique, or scrub too hard. A manual toothbrush can be very effective with the right technique, and conversely, an electric toothbrush can be virtually useless with the wrong technique. If using a manual brush, use small, vibratory strokes on a 45 degree angle so that the bristles get in the pockets between the teeth and gums. Avoid the up and down or circular motion, as that can just traumatize the gums. If you are using an electric brush, try to spend at least 2 full seconds on each tooth surface (inside, outside and top), making sure to angle the brush between the teeth and having the bristles go between the tooth and the gums. Spin brushes are just a watered down version of an electric brush that may attract the attention of your child with its various themed versions. Whether you use a manual brush or an electric, make sure you always change your brush or brush head every three months, or sooner if you just had a cold so you don’t re-infect yourself.
Flossing – It is very important to floss your teeth at least once per day (preferably before you go to sleep) to remove food debris and plaque from in between your teeth where your toothbrush couldn’t reach. Plaque causes tooth decay and can lead to gum disease. Another great reason to floss is that recent studies have shown that flossing helps to prevent a heart attack or stroke. When flossing, be sure to take out a piece about 18 inches long, and gently wrap it around your middle fingers so you have full control and dexterity holding the floss between your thumb and index finger. Then, starting at the base of the gums, work the floss in a circular motion scraping the plaque upwards, away from the gums. Don’t forget to wrap the floss around the corner line angles of the tooth where the plaque builds up.
Toothpastes – Toothpastes coupled with the proper brushing action is an effective way to remove plaque, a sticky, harmful film of bacteria that grows on your teeth that causes cavities, gum disease, and eventual tooth loss if not controlled. Toothpastes also contain fluoride, which makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to tooth decay. Toothpastes also help to remove superficial stains and help to leave your mouth with a clean, fresh feeling. It doesn’t matter what kind of toothpaste you use, as long as it contains fluoride.
Other Dental Aids – Other dental aids that work very well are pre-brushing rinses, such as Plax, and post brushing antiseptic mouthwashes designed to help kill germs between your teeth. Water Jet Irrigators, such as Waterpiks, are effective for cleaning in between teeth, especially when one does not have the dexterity for flossing properly. Proxybrushes (brushes designed to remove plaque and debris in open areas between the teeth) and Stimudents (very thin wooden toothpick made of orangewood) are also great adjuncts to removing debris that gets trapped between the teeth.
Tongue scraping – Your tongue is the most retentive surface in your mouth, and is quite adept at harboring bacteria within its Velcro-like surface. It is the anaerobic bacteria and volatile sulfur compounds trapped in these surfaces that give off the oral malodor
. Tooth brushing alone does not clean our mouths, and mouth rinses only mask the bad breath for a short period of time. It has been found that 90% of halitosis (bad breath) originates from the mouth, with 80% coming from the posterior third of the tongue. Brushing the posterior of the tongue will stimulate a gag reflex. The only definite way to remove those volatile sulfur compounds is to scrape the tongue with a tongue scraper designed to reach that area.
It is recommended that you floss after you brush. Flossing before brushing can be very messy for most people. Additionally, flossing in a mouth that has a lot of debris can only serve to introduce more bacteria into the gum pockets. If one brushes very well, they should be able to better visualize what they are trying to accomplish with the floss.
Baking Soda, sodium bicarbonate, is one of the least abrasive and most effective tooth cleaners on the market today. Data from various clinical and lab studies show that a toothpaste containing baking soda neutralizes acids and odors, removes plaque and deep tooth stain more readily than other leading toothpastes, and leaves your mouth fresh and feeling very clean. Baking soda is a soft mineral that is very soluble in water, and therefore not very abrasive. In fact, it is less abrasive than most other toothpaste cleaning agents that are sold.
One can use baking soda to brush their teeth without buying the toothpaste that contains baking soda. It would be more cost effective to do so, however, the toothpaste version would be easier to use (no time wasted dissolving and mixing the powder in water), and it would, most likely, taste better. If you were to use the baking soda version, since it does not contain fluoride, it would be advisable to use an after brushing fluoride rinse to help prevent cavities.
It is possible your problems may hereditary, but not very likely. Just because your parents had bad teeth doesn’t mean that you are doomed to the same fate. In fact, many times a person’s dental issues can be traced back to poor home care habits that were taught by those parents who had bad teeth from their poor home care. The bad oral hygiene techniques were passed down, not the bad teeth gene. Only a small percent of patients actually inherited their problems.
Ready to get the smile you’ve been dreaming of? Find out how Dr. Lazare can help you today! Call our office at 212-861-2599 or send us an email at [email protected]