Expert Tips For Good Oral Hygiene
Oral hygiene refers to the cleaning of one’s oral cavity on a regular basis which is essential for the proper functioning of teeth and its surrounding structures.This is a maintenance practice that keeps our mouth- teeth, gums, tongue, and soft tissues free of any disease. Good oral hygiene is important for the prevention of periodontal diseases, bad breath, dental caries, and other dental problems.
It also includes measures that prevent infection to spread from the oral cavity into the systemic circulation. Prevention is better than cure, and good oral habits keep most of the dental problems and their treatments away.
How to ensure good oral hygiene?
These are some of the measures one should take to ensure good oral hygiene:
- Brush twice a day, especially before sleeping at night and floss once daily.
- Have a healthy, balanced diet and reduce the intake of snacks in between meals.
- Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- Rinse mouth with a fluoride-containing mouthwash.
One should follow the following steps to ensure a thorough brushing of teeth:
- Tilt the brush so that it’s 45-degree away from the gum line and sweep in an ‘up and down’ motion. The grooves of our teeth are vertical and hence a horizontal scrubbing motion should be abandoned and a vertical movement of the brush while cleaning our teeth should be adopted.
- Gently brush the inside, outside, and chewing surfaces of each tooth by using short front and back strokes.
- Do not brush in a rush. A good and thorough cleaning should take about two minutes from start to finish.
- Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly after every use and place the toothbrush in an upright position so as to allow it to air-dry until it’s used again.
- Don't cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers as it encourages the growth of yeast, mould, and bacteria.
- Replace the toothbrush when the bristles become frayed or irregular.
- Change the toothbrush after having a cold, as the bristles of the toothbrush can collect germs that can lead to reinfection.
- A toothbrush should be used approximately for three to four months and then changed.
Here are some expert tips on tongue cleaning:
- There are numerous bacteria that are normally found over the tongue. These bacteria and other debris trapped on the tongue can cause bad breath. Gently brush over the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.
- A tongue cleaner or a toothbrush can be used to remove the debris built upon the tongue.
Here are the reasons why you should use an interdental brush:
- A normal toothbrush cannot reach between teeth, and therefore cannot clean 100% of the plaque that might be deposited on our teeth. An interdental brush can be used to clean those in between surfaces, just like flossing.
Here are the advantages of flossing:
- Flossing is a method of using dental floss for removing deposits below the gum line and between tight contacts of teeth.
- The dental floss is inserted gently between the teeth and is scraped along the sides of teeth, and along the gum line.
- Flossing along with brushing your teeth helps in prevention of Halitosis (bad breath), Gum Disease, and Dental Caries.
Here’s is a step-by-step guide to flossing:
- Use about 18 inches (40 centimetres) of floss, leaving an inch or two to work with.
- Wind the floss around the middle finger on one hand, and the rest around the middle finger on the other hand. Grip the floss tightly between your forefingers and thumbs.
- Insert the floss between two teeth using a rubbing motion. When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it against one tooth by making a C shape.
- Gently follow the curves of your teeth.
- Repeat this along all the teeth.
In addition to daily brushing and flossing, consider using fluoride-containing mouthwash to maintain your oral health.
Here’s what you can do to enjoy a good oral hygiene:
- Resist the temptation to use toothpicks or other objects: Using these could hurt your gums. Injuries of soft tissues could let in bacteria and lead to infections.
- Avoid sticky food items: Stick food items remain stuck on your teeth for a longer time, and hence they are more likely to cause decay. A diet that would keep your oral cavity healthy would be crunchy fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid citrus fruit juices, vinegar, and aerated drinks: Fruit juices like citrus juice, vinegar, and aerated drinks contain acid, hence they lower the pH level of the oral cavity, making it more acidic, which eventually results in demineralisation of the enamel. Such drinks should be avoided for preserving the health of teeth.
- Say no to smoking and tobacco: Smoking and tobacco consumption increase our chances of gum diseases and tooth decay. Smoking causes dry mouth which leads to tooth decay. It causes gum deterioration by making smokers more prone to infections. It also causes staining of teeth and bad breath. One should quit smoking and tobacco consumption.
When to visit a dentist?
In order to prevent gum diseases and other oral health problems, schedule dental check-ups every 6 months. In the meantime, visit a dentist, if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms:
- Swollen, tender/ painful, red gums
- Bleeding from gums
- Bleeding while brushing
- Gums being pulled away from teeth
- Mobility in permanent teeth
- Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold food items/drinks
- Halitosis or an unusual taste in the mouth
- Pain while chewing
Oral disease and inflammation (oral bacteria and oral infections) can be a risk factor for serious systemic diseases, such as:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Extreme high birth weight or low birth weight of a baby
- Cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke)
- Diabetes-related complications
Early detection and intervention by treatment of any problem associated with your gums, teeth and mouth can help ensure a lifetime of good oral health. Strong teeth and proper dental hygiene and care is behind every bright, healthy, and beautiful smile. However, a healthy smile lasts only until your teeth and gums are taken care of. Once we stop paying attention to oral hygiene, we start facing dental issues which directly or indirectly impact our overall health.
Dr Namrata Rupani is a dental surgeon. She is also a health council member at Healthhunt.