Brushing your teeth every morning and night doesn't guarantee you're giving your mouth all the attention it needs. Even a regular oral hygiene routine could be leaving gaps if you engage in a few not-so-great habits during your time at the sink. By understanding proper brushing technique and ensuring you have the right tools in your cabinet, you can make sure you have all of your bases covered when pursuing a more thorough clean. Consider the following dental hygiene tips to help you take your care routine to the next level.
Use Proper Brushing Technique
A quick wash of your bristles isn't enough to banish leftover food particles and polish your teeth. Instead, use a technique echoed by the South African Dental Association (SADA): Start with your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and use short back-and-forth strokes across the sides and tops of your teeth. Then, hold the brush vertically and use several shorter strokes to focus on the backs of the front anterior teeth where plaque builds up often.
Many people brush regularly, but simply don't brush enough for their teeth to stay clean. The SADA recommends brushing for at least two minutes, twice daily. Having trouble gauging your routine for this duration? Try listening to a short song, cue up a two-minute YouTube video or set a timer on your phone to give yourself the time you need to thoroughly clean your teeth.
Pick the Right Brush
Always look for a brush whose head and bristles are small enough to reach into the crevices of your molars, where food debris can hide after you eat. Most adults require a small or medium-sized toothbrush for this purpose.
Like brushing, flossing must be done properly so that, when you reach between teeth, you actually get to the germs that are stuck there. Ideally, use a piece of floss up to 18 inches in length, allowing you to use a fresh area of floss every few teeth without reinserting the germs you just removed. Keep in mind that the floss should rub against the teeth in a motion that creates a forward or backward 'C' shape, wrapping the floss around each tooth.
Use a Mouthwash
Effective mouthwash can go where toothbrushes and floss are unable to reach, helping to rid your mouth of the debris that irritate the gumline and cause gum problems. Add this mouthwash to your oral care regimen to get the most thorough clean possible, even when you're on the go.
Clean Your Brush
You don't need special equipment or covers to keep the brush itself clean. In fact, SADA warns that covering your toothbrush can actually breed new germs and introduce them into your mouth. Instead, just rinse your brush after each use and allow it to air dry. You should also avoid sharing brushes with others, even your children.
Change Your Brush
Bristles deteriorate with time and usage, so if you're using the same toothbrush beyond a few months, you may not be getting the best clean anymore. Rather, make a point of getting a new brush every three to four months, or at your semiannual dental check-up.
Use a Tongue Scraper
Some toothbrushes now come with a ridged tooth-scraper on the back of the brush. After brushing, germs can remain on the tongue, so be sure to brush or scrape your tongue as part of your daily routine. Not only will it banish germs, but cleaning your tongue can also help freshen your breath.
Hungry for a midnight snack? Brushing well may clear your teeth of germs and food particles, but if you eat a snack afterward, you'll need to brush again before bed. Having a snack before sleep (without brushing) can allow food particles and sugar to remain on your teeth for too long, providing fuel for germs that feed on it.
Oral hygiene should be part of any overall health routine. By following these dental hygiene tips, you can choose the best products, improve your technique and ensure you're doing everything in your power to keep your mouth cavity-free.