Oral Hygiene 101: Brushing, Flossing, Diet & Best Products
Oral hygiene is the practice of maintaining a clean mouth and teeth by brushing teeth, flossing, a tooth-friendly diet, and regular dental visits. Taking care of your teeth can prevent diseases such as gingivitis, bad breath, and tooth decay/cavities.
Only 65% of American adults visit the dentist each year. Visiting the dentist is a critical part of maintaining oral hygiene, preventing oral disease, and identifying oral health problems early. Your dentist can often spot problems you can’t see on your own.
Another way to look at good oral hygiene is the management of bacteria in the mouth. The mouth has a diverse oral microbiome that functions as a kind of immune system for oral disease.
You need a balance of bacteria for healthy teeth and gums, but a dysbiosis of too much pathogenic bacteria is what leads to oral disease. Oral hygiene keeps those bad bugs at bay.
This is your one-stop-shop for everything you ever need to know about oral hygiene. Read on to learn more about:
- How to best maintain oral hygiene
- How oral hygiene affects whole-person health
- Your oral microbiome
- The best oral care products
Why Oral Hygiene Is Important
Why is oral hygiene important? Oral hygiene is important because it determines if you have cavities, bad breath, a healthy smile, discolored teeth, or inflamed gums. Oral hygiene even affects your whole-body health and quality of life.
More than 1 in 4 American adults have untreated cavities. Almost half of adults in the United States show signs of gum disease.
The most common oral hygiene health problems are:
- Cavities (tooth decay or dental caries)
- Tartar formation
- Gum disease (periodontitis or periodontal disease)
- Tooth loss
This short list does not even cover the fact that oral hygiene is linked to your overall health, which has been well-documented in numerous studies and by the US Surgeon General.
These systemic diseases may be connected to poor oral health:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
What causes bad oral health?
Overgrowth of harmful pathogenic bacteria causes bad oral health.
When harmful (pathogenic) bacteria attach to your teeth, they try to colonize in groups and create a film known as dental plaque. Plaque feeds off sugars, including those that occur when you eat high-carbohydrate foods. It’s not all about avoiding candy!
When plaque feeds, it releases acids that harm your teeth. Those acids excrete waste onto your tooth enamel, breaking it down over time and potentially leading to tooth decay.
Eventually, plaque can harden into tartar. Tartar is much harder to remove, causes tooth discoloration, and makes it easier for harmful bacteria to grow.
Not only can plaque lead to cavities, but it can also cause inflammation of your gums and results in gingivitis (bleeding gums), the first stage of gum disease.
How do you kill bacteria in your mouth? You can kill bacteria in your mouth with mouthwash and other antibacterial oral care products.
But for healthy teeth and gums, it’s more important to disorganize bacteria in your mouth with good oral hygiene than to kill it outright with antibacterial products.
Think of it like using antibiotics for your gut every day — after a short period of time, you’d have no immune system and your body couldn’t defend itself against disease.
What is my oral microbiome?
Your oral microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live in your mouth. This community includes bacteria as well as viruses, fungi, and protozoa.
The oral microbiome is the second-largest microbiome in your body, after your gut microbiome.
Your oral microbiome is essential to your oral and overall health.
“Good” bacteria (commensal) and “bad” bacteria (pathogenic) always live in harmony within every human microbiome. Too much or too little of any particular strain in the oral microbiome will lead to poor oral health.
Here are a few common causes of an imbalanced oral microbiome:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor diet (high in sugars/carbs and acidic foods or drinks)
- Antibiotic overuse
- Certain oral care products
- Certain toothbrushes
How can I improve my oral hygiene?
Improve your oral hygiene by following these oral hygiene tips:
- Brush your teeth
- Scrape your tongue
- Oil pull
- Use mouthwash
- Follow a tooth-friendly diet
- Get a teeth cleaning every 6 months
It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of oral hygiene. Good oral hygiene can be the difference between a healthy life and a miserable life.
Brushing Your Teeth
Brushing your teeth is the most important part of maintaining good oral health. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you brush your teeth twice a day.
70% of Americans brush their teeth twice a day — and that’s an optimistic number. That means 3 in 10 Americans are not brushing twice a day. Some sources say that 37% of Americans aged 18 to 24 have recently gone two or more days without brushing their teeth.
Because brushing your teeth is so important to dental care, let’s briefly discuss a few aspects of teeth brushing:
- How brushing improves oral health
- How to brush your teeth correctly
- When to brush your teeth
- How toothpaste works with a toothbrush
- A brief history of brushing
How Brushing Improves Dental Health
Tooth brushing improves oral and dental health because brushing your teeth disorganizes bacteria and doesn’t allow microbes to group together on the surface of your teeth.
If you did not brush your teeth, these harmful bacteria would create acids that eat away at your tooth enamel (causing tooth decay) or hide under your gum line and infect your gums (gingivitis).
Removing and disorganizing the harmful bacteria with your toothbrush prevents tooth decay and gum disease. It also prevents bad breath and gives you a great smile.
How To Brush Your Teeth Correctly
- Apply a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to your toothbrush.
- Aim your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gum line. Removing plaque from beneath your gums is one of the most important parts of brushing.
- Brush in gentle circles. Brushing too aggressively can harm your gums or tooth enamel.
- Brush the front, back, and chewing surfaces of each tooth.
- Brush for 2 minutes. Try dividing the mouths into 4 quadrants, brushing for 30 seconds each.
- Spit out toothpaste after brushing. Do not rinse your mouth.
Do not share a toothbrush with anyone. Allow your toothbrush to air dry bristles-up, not touching another toothbrush.
When To Brush Your Teeth
Most experts agree: You should brush your teeth at least twice a day.
It is easiest to brush your teeth first thing in the morning and at night before you go to bed.
It may be ideal to brush your teeth after every meal, but brushing immediately after a meal can be dangerous. This is because the acids from your meal may still linger on your teeth and the toothbrush could act as an abrasive which scrubs acids against your teeth.
For the best results, wait about a half-hour before brushing after meals.
Brush your teeth after you floss. When you floss first, you release some interdental plaque onto your tooth surface which needs to be removed with a toothbrush. Moreover, if you floss after brushing, you may remove some of the fluoride or hydroxyapatite that needs to linger on your tooth surface to help remineralize and strengthen your teeth.
How Toothpaste Works With a Toothbrush
Toothpaste may work with a toothbrush by:
- Foaming to indicate where you have brushed
- Freshening breath
- Whitening teeth
- Reducing tooth sensitivity
- Fighting bacteria
Toothpaste is mostly a cosmetic product used to polish teeth. The only medical use of toothpaste is remineralization (rebuilding tooth enamel), which can be achieved by fluoride or hydroxyapatite (HAp).
The cosmetic purpose of toothpaste is to freshen breath and whiten teeth by removing surface stains.
Is toothpaste necessary? If you use hydroxyapatite or fluoride toothpaste, then toothpaste is necessary to remineralize tooth enamel.
If you are using fluoride-free toothpaste, then toothpaste is not necessary.
A 2016 systematic review concluded that toothpaste may not help a toothbrush to remove plaque.
The safe answer is likely in the middle ground. If you are in a bind, skip toothpaste every once in a while, but don’t make it a habit.
Flossing removes plaque and food particles from in between your teeth. Flossing is important for preventing gum disease and tooth decay.
Research reveals that flossing is integral for plaque control between your teeth.
Studies found that flossing before you brush is more effective than brushing first at removing plaque.
To floss properly:
- Do not prod at your gums. Form a C-shape to wrap around the side of each tooth once per tooth gap to get the plaque at the very top/bottom of the tooth.
- Do not push hard on the floss when sliding in between close teeth gaps. You may harm your gum tissue.
- Only floss once a day. Flossing multiple times a day increases the risk of gum damage.
One alternative to flossing is interdental brushes. Interdental brushes clean in between teeth just as well as flossing, if not better. Some prefer these to dental floss for comfort and ease of use.
Tongue scraping is exactly what it sounds like — scraping your tongue. This practice helps to remove extra bacteria and other debris from your tongue which could otherwise cause bad breath and contribute to poor oral health.
Tongue scrapers are most effective when made of a hard metal, like stainless steel or copper.
To scrape your tongue:
- Start with the scraper at the back of your tongue with the ends facing outwards.
- Pull the tongue scraper towards the front of your mouth, gently pressing down against your tongue.
- Rinse the buildup from the scraper.
- Repeat 3-5 times.
Tongue cleaning can:
- Remove bacteria
- Improve your sense of taste
- Improve the look of your tongue
- Reduce bad breath
Oil pulling is the practice of swishing coconut oil around your mouth, then spitting it into the trash after 20-60 seconds.
You spit it into the trash, because coconut oil returns to a solid state at room temperature, even though it is a liquid when it is in your mouth which is warmer.
Research reveals that oil pulling can wash away plaque and food particles that you may have missed with a toothbrush and/or flossing.
Coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory pain reliever that promotes healthy gums and may help prevent plaque buildup.
Oral probiotics are chewable tablets that provide beneficial (commensal) bacteria to your oral microbiome.
Certain oral probiotics have great health benefits for your oral health:
A mouth rinse is not necessary, but rinsing with mouthwash may be a helpful tool in your oral hygiene.
However, steer clear of antibacterial mouthwash that may kill more good bacteria than bad bacteria.
The main functions of mouthwash are to:
- Freshen breath
- Wash away plaque and food particles
Mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing your teeth and flossing, which are the most important aspects of oral hygiene.
Do not rinse with mouthwash right before or after brushing your teeth, if possible. Rather, rinse with mouthwash after a meal when you can’t brush your teeth.
Why is Listerine bad for you? Listerine (like other mainstream mouthwashes) is bad for you because it dries out the mouth and wipes out both good and bad bacteria from the mouth.
A Tooth-Friendly Diet
A tooth-friendly diet is critical to supporting your oral hygiene.
High-sugar and acidic diets contribute to tooth decay, and some drinks like coffee or red wine can stain your teeth. However, a balanced diet can support good oral health in a number of ways:
- Calcium- and phosphorus-rich foods (such as leafy greens, almonds, beans, whole grains, fish, and nuts) support bone and tooth health, including your outer tooth enamel.
- Crunchy fruits and veggies (such as carrots, celery, and apples) help produce saliva, which helps wash away food particles in your mouth. The lower the sugar content, the better.
- Cheese may make your mouth less acidic. Cheese tends to be high in calcium and vitamin D, both of which promote bone health.
- Sugar-free yogurt contains probiotics that support your oral microbiome. “Probiotics” are beneficial bacteria. Greek yogurt contains more probiotics than plain yogurt. Remember, sugar feeds the harmful bacteria in your mouth and contributes to cavities.
- High-fiber foods provide food for your good bacteria that won’t lead to decay.
Don’t snack in between meals. Teeth naturally remineralize at periods of “rest”. Snacking leads to food particles being stuck in between your teeth. Also, snacking tends to involve sugary snacks, and sugar is a no-no for oral health.
You can chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gum sweetened with xylitol helps produce saliva, gets rid of lingering food particles, and may even prevent cavities.
Hydration is important to oral hygiene, so drink plenty of water and water-rich produce each day.
When you are dehydrated, your dry mouth can’t produce as much saliva as it needs. A lack of saliva leads to dental problems because saliva helps wash away food particles in your mouth. Less saliva equals more food particles, on which bacteria thrive.
Very interesting: Studies show that early human diets may have been much friendlier to their teeth than our modern diets. Preliminary research would suggest tooth decay was 30 times less prevalent in early humans than it is today.
It is important to visit your dentist’s office every 6 months for your checkup and dental cleanings.
Regular dental checkups and dental treatments help maintain oral hygiene. Dentists or dental hygienists will clean your teeth with professional instruments and make sure you do not have any oral health problems that need to be addressed.
A professional cleaning every 6 months benefits you in the following ways:
- Prevents cavities and tooth decay
- Prevents gum disease and gingivitis
- Prevents diseases in other parts of your body
- Can remove tartar, which you can’t remove at home
- Uses x-rays to detect early stages of disease, such as oral cancer
- Keeps you accountable
- Improves your smile, give you confidence
- Saves you more money long-term
In the US, dental hygienists are healthcare professionals that must complete an associate’s degree at a college approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Dental hygienists must also take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.
The Best Oral Hygiene Products
Below, we will talk about how to find the best:
- Tongue scraper
Here at Triple Bristle, we have dedicated ourselves to understanding cutting-edge science, so that we can provide our customers with the best oral care products possible.
The Best Toothbrush
What is the best toothbrush to use?
- Use a sonic toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes can remove plaque better than manual toothbrushes.
- Use soft bristles. Hard bristles damage your gums and erode your enamel.
- Use a three-headed brush. Triple Bristle’s revolutionary three-headed brush delivers a superior clean in under half the time. A three-headed toothbrush effectively cleans plaque, especially when a caretaker is cleaning another person’s teeth.
The Best Toothpaste
The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests using fluoride toothpaste because fluoride is known to prevent cavities and remineralize teeth.
However, many around the world worry about the dangers of fluoride toxicity.
7 other toothpaste ingredients that may be toxic:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Propylene glycol
- Titanium dioxide
- Artificial colors
- Artificial sweeteners
Triple Bristle offers a fluoride-free toothpaste in our store (with free shipping). This minty fresh toothpaste also contains no SLS, which is a skin irritant linked to canker sores.
The Best Floss
The best floss is:
Triple Bristle offers a mint-flavored, unwaxed dental floss that glides easily between teeth. Not only are there 55 yards per pack, but we offer free US shipping.
The Best Mouthwash
The best mouthwash does NOT contain these ingredients:
- Chlorine dioxide
- Cocamidopropyl betaine
- Artificial sweeteners
Antibacterial mouthwashes kill good bacteria in your mouth, allowing bad bacteria to take over.
In conclusion, the best mouthwash is NOT antibacterial, non-alcoholic, and all-natural. But remember, mouthwash is not an oral hygiene necessity.
The Best Tongue Scraper
A high-quality tongue cleaner should always be dual-sided and easy to grip, like the ones offered in our store.
We offer free US shipping!
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