So what’s better than fluoride at preventing cavities, gum disease and other oral health issues? Quality nutrition is a big part of it – going easy on hyper-processed foods, added sugars, soft drinks and the like; going heavy on whole foods, produce and healthy natural fats.
Good hygiene is another critical factor. Yet perhaps many of us come up short because what’s to be done seems so simply obvious: What could be so hard about brushing or flossing?
Nothing, really. But there’s a lot about them that’s easy to overlook. And that’s the stuff of this helpful list of 9 dental don’ts that can lead to big problems down the road – courtesy of Dr. Timothy Chase, a cosmetic dentist in New York City:
Top Oral Hygiene Mistakes You May Be Making
- Brushing too long or too often
Brushing is necessary to maintain great oral hygiene, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to brush every time you eat. According to Dr. Chase, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you brush your teeth too often or too long. What he suggests is that you brush 2-3 times per day, at least a half hour after meals to avoid eroding your tooth enamel.
- Brushing too hard
One might think that the harder you brush, the more likely it is that your stains will disappear. However, that doesn’t exactly hold true, and brushing too hard can actually cause injury to your gums and can lead to loss of enamel and notching of the root surface of the teeth. Brushing should be done using gentle pressure, with the bristles angled toward the gum line, in small circular motions. Another easy solution is to replace your manual brush with a quality electric brush, which studies show work better and cause less damage.
- Brushing immediately after eating
Brushing soon after eating or drinking acidic foods is one big mistake a lot of people make. Doing so can increase the risk of tooth abrasion. Shortly after you eat or drink acidic foods, the acids in the food weaken the enamel of your teeth. Therefore, postpone brushing to at least 30 minutes after eating, by which time the saliva secreted in the mouth can neutralize the acids.
- Only brushing your teeth
Brushing is not limited to just the teeth. Your tongue needs to be cleaned too. The grooves and ridges on your tongue can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Ignoring your tongue can be the cause of bad breath as well.
- Using the wrong toothbrush
All tooth brushes are not created equal! The only types toothbrushes that should be used are those with soft or extra soft bristles. Using a medium or hard brush can lead to gum recession and damage to tooth structures.
- Not replacing your toothbrush
Can you remember the last time that you replaced your toothbrush? Over time, brushes lose their flexibility and the bristles begin to wear out. Not changing your toothbrush at least every three months can make your efforts to maintain oral hygiene useless.
- Not using floss
Toothbrushes can’t reach certain places, such as between your teeth and under the gum line. Flossing should be done at least once a day to reach these areas, but can be done more often if you tend to have food stick between your teeth. Gently move the floss between your teeth until it reaches the gum, then pull it so that is partially wraps around each tooth. Floss once or twice a day, preferably after dinner.
- Not drinking waterIt is very important to drink water throughout the day. Not only does water help rinse food particles from the mouth, but it also helps restore the natural pH. In addition, water keeps you hydrated, which helps in the production of saliva that keeps the mouth healthy and clean.
- Not receiving regular dental check-ups
Even if you correct all of your oral hygiene mistakes, you still need to visit your dentist at least once every six months or more if you have any dental issues. Brushing and flossing alone cannot remove plaque that can harden into calculus; only your dentist or hygienist can remove this. Besides dental disease, your dentist can also help diagnose other potential issues such as oral cancer, TMJ and other systemic diseases.