The foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles, dental hygiene is a set of practices and regular cleanings intended to keep the teeth and gums clean and healthy. While some of these tasks are performed daily and others far less frequently, the end goal is the same: removal of debris and plaque and the prevention of bacteria growth and disease. While some folks have special needs, a general dental hygiene plan includes a regular brushing and flossing regimen, healthy lifestyle practices, and regular cleanings and checkups.
Brushing and Flossing
Brushing and flossing are the foundation of good dental hygiene and thus oral health—practices we should all perform every day. Brushing involves using a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean the teeth and gums. It’s the single most important dental hygiene practice; performed regularly tooth brushing can effectively prevent many of the most common oral health problems like gingivitis and periodontitis. Most dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes, at least twice a day—though ideally you’d brush after every meal. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums and make small circular motions, repeating for each tooth. It’s an easy habit to get into and goes a long way towards keeping the teeth and gums healthy.
While brushing is important, it doesn’t fully address interdental surfaces—the areas between teeth. As up to 40% of tooth surfaces are interdental, that’s a lot of space to ignore! The solution is some form of interdental cleaning, which reaches between teeth. While there are a number of ways to accomplish this, the most common interdental cleaning practice is flossing. Flossing involves using string-like dental floss to reach between the teeth to remove plaque and debris. Combined with regular brushing, flossing is a key component of daily dental hygiene practices. While different dentists occasionally make different recommendations, here’s a basic guide to flossing:
- Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving one to two inches of floss between them.
- Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between two teeth.
- Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss—this might damage the gums!
- Use clean sections of floss as you move from one tooth to the next.
- To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth
Flossing is easy, inexpensive, and a simple daily habit to form. It’s very effective when practiced daily, making it a key component in your dental hygiene routine.
A Healthy Lifestyle
Brushing, flossing, and regular dental care are important, but it’s equally important to live a healthy lifestyle which supports good dental hygiene and good oral health. A healthy lifestyle involves good eating and drinking practices and avoidance of bad habits that can lead to oral health problems.
The basic foundation of a healthy lifestyle is a good diet of healthy natural foods. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains all support overall health and thus good dental hygiene by supplying the body with the resources it needs to maintain wellness. Some food contribute directly to oral health and dental hygiene; for example dairy supplies the calcium needed to keep teeth healthy while green tea contains compounds that help prevent plaque buildup. On the other side of the coin, sugary or acidic foods can contribute directly to tooth decay and should be avoided or limited in order to maintain proper dental hygiene. If you do indulge in them occasionally, brushing/flossing and using mouthwash immediately after can mitigate the effects.
There are a few things to avoid outright as part of a healthy lifestyle. Smoking or other tobacco use does great damage to the teeth and gums, causing irritation, discoloration, and potentially leading to infection. Eliminating tobacco use is a big step in maintaining dental hygiene and overall oral health. Alcohol consumption can cause problems as well, discoloring teeth, irritating gums, and causing dry mouth which paves the way for infection by removing protective saliva. Alcohol consumption should be sparing, and the teeth should be cleaned afterwards. Chewing gum can cause problems as well, as most chewing gums are essentially sugary candy that can help feed bacterial growth and infection. Instead of a sugary chewing gum, choosing a dental chewing gum or at least a sugar-free gum can help support oral health and dental hygiene. Ask Dr. Stenvall for a recommendation.
Regular Checkups and Cleanings Improve Dental Hygiene
While daily routines and lifestyle choices are the most important part of dental hygiene, regular visits to our office also plays a role in keeping the teeth and gums health and happy. A typical dentist visit will include a checkup, during which Dr. Stenvall and a dental hygienist will examine your teeth and gums, make sure that there are no potential problems, and recommend a course of treatment or oral health practices as necessary. Most checkups also include a teeth cleaning. This will involve a dentist or oral hygienist giving your teeth a thorough, deep cleaning designed to remove plaque and calculus and stimulate both tooth and gum health. These are routine procedures and generally free of pain and discomfort. Most dentists recommend that both checkups and cleanings be performed annually, although some people may need them more often.
If it’s time for an appointment or a tooth cleaning, get in touch with us. Queen City Dental Arts has a dedicated team of professionals who will work with you to promote your oral health and dental hygiene. Whether you need a routine checkup, a cleaning, or a cosmetic/restorative procedure, we’re here to help. Make an appointment today!