Dental hygiene guide and FAQs
February 23, 2023
When it comes to dental hygiene, every time you brush or floss you’re likely thinking about preventing cavities or protecting your smile. But the benefits of having healthy teeth go far beyond being able to flash your pearly whites with confidence.
Your teeth help you chew the foods you love, they help you form words to speak clearly and they give structure to the smiling face that stares back at you in the mirror each day. Your oral hygiene is also important because the mouth acts as a gateway to the rest of the body.
“Taking good care of your mouth has a direct and positive impact on your overall health and wellness,” said Lauren Daniels, a research scientist for personal care products at Amway. “It’s the first stop for nutrition and research suggests that the health of the mouth connects to other systems of the body, too, like the gut or heart.”
So, what is the best way to support healthy teeth? What does a good dental hygiene routine look like? How long should you brush your teeth? How often should you floss? In general, a healthy oral hygiene routine means brushing, flossing and rinsing twice a day with a quality toothbrush, a plaque-removing toothpaste with fluoride and floss that glides easily.
Now let’s dive a little deeper and answer some dental health FAQs.
Many were likely taught the basics of how to brush your teeth when you were young, either by a caregiver or at that first scary trip to the dentist. But over time it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Here’s a refresher to help maintain your healthy teeth:
You should brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes. Try mentally dividing your mouth into quadrants, spending 30 seconds on each one. Or pick a favorite song from your playlist that’s about 2 minutes and use that as a guide. If you have an electric toothbrush, many feature a built in timer for 2 minutes that pulses every 30 seconds to help you keep track.
Experts recommend brushing at least twice a day. It’s okay to brush more often as needed, but there is such a thing as too much brushing. Excessive brushing can irritate your gums or wear away the enamel on your teeth.
Have you ever felt like your teeth were fuzzy? You don’t need to be a dentist to know that is not good. That fuzzy or sticky feeling on your teeth is plaque. Everyone experiences plaque because it begins to form immediately after eating or drinking, especially foods high in sugar or starch.
A good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing teeth twice a day can remove plaque so it doesn’t turn into tartar. While brushing with toothpaste isn’t required to remove plaque, an anti-cavity toothpaste does provide extra benefits. A plaque-removing toothpaste can leave you with better breath, help remove stains, and if it has fluoride, which experts recommend, it can strengthen your enamel and help prevent cavities.
Why is it that most of us have no problem brushing our teeth at least twice a day, but when it comes to flossing we so often find ourselves succumbing to procrastination, promising ourselves to do it next time? And sometimes that next time doesn’t happen until days (or weeks!) later.
But flossing is a vital part of the oral hygiene routine. If you do not floss, you could be leaving some of your tooth surfaces uncleaned because your brush can’t reach everywhere. Choose a floss that is waxed and resistant to shredding so it easily glides into tight spaces.
So how often should you floss? “Using floss daily promotes healthy gums and enhances overall oral health,” Daniels said. “It gently stimulates the gums while removing plaque between teeth and just below the gumline.”
The easiest way to remember to floss each day is to do it immediately after you brush – morning and night. Brushing first allows the toothbrush to clear the path for the floss to more easily get into the nooks and crannies. Once it becomes a habit, it will be difficult to skip.
Some people think mouthwash is only for people who want better breath. Some products are designed with only that in mind. Others include ingredients to help fight plaque in addition to freshening breath.
Making a mouthwash or mouth rinse part of your regular oral hygiene routine will help leave you with better breath, but the right rinses also can help clean teeth and fight plaque, especially between your teeth where even floss can’t reach.
“Rinsing with a mouthwash is a critical step in cleaning the entire mouth well,” Daniels said. “It also can help eliminate bacteria that can cause bad breath and gingivitis.”
Just like the toothbrush clears the way for floss to reach between your teeth more easily, brushing and flossing combined do the same for rinsing. Your ideal dental hygiene routine should be brushing, flossing and rinsing in that order at least twice a day.
One last thing: Let’s talk about the bugs that live in our mouths. Yup, microscopic bugs. If you’re familiar with probiotics and gut health, then you’re familiar with the good and bad bacteria that make up the microbiome in your gut.
Fun fact: You have microbiomes in and on other parts of your body, too, including your mouth. With more than 700 species of identified bacteria, your oral microbiome is your body’s second largest collection of microorganisms. It’s just as important to maintain the natural balance of bacteria in your oral microbiome as it is in other microbiomes.
“Your oral microbiome encompasses your entire mouth, teeth, gums, saliva and tongue, including the microorganisms that call it home and the food you eat and drink,” Daniels said. “One of the best ways to take care of your oral microbiome is with a daily oral hygiene routine that helps keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy without disrupting the balance of good and bad microorganisms.”
When looking for dental hygiene products, consider ones that are gentle with your oral microbiome.
“The oral microbiome testing we did on Glister products showed that they did not significantly shift the native microbiome community in people’s mouth, even after prolonged use,” Daniels said.
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