We recommend a very soft toothbrush, used after each meal or snack and replaced monthly. Some people soak their brush periodically in a chlorine solution to sterilize it. We also recommend keeping a spare in your pocketbook, desk, glove compartment, backpack, etc.. Brushing after each meal is a valuable habit to establish; the traditional twice a day guideline is really just a bare minimum. When you’re out and about, do it with plain water instead of toothpaste if that makes it more convenient.
How to brush
Gently use the brush to remove plaque from each surface of each tooth. Then turn your attention to the sulcus, the groove between the tooth and the gumline. The sulcus traps plaque and is where most adult dental problems begin. It is both the most important area to clean, and the most neglected. Point the bristles into this groove at 45-degree angle to the tooth. Gently sweep the sulcus clean and massage it to stimulate circulation. Move methodically throughout the mouth so you clean around every tooth, including every molar.
How not to brush
Avoid scrubbing at the gumline. This technique will not effectively clean the sulcus, but it can damage the tissue and cause gum recession, leading to painful sensitivity. A slower, more gentle, more methodical approach will yield better results.
A brush containing fewer bristles can be helpful in cleaning the sulcus, because the bristles may fit better into the groove. Soften your brush in warm water, or even better, wet it with Dental Herb Co. Tooth and Gum Tonic. Gently massage into the sulcus around each tooth. Your mouth will feel really clean.
When people ask, “What is the best dental insurance?” our answer is “floss.” Floss is cheap, portable, and it really makes a big difference. It can save you tens of thousands of dollars in dental treatment and add years to your life. Floss deep under the gumline, scraping up the sides of each tooth. Use the sniff test to see how you’re doing. If the floss smells, it’s telling you something that your friends may not mention.
If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, pay attention! Healthy gums do not bleed, just like your scalp should not bleed when you brush your hair. Don’t back off; the blood means you need to clean deeper and more thoroughly. And make an appointment with your dentist. Bleeding gums indicate a potentially serious problem.
An egg timer
It’s a fact of modern life that we hurry through most activities, and it’s tempting to scrub our teeth in haste while mentally planning our day. If an egg timer helps you to be mindful and slow down, use one! Remember that your goal is to remove all the plaque from each surface of the tooth, including under the gumline. You can’t accomplish this in 30 seconds. Set the timer for three minutes, and do the job right.
An electric toothbrush isn’t essential, but it can contribute to dexterity and motivation. We would suggest a soft, extra-gentle rotary style toothbrush that moves in a circular motion, such as a Rotadent or a Braun. But those suggestions are not mandatory. The “best” toothbrush is one that you like to use.
Yes, we strongly recommend cleaning your tongue. A coated tongue is a primary cause of bad breath. Scrape it with a plastic tongue rake, which will do a better job than your toothbrush, to see what you’ve been missing. A clean tongue will make your mouth fresher, and your food will taste better.
Remember that the primary goal of toothbrushing is to remove all of the plaque. Toothpaste is not essential to this process, but a supporting agent. We like the Dental Herb Company’s Tooth and Gums paste. Tooth and Gums paste contains no sodium lauryl sulfate, an artificial foaming agent found in most brands of toothpaste. Its fluoride content comes from green tea. It has a refreshing, not sweet, taste. Another natural toothpaste can be made from baking soda and peroxide -- or plain baking soda.
Commercial mouthwashes that rely heavily on alcohol are relatively harsh and drying to the mouth tissues, which can be counterproductive. We generally recommend milder solutions for daily use. Our favorite is Dental Herb Co. Tooth and Gums Tonic, which we carry in our office. It is alcohol-free and is made from organic herbs. It contains gotu kola, an herb that supports the health of connective tissues. However, we sometimes do recommend stronger preparations for specific purposes.
When periodontal disease takes hold, it eats away the bone that holds the teeth in place. As the bone level falls, the sulcus gets deeper. Normally this groove ranges from 1-3 mm deep. When it deepens to 4, 5, or even 6 or more millimeters, it becomes impossible to clean with brush and floss. For patients in this situation, we recommend an oral irrigator called a Hydrofloss. The Hydrofloss can point a stream of water under the gumline to flush out bacteria and toxins. Medicaments can be added to the water to help kill the bacteria and cleanse the tissues. Please note that an irrigator is not a substitute for professional care. Periodontal disease absolutely requires care by a hygienist and dentist. And an irrigator will not remove hardened buildup from the roots, just as brush and floss cannot. However, an irrigator is a great adjunct for home maintenance of periodontal pockets. Many healthy patients enjoy using it also for prevention and for the cleanest tasting mouth.
Under The Gums Irrigant, another herbal product by Dental Herb Co., is one of many products that can be added to the water in the irrigator.
Our office uses a whitening system that is economical, conservative and gives you maximum control over the process, both initially and whenever you want a touch-up. This involves making custom trays to fit your teeth, which will hold the whitening product in place. You take the materials home and use them on the schedule that suits you, for a half-hour to hour at a time. One of the risks of tooth whitening is that of heightened tooth sensitivity. This usually goes away in a day or two, but for some people can be rather uncomfortable. This system allows you to whiten at a rate that feels most comfortable for you, and you can touch up at your convenience. Your progress is professionally monitored during your dental hygiene visits.