Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping the mouth and teeth clean to prevent dental problems, most commonly, dental cavities, gingivitis, periodontal (gum) diseases and bad breath. There are also oral pathologic conditions in which good oral hygiene is required for healing and regeneration of the oral tissues.
How to maintain good dental hygiene?
Good dental hygiene means getting into the routine of thoroughly cleaning the mouth at least once or twice a day, though preferably after every meal. The following discussion considers some important aspects of keeping teeth clean such as brushing, flossing, mouthwashes, and other adjuncts to maintaining good dental health.
1. Tooth Brushing
Brushing teeth for two full minutes with fluoride toothpaste and a brush that is small enough to manoeuvre around the inside, outside and top of every tooth in the mouth is considered necessary. Consider listening to an entire song whilst brushing teeth – this will be the appropriate time needed to clean teeth. Replacing a brush every three months has also been shown to be more effective in maintaining good dental health. When buying a manual toothbrush, use one with soft bristles as this will protect gums from damage to a greater extent. Studies have shown that brushing harder will not remove more dental plaque. Consider investing in an electric toothbrush if more help is needed and it is difficult to use a manual toothbrush. The novelty of a fancy new toothbrush is motivation alone to brush more.
How to brush
Press gently at a 45-degree angle. Scrub the side closest to the cheek (of the tooth and gum) for a few seconds using a small circular/vibratory motion. In the same manner, move slowly around your mouth until you get to the other side. Pay particular attention to the gum line. Once on the other side of the mouth, rotate the brush so that it rests against the tooth and gum (on the side closest to your tongue), and use the same angle and same circular scrubbing motion to return to the first tooth. Next, briskly brush along the top surface of the teeth. Then repeat the entire process on the upper or lower set of teeth (depending on start position).
Do not neglect the roof of the mouth and tongue, as these places also harbor bacteria.
Try to only spit out the toothpaste, rather than rinsing it all out after brushing, as this will reduce the effect of the fluoride in toothpaste.
Floss before every brushing. Remember that using just a small bit of dental floss to gently slide debris from between the teeth goes a long way towards eradicating plaque and keeping the mouth free from bacteria. Floss should be wrapped around the fingers then stretched tightly between the thumbs, or thumb and first finger, of each hand so that it can be eased carefully between teeth. The floss should be moved carefully up and down the side of each tooth, pushing the floss down just under the gum line.
3. interdental brushes
Other interdental cleaning devices (those devices that clean in between teeth) such as interproximal brushes or wooden or rubber tips are also valuable for certain people including those with missing teeth, large gaps, areas where the gum line has dropped, crowded teeth etc. A dentist is trained to determine the individual needs of a patient, and determine which tool will be the most effective.
It is important to remember that if one cleans the teeth properly with brushing and flossing, there is no need for a mouthwash. To date, the best mouthwashes include an ingredient known as chlorhexidine gluconate. Any mouthwash with this ingredient should ONLY be used for short periods of time as it has problems such as altering taste, staining teeth and margins of fillings etc. Those mouthwashes containing thymol and cetylpyridinium chloride are effective, but to a lesser degree than chlorhexidine gluconate. Recently, there has been the heated debate over alcohol containing mouthwash related to oral cancer. Some people have dismissed the link, however, one study in 2008 from an Australian journal proposed a link between oral cancer and mouthwash in non-smokers and non-drinkers, and fuelled the debate over whether dentists should be recommending alcohol containing mouthwashes. More and more companies are releasing alcohol free mouthwashes in light of recent evidence. At the moment, alcohol containing mouthwash does not cause oral cancer; it simply has been linked with a higher incidence in some research.
5. chewing on sugar free gums
If you are unable to clean your mouth directly after eating, consider chewing sugar free gum. This will stimulate saliva in your mouth that will naturally help flush out any lingering remnants of food. Also sugar free lollies will promote a similar mechanism.
6. high fluoride tooth pastes
High fluoride toothpastes should be used only in consultation with dental advice. They usually have five times the fluoride content of normal toothpaste and are advised in patients who are high-risk to dental decay. Other agents such as CPP-ACP (casein phosphopeptide – amorphous calcium phosphate), which are effective in helping remineralise the tooth, are being promoted in patients prone to erosion, dental decay, and dry mouth.