We all know the basics of dental hygiene: brush twice a day, floss daily, don’t eat too many sugary foods. But in two one-hour checkups each year, your dentist may not have time to tell you everything they really want you to know about taking care of your oral health. Before your next appointment, consider these five facts that your dentist wishes you knew.
Saliva = Good, Dry Mouth = Bad
That’s right – drool is kind of a good thing. When it comes to your dental health, more saliva means less plaque buildup, because saliva helps neutralize the bad bacteria and acid that can remain on your teeth throughout the day. Sufferers of dry mouth are also at a higher risk of developing tooth decay. Stimulating more saliva can help keep your mouth extra clean; try chewing sugar-free gum after a snack, or eating foods that typically encourage saliva production, like apples and chewy vegetables.
Dentists are Doctors, Too
Okay, so your dentist didn’t go to medical school; he went to dental school, an intensive post-baccalaureate program that requires four years of study, and results in the same general title as your primary care physician, “Doctor”. So show your dentist the same respect – if he or she tells you to add a step to your dental hygiene regimen, consider it with the same as your primary care physician prescribing you a medication.
Plaque Doesn’t Sleep
A lot of people seem to think that brushing your teeth at night is more important than brushing your teeth in the morning. After all, you can’t eat while you’re sleeping, so there’s no reason to brush away leftover food particles the morning after. However, during those hours when you’re asleep, the bacteria in your mouth is busy building up plaque. Even if you brushed your teeth right before bed, make sure you brush and use mouthwash in the morning, too.
Don’t Brush Too Hard
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to brush your teeth too vigorously. Brushing in gentle circles strikes the perfect balance of removing bacteria and food particles from your teeth without wearing away at your enamel and gums. Grab your ADA-certified soft-bristle toothbrush to get started; even “medium” softness bristles can be too abrasive for your teeth. If you’re brushing too hard or using a tough brush, you can cause your gums to recede, which can be painful and leave your teeth at added risk of tooth decay. Talk to your dentist about the proper pressure and technique for brushing your teeth.
Please, Please, Please Use Fluoride
The general public has debated the effectiveness of fluoride for years, but the ADA firmly recommends getting fluoride either in your toothpaste or in your drinking water in order to prevent your risk of cavities. The research is undeniable: ingesting fluoride, a natural cavity-fighter, is proven to reduce up to 40% of tooth decay. If you don’t live in an area that already has drinking water with fluoride, consider using a fluoride rinse or mouthwash to help keep your teeth strong and healthy.