Dental hygiene tends to feature low in the scheme of things, particularly where adults are concerned. We remember to caution our children on the dangers of eating too much candy but safely forget that we are as susceptible to cavities and tooth decay as they are.
Without a doubt, the smile is perhaps the most singularly attractive physical feature that human beings have. How do you keep that smile looking radiant and exuding freshness? It begins by being genuine about it and ends with good oral hygiene.
There is nothing worse than being smiled upon by someone who has bad breath and brown, stained teeth. If you happen to be one of those people who brush their teeth in two minutes, you might be in for some embarrassment. This is, however, merely a superficial reason for keeping your teeth clean and well cared for. Inadequate dental hygiene can result in permanent damage to the gums and teeth.
Whenever we eat food, some particles remain lodged between our teeth. Bacteria present in our mouth then break it (particularly sugar and starch food particles) down to acid, which causes permanent structural damage to the teeth.
It normally takes the form of small holes that eventually expose the nerve in the tooth. You may often feel pain, either dull or excruciating whenever you eat or drink anything cold or hot or sugary. Taking care for your teeth is not as hard as it looks but just involves a regular cleaning routine.
- First, purchase a good toothbrush, which has soft bristles and a small head. A bigger, harder bristled toothbrush will not be able to reach your molars comfortably. Also you will need toothpaste, waxed dental floss, mouthwash and a tongue cleaner. Make sure your toothbrush comes with a cover or buy one to keep it clean when not in use.
- We tend to brush our teeth in a hurry, particularly to beat the morning rush. If you are using the right technique and doing a thorough job of it, daily oral care will normally take you around 10 minutes. Hold your toothbrush under running water before using it.
- When using toothpaste, don’t follow what they do in the ads. They simply cover the bristles in toothpaste. Instead, squeeze a small quantity of toothpaste. Dentists recommend a very thin layer on top of the bristles. This will be more than enough for an adult. For children under two, use only fluoride free toothpaste, as they will swallow it. For toddlers, uses a pea sized quantity of fluoride free toothpaste or smear a little fluoridated toothpaste.
- Get your brushing technique straightened out. A lot of people brush to and fro. It works for the molars but does nothing for the spaces between your teeth.
- Brush up and down the front of your teeth. Next, diagonally brush across, alternating with each hand. This will dislodge food particles stuck close to the gum and in between the teeth. Pay particular attention to the chewing surface of your teeth and push the brush down into any deep grooves that you might have. Brush the outside and inside of your teeth.
- Once you are done brushing your teeth, rinse your mouth with water, gargle and spit. The next step in proper dental care is flossing. No matter how much you try, there will be places no toothbrush can reach.
- Take 15-18 inches of floss and hold each end with your thumb and index finger. Slide it between your teeth and clean against the gumline. Your gums may bleed a little while flossing. This is normal.
- Next, you need to clean your tongue. The tongue has a den of bacteria thanks to food particles and dead cells that accumulate on the surface. After a cold, you might notice a whitish coating on your tongue, towards the rear of your mouth. This can be caused due to breathing through the mouth (particularly when you have a cold) or due to a yeast infection like oral thrush.
- Use an ergonomically designed tongue cleaner without any rough edges to clean your tongue. Place it down on your tongue and slowly slide it across the surface to the front, scraping very gently. Never press down too hard, particularly when cleaning from the rear. This may cause you to gag, which is normal but in some cases, people have been known to vomit.
- Take the recommended quantity of mouthwash and swish it around the inside of your mouth. Gargle for a few seconds and spit out. Don’t eat anything for the next 30 minutes. I recommend that anybody considering the use of a mouthwash, check with a dentist first and get one prescribed according to your needs.
- Some people simply use mouthwash for fresher breath so a minty fluoride free one would do just fine. If you are trying to keep a dental infection at bay, you may need an antiseptic or anti-plaque mouthwash.
- Rinse your mouth with water and gargle a few times to finish up. Ideally, you should follow this oral health routine twice a day to ensure that your teeth stay healthy.
Tips and Warnings
- Never brush vigorously since harsh brushing can cause the gums to bleed profusely.
- Don’t floss by pushing hard against the gumline. Floss by applying the right amount of pressure to dislodge the dirt that is wedged between the teeth and against the gums.
- Don’t use too much or too little mouthwash, check with a dentist before buying one. Do not swallow it. Prolonged use of the wrong type of mouthwash can cause dental problems. Do not give mouthwash to children under 7.
- Use the right brushing technique twice a day, once in the morning and once before you go to bed at night, rather than brushing all wrong, three times a day (after every meal).
- Make periodic visits to the dentist, say once in six months, to keep an eye out for any cavities. Adults may need a little scaling once or twice a year to remove plaque.