Oral Hygiene: Taking care of your teeth

Should You Consider Dental Implants?
February 14, 2017

Oral Hygiene: Do you know what’s at stake?

When your teeth are feeling good, it’s easy to forget about the importance of oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing often go by the wayside. As your first measure of protection, brushing and flossing is still the easiest and most effective way to keep your mouth healthy. In case you need a primer, let’s look at what happens in your mouth before, during, and after you eat food.

What is plaque?

Plaque and Tartar
Plaque is a made up of saliva and food particles. It contains bacteria and that eats carbohydrates like sugar, and processes this into acid. That acid sits on your teeth is the leading cause of tooth decay, cavities, enamel destruction, and bad breath. When plaque isn’t removed within 48 hours it begins to calcify. When plaque hardens it turns into tartar. This is much more difficult to remove with flossing and brushing.

When does plaque growth occur?

  • Overnight – Mouths tend to dry out at night. This actually allows bacteria to thrive, because saliva has antibacterial properties. Less saliva means more bacteria, and more acid production capable of harming your teeth. That’s why brushing before bedtime is so important. Starting with the cleanest mouth possible before saliva production is at its lowest levels means fewer bacteria in the morning.
  • In the Morning – Leftover bacteria from the night before will continue to work. It gets fed by sugars and carbohydrates, so make sure to brush and floss in the morning in order to eliminate that food source as well as remove any plaque and bacterial build up from the night before.
  • Between Meals – Whether or not you could be harming your teeth is entirely dependent on what you eat. Acidic foods can harm the enamel of your teeth. Pair this with bacteria producing acid and without cleaning you can harm your teeth throughout the day. There are some simple steps you can take between meals and snacks that can really help over the course of a day. We’ll cover those below.

What do you do when you can’t brush your teeth?

Brushing your teeth regularly is incredibly important, but what do you do in-between meals? Going to the bathroom to brush isn’t always practical, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some steps you can take to protect your teeth. Do the following after eating for better oral health.

  1. Drink water – It might sound silly, but drinking water can actually help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. That’s because bacteria needs food to flourish. By washing down food particles when you are done eating, you can remove the bacteria fuel. Swishing water around in your mouth before swallowing can help remove even more food.
  2. Eating an apple – It’s been said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it actually keeps the dentist away. Because of the hardness and natural skin of an apple, eating one helps to remove plaque. It acts like a scrubber for your teeth, tongue, and gums. As a very mildly acidic fruit, it also helps remove microbes and plaque. These natural fibrous fruits also help reduce bad breath and aid in indigestion. You can’t lose.
  3. Chewing gum – Your grade school teacher may not have known about this feature of gum when she told you to stop chewing it. Gum greatly increases saliva. Saliva has antibacterial properties and is one of the primary ways your body combats acid producing bacteria. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can help remove and neutralize bacteria created acid. Gum can increase saliva production by as much as 10 times your normal rate.

Don’t brush your teeth if…

There is one occasion where brushing your teeth can actually do more harm than good. If you have just consumed an acidic food, wait to brush your teeth. Acidic food weakens your tooth enamel, and brushing can actually remove it. It’s advisable to wait at least 30 – 45 minutes to brush your teeth after consuming an acidic food. This is a better way to protect your important tooth enamel and overall oral health than brushing immediately.

If you won’t have the opportunity to brush afterwards then you can brush beforehand. Brushing before something acidic still removes bacteria and plaque without risking your enamel.

Proper Brushing Techniques

Teeth Brushing
Proper brushing has been covered before, so let’s look at the reasons why it works. Consider some of the most effective teeth cleaning products available. Electric toothbrushes with internal motors rely on vibration to remove plaque. Keep this in mind when brushing. Trying to mimic this effect. Use a very light touch when brushing and spend at least 2 minutes brushing. Use incredibly short strokes and always make sure to get often forgotten areas in the back of your mouth.

Proper Flossing Techniques

The greatest benefit floss provides is to get below the gum line. Pulling floss around your teeth in a “C” shape and moving up and down and side to side will loosen and remove plaque. Always make sure to floss your teeth first. You’ll want to rinse after flossing, and brush immediately. This will help to remove any plaque that is free floating in your mouth or settled back onto your teeth.

Brushing before you eat?

Since bacteria grows in plaque, and bacteria needs carbohydrates like sucrose to produce acid, brushing before you eat can also be a great preventative technique. Removing plaque or carbohydrates both help inhibit bacteria’s ability to produce acid and hurt your teeth. If you aren’t able to brush your teeth after a meal, brushing beforehand can be just a useful, and in the case of acidic foods, even more beneficial.

Ask your dentist.

If you would like a demonstration of the proper way to brush and floss, or have more questions about oral hygiene, just ask your dentist. Their first concern is keeping your mouth healthy, and preventative techniques are always favored over painful and expensive surgical corrections like fillings and crowns. Taking action now can help your mouth remain healthy, and provide you with great teeth long into the future.