Submitted by Jeff Reynolds, DMD.
Most people know that brushing your teeth two times a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush, coupled with visiting the dentist for regular checkups is important. But there are other important steps to incorporate into your dental health routine to maintain a healthy smile beyond just brushing.
I recommend creating a more comprehensive dental routine by starting with flossing your teeth once a day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 31 percent of us floss every day. That remaining 69 percent of us who aren’t so great at flossing our teeth are being exposed to the bacteria in plaque for an extended period of time, putting us at an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque is made up of bacteria which makes it acidic enough to erode and break down the enamel on our teeth. Flossing is the best way to remove that sticky plaque that builds up around your teeth and gumline over the course of the day. To get the most out of your flossing, I recommend using your floss in a gentle back-and-forth motion, and to wrap the tooth with the floss in the shape of a ‘C’ to reach all the surfaces of your teeth.
Another easy way to improve your routine is to brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper– why? Because bacteria build up on these large surfaces in your mouth can often be the culprit of bad breath and an increased the risk of dental decay.
After brushing, flossing, and cleaning your tongue, I encourage my patients to use mouthwash. A fluoridated rinse can help protect your teeth against decay and help remove any additional plaque and bacteria left behind after brushing. This can be particularly helpful for young children and seniors who may not have the dexterity to efficiently brush their teeth.
Although not a part of your daily oral health routine, an additional step you can take to ensure your pearly whites stay healthy is by applying sealants. Sealants are protective coatings which a dentist or hygienist places on teeth to form a physical barrier to prevent growth of bacteria and the accumulation of food particles in the grooves of back teeth, helping to prevent cavities. Dental benefits providers such as Delta Dental of Washington and Apple Health (Medicaid) cover the cost of sealants, although I always recommend checking with your benefits provider to confirm.
Finally, one of the best ways to ensure oral health is to drink plenty of water throughout the day, washing away sugars and food particles which otherwise combine with bacteria to form acid in the mouth that eats away at enamel. Many public sources of water are also good sources of fluoride which helps prevent cavities by filling in the cracks in your enamel and remineralizing the tooth.
For more tips on how to improve your oral health routine, Delta Dental of Washington has a variety of information and resources – visit www.deltadentalwa.com/blog.
Jeff Reynolds, DMD is Delta Dental member dentist and serves as the Dental Care & Dental Director for Community Health Care (www.commhealth.org).