October is National Dental Hygiene Month, so we asked some experts from the UConn School of Dental Medicine for some pearly-white pointers.
Room for improvement with the flossing: Most of us don’t floss as often as we should, which is daily, according to the American Dental Association. Flossing daily helps keep bacteria from thriving in between our teeth. Bacteria between the teeth can lead to cavities and more often leads to gum disease. Waxed or unwaxed, traditional or dental tape, floss picks or even electric flossers, before or after brushing, morning or night… lots of ways to go here. What works best? Use whatever type and timing that will give you the best chance to make it a consistent habit.
Is the more expensive toothpaste worth it? It’s personal preference, but just be sure to use a paste that has fluoride and an ADA seal on the packaging. Note that certain brands designed for sensitive teeth only should be used when directed.
Brushing blunders: The most common mistakes we make when brushing are brushing too quickly, failing to reach all tooth surfaces (including the gum line), and brushing too hard, which can erode the gum line. Also, swap out the brush every three-to-four months, or when you notice the bristles starting to fray.
Going soft: Soft-bristled brushes are almost always the recommendation. Medium and hard brushes sell because enough people believe they’re more effective at removing plaque. But plaque is soft (our gums are soft too!) so no need to vigorously scrub (see above, “brushing too hard”).
Healthy mouth, healthy body: They’re more related than you may think. Regular checkups (going for cleaning with a dental hygienist twice a year and having a dentist examine your teeth at least once a year) are an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Plus, consistent hygiene visits often lead to better brushing and flossing habits, setting or keeping you on a good path.
Start young: Parents play a key role in shaping dental hygiene habits. Start teaching good dental habits as soon as baby’s teeth come in. Set a good example and let them see you brushing properly every morning and night to emphasize the importance of the routine. Most kids are ready for dental visits at age 2. Regardless of your personal feelings about going to the dentist, stay positive to try to alleviate anxiety.
Karen Pirro, RDH
UConn School of Dental Medicine
Karen has been a dental hygienist for 28 years, including the last 18 at UConn Health.