by Celestine Chua on March 28, 2013
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Improve Your Oral Hygiene: How to Get Healthier Gums and Teeth

Do you have good oral hygiene? Do you keep your teeth and gums in tip-top condition?

I’ve put together this guide to achieve healthy gums (and also healthy teeth) to help cultivate the habit of good oral care.

Obviously, I’m no dentist or periodontic expert, just someone who has successfully improved her oral hygiene, and wants to share what I have picked up. If anything, this guide is meant as a reminder of what we should be doing for better oral hygiene, but may not be doing yet.

If you have poor teeth or gum condition, don’t expect your dentist to solve your problem for you, because he/she wouldn’t be able to provide a magic pill that can fix your oral problems. Chances are he/she are going to tell you the same stuff which I’m going to share next. It all boils down to you reading this guide and following the steps.

#1 - Use a good toothbrush

Go for a toothbrush with soft and round bristles, so that it does not hurt your gums while you are brushing it. It really makes a difference. The soft one is definitely the way to go.

Secondly, use the ones with crisscross bristles. They help to reach tiny creases and remove elusive plaque that’s stuck in between your teeth. They also help to brush away plaque that’s stubbornly stuck on your teeth, since there is a larger surface area of contact.

A good toothbrush may cost more than regular ones, but considering you use it at least twice a day, invest in a good quality one.

Perhaps you are wondering: How about electric toothbrushes? To be honest, with proper brushing technique (see below), a good, regular toothbrush can clean your teeth as well as an electric one.

#2 - Floss - Every Day

Flossing is one of the tasks that can be boring and a bother, but it’s important!

The amount of plaque and food debris that can be dislodged as a result of flossing – despite brushing, aleviates nests for bacteria to gather ultimately allowing the teeth and gums to be much healthier.

I like this joke:A man asked his dentist which teeth he should floss, of which his dentist replied with a tongue-in-cheek comment: “Only floss the teeth you want to keep!” This makes you realize how important flossing is, especially if dentists emphasize it all the time!

#3 - Brush at least twice a day

Do you brush your teeth at least twice a day? Once after you wake up, and once before you sleep? Most of us know we should, but we don’t. We opt for the lazy path, going to bed without brushing our teeth. While it’s convenient, doing this for a prolonged period is only going to bite us in the future.

Some hard core hygienists clean their teeth right after every meal. Personally, I think that’s very admirable. Though it’s not something I do currently because I usually go for multiple small meals vs. several large meals, it is a standard I aspire to achieve in the future. Perhaps I may consider adjusting the frequency of my meals in the future to make this more feasible.

#4 - Use a mouthwash

Mouthwash has its unique role in oral hygiene, because our teeth make up only 25% of our mouth. There is also our tongue, area near our throat, our palate (roof of our mouth), and our gums, which are neglected during brushing. It is important to eliminate bacteria in your mouth, so that plaque cannot form, since plaque is the building block of many oral diseases.

#5 - Get braces if you need them

Braces are orthodontic tools to straighten your teeth, such that you have a correct bite and have an easier task cleaning your teeth from there on. It’s commonly used to address “crowding” or crookedness of teeth, an issue that arises when one’s mouth is small and cannot accommodate the full set of teeth. It is also used to address overbites, underbites and crossbites. Simply put, straight teeth are easier to clean and floss than crooked ones!

#6 - Avoid soft drinks

Soft drinks have a load of sugar, which makes it easy for plaque to form, which in turn contributes to gingivitis (gum disease). They are also highly acidic, eroding your tooth enamel bit by bit every time you drink them. Not only that, they are unhealthy with tons of chemicals, and contribute to weight gain. They are basically sugared water that has zero value.

#7 - Don’t smoke

Smoking has consistently been linked with gum disease and oral diseases. They can be spotted by yellow teeth and eroded gums. Not a pleasant sight. Not to mention they usually have bad breath too.

How does smoking increase your risk for periodontal disease? As a smoker, you are more likely than nonsmokers to have the following problems:

  • Calculus – plaque that hardens on your teeth and can only be removed during a professional cleaning
  • Deep pockets between your teeth and gums
  • Loss of the bone and tissue that support your teeth
  • If the calculus is not removed during a professional cleaning, and it remains below your gum line, the bacteria in the calculus can destroy your gum tissue and cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. When this happens, periodontal pockets form and fill with disease-causing bacteria.

    If left untreated, periodontal disease will progress. The pockets between your teeth and gums can grow deeper, allowing in more bacteria that destroy tissue and supporting bone. As a result, the gums may shrink away from the teeth making them look longer. Without treatment, your teeth may become loose, painful and even fall out.

    #8 - Brush using the right technique

    It’s one thing to brush your teeth diligently every day. It’s another thing to brush it with the right technique, such that your plaque gets eradicated.   Proper Brushing and Flossing - See Blog 6

    #9 - Destroy all bacteria “nests”

    Look at the area between your tooth and your gum, i.e. your gumline. This is a hot spot where bacteria gathers (like a nest). You want to destroy these nests every time you brush, in order to eliminate plaque, which then becomes dental calculus, which is rock-hard and extremely difficult to remove.

    So when brushing, pay special attention to this area. What I found helpful is to (a) angle your toothbrush at 45 degrees against the area (b) make very quick, rapid motions, which helps to “break” the nests (c) repeat two to three times per tooth until it feels clean and non-sticky to touch.

    #10 - Use plaque locator products

    Sometimes you may have brushed, flossed, and used the mouthwash, and still have plaque embedded somewhere – because you missed out on a blind spot. But there’s no way you’d know, especially since plaque is transparent. And waiting till you get cavities from plaque that is built-up over weeks, even months, is not exactly a solution. This is where plaque locator tablets come in. They are pink tablets which help uncover the plaque in your mouth by coloring them pink after you chew them.

    *Areas colored pink means there is plaque. The deeper the pink, the more plaque there is. (Image: Total Teeth Care) This way, you know the areas you missed, so you can return to clean them up. Once you remove the plaque, the stain will be gone. And the next time you brush, pay special attention to these areas, so you get everything covered.

    #11 - Go for a dental checkup once every 6 months

    It’s always good to go for a dental checkup once every 6 months, because then you can fix any issues with your teeth or gums before it’s too late. It’s also a good chance to get your teeth scaled and polished, which makes it harder for plaque to form, hence making it easier for you to maintain your oral hygiene.