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Oral Hygiene!

Hello again everyone! It occurred to us that after the lecture on Periodontal Disease last month, it might be a great idea to talk about prevention. Today we will go over dental Hygiene 101, the best practices, and some useful tools to keep your mouth as healthy as possible between your professional cleanings.

Order of Operations!

You may not remember PEMDAS from math class, but pretty much everyone knows that you should brush, floss, and rinse with a mouthwash, but what you didn't know is that you are doing them in the wrong order! Dr. Pan recommends first flossing, then brushing, and finally rinsing with a non-alcoholic rinse. Flossing comes first because it helps to loosen any stuck food or plaque in between your teeth and down to your gums, which is then removed by brushing. Finally, the rinse helps to kill any stubborn bacteria around the gums and rinse anything you missed when you spit out your toothpaste. A family member taught her son the acronym FBS to help him remember:

Floss
Brush
Swish

Inter-dental Cleaners

The #1 most important thing to remember about flossing, or using a different tool to clean in between your teeth, is TO DO IT CONSISTENTLY! Flossing is the most effective way to clean in between your teeth where bacteria likes to hide and attack your gums. Whether you prefer to use traditional floss, the floss picks, a Waterpik, proxabrush, or even an airflosser, you have to use it for it to be beneficial to you!

Lets get to it, for proper flossing, you need about 18 inches of floss, or a floss pick is usable too. Use a gentle back and forth motion to get the floss in between the teeth. Then bend the floss around the tooth and use a gentle up and down motion to clean the sides of the teeth. It is very important to clean under the gum line as well. It is common while getting in the habit of flossing to have bleeding or pain at first. Don't be a quitter! As your gums become more healthy, they will get more firm and gradually stop bleeding. After a few swipes with the floss, bend the floss against the adjacent tooth and repeat. After flossing both teeth, use the same back and forth motion to get the floss out from between the teeth. Be careful not to floss too hard, or snap the floss against your gums while trying to get the floss in or out, it may lead to swelling and/ or redness.

Nothing replaces regular flossing for thorough cleaning in between your teeth. I have to stress that, NOTHING replaces regular flossing. However, we are also human, flossing every day can get tedious. So if one of us humans forget one day of flossing, be sure to get back in the groove the next day to ensure your flossing remains a good habit. There are all kinds of gadgets out there that can help clean in between your teeth, and using those can be a little easier than reaching your fingers all the way in the back of your mouth. Most of us here at Dr. Pan's office have a waterpik at home as well. While it is not quite as good as the mechanical nature of the flossing, it does a pretty good job of cleaning. With the waterpik, it is important to take your time! Get not only in between your teeth, but also follow the gum line on the outside and inside of your mouth to clean under the gum line. Otherwise, you are not cleaning completely. P.S. Make sure you are leaning over the sink looking down, if you try to look in the mirror and see what you are doing, you get soaked!

Products like Proxabrushes are convenient. They are small, portable, they even feel kinda cool to use in between your teeth. Unfortunately, if you aren't careful, they can be ineffective or cause damage to your gums if the wrong size is used or they are used roughly or excessively. Unfortunately it isn't a one size fits all deal, because the space in between your teeth varies, the size of brush has to vary as well. Even though most of the brushes are triangular in shape, if you have extra large or extra small spaces they can be difficult to clean with. They can be much easier to use than traditional floss because they have a handle to help get in the hard to reach areas which is a huge bonus, but stabbing yourself with the wire hurts a lot!

Whew! That was a lot about cleaning between your teeth, but it is very very important. If you don't believe me, read our Periodontal Disease post here.

Let the brush do the work!

If you are anything like me, you learned early that scrubbing something hard cleans it better and faster, right? When it comes to teeth the exact opposite is correct. Brushing harder will actually damage your teeth. Teeth are pretty strong, but brushing twice a day hard actually can strip the tooth of the enamel, or the first layer of tooth that protects it. It also results in recession of your gums. This usually results in sensitivity to hot and cold, and can give plaque an extra place to hide since the surface of the tooth can become uneven, which results in decay. As Dr. Pan always says, "Don't brush so hard, be nicer to yourself!".

You can see the areas where the gums have receded and the teeth are being worn away

The correct way to brush, whether using a manual toothbrush or electric, is to use small circular motions. Make sure you get the entire tooth, all the way from the gum line to the top of the tooth. We also recommend using the "three finger method" to reduce the amount of pressure you are able to exert on your teeth. Using your index finger, middle finger, and thumb only to hold the toothbrush. Brushing should be a MINIMUM of two minutes. Again, it is about taking your time, brushing softer for longer is best way to keep things in optimal shape and cleanliness. So, if you are someone who builds plaque a little faster than normal, maybe shoot for 3 minutes or longer.

Swish! Nothing but Net!

Just kidding, but using a good oral rinse is a very good idea. There are plenty of good products on the market from whitening rinses to rinses more suited to kids, but there are a few things to keep in mind while you are browsing the isle.
1) Therapeutic - get something that is actually helpful to your hygiene. Get a rinse that has anti-plaque or anti-microbial properties. This is especially important if you are someone who is at high risk for cavities or builds plaque quickly.
2) No booze - Look for a rinse that has no alcohol. Most of the rinses have antibacterial properties without the need for alcohol, which can dry the mouth(as most of us know from the night we turned twenty-one). A dryer mouth can not only smell bad but actually lead to decay, because it helps the bacteria grow! Your saliva naturally helps to keep the bacteria at bay but a dry mouth doesn't do you any favors.
 3) Busta-Lime - Fun flavors for the kids that have fluoride. Fluoride is very important for tooth development, creating strong enamel. Most of us live in an area where the water is fluoridated but if you drink a lot of bottled or purified water, they are not getting the levels recommended by the CDC, even with fluoride treatments at their 6 month check-ups. It is true that high levels of fluoride aren't good for you, but it is an important building block for healthy teeth for life. The fun flavors can help to get them into the habit of good oral hygiene with less of a fight.

Remember to FBS every day!



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