We have all heard the phrases: “Brush your teeth” and “Floss your teeth”. But, how many times a day should we brush and floss? How long should we brush and floss? Electric toothbrush or manual toothbrush? Do I need to brush every day? Here are the answers to those questions.
In general: -Floss once a day (I prefer to floss before I brush, others may disagree, but I don’t think order matters as much as actually flossing)
-Brush with fluoride toothpaste. Ideally, for 2 minutes, 2 times a day - in the
morning and before you go to bed at night. If you can only manage 1x a day, make sure it is before you go to bed. But really, 2x a day is better.
-Use a tongue scraper to remove the bacteria on your tongue. This really, really helps with bad breathe!
-If possible, use an electric toothbrush. They really are better than manual toothbrushes! I prefer the Oral B (which I’ll explain why in a later post) but in
general the brand isn’t as important as using an electric toothbrush over a manual toothbrush. If you prefer a manual brush, make sure it is a soft or extra soft bristle brush and do not aggressively scrub your teeth which can
cause gum recession and sensitivity.
Some special circumstances that can alter the above guidelines
If you have periodontal disease (gum disease): add a mouthwash like Listerine with essential oils or a prescription mouthwash like chlorhexidine gluconate (name brand peridex). Be wary of mouth washes in general. Many of the over the counter mouthwashes are flavored water and aren’t helping you. I will do a post in the future on mouthwash to clarify this. I would also consider using a waterpik, which are really helpful in cleaning deeper “pockets” and larger areas in between teeth that develop with periodontal disease.
If you have dry mouth or get a lot of cavities: Same as the general instructions, but you can use a prescription toothpaste (like prevident), which provides more protection against cavities, or you can use a fluoride mouthwash like ACT (this is the name brand, any fluoride rinse will help). Again, be wary of mouthwashes in general and check the ingredients. People with dry mouth need fluoride because dry mouth causes an increased risk for large cavities. I just had a patient with severe dry mouth that had been buying a special kind of dry mouth rinse for months. She was still getting cavities regularly, and brought in the mouthwash for me to check out. Wouldn’t you know, even though it was marketed as the #1 mouth wash for dry mouth it didn’t have any fluoride!!! It was basically water. Make sure the mouth wash you use to relieve your dry mouth has fluoride in it.
If you are someone with spaces in between your teeth where food easily gets packed, you can use helpful tools like plastic tooth picks such as soft-picks and/or a waterpik. These can be more effective then floss at cleaning the larger spaces.