Your oral health is a good indicator for your overall health. If you fail to keep up good dental hygiene habits, your overall health can suffer.
Your mouth, the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, teems with bacteria. While most of the bacteria are fairly harmless, improper hygiene can lead to the rise of opportunistic bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum inflammation, and oral infections.
These then can spread from the mouth to the rest of your body, leading to systemic problems including endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy complications, and pneumonia.
At the dental office of Dr. William M. Schneider in Walnut Creek, California, we understand the importance of maintaining good dental hygiene and try to impress that on our patients.
Many people, though, make mistakes in their dental routines, and we’d like to take this opportunity to correct the problems before they become harmful.
Common dental hygiene mistakes and how to correct them
Here are five common mistakes people make with their dental hygiene.
1. Brushing improperly
Brushing your teeth is critical, but it’s only effective if you use the correct technique.
Using a “sawing” back-and-forth motion across your teeth doesn’t get the job done. Instead, angle the brush at 45 degrees to your gum line, and use small circular motions on the front, back, and top of every tooth. Spend about 30 seconds on each quadrant.
Don’t use a hard-bristled brush or work too hard; both can damage the tooth enamel and your gums, leading to tooth sensitivity and gum erosion. If the brush’s bristles are splayed, you’re brushing too hard.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you use a toothbrush with soft bristles and change the brush every three months or when the bristles begin to look matted.
2. Flossing improperly or not at all
Brushing your teeth isn’t enough to keep your mouth healthy. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria from between the teeth, where the brush can’t reach. Flossing also helps prevent bad breath by removing food particles caught in hard-to-reach places.
Both the ADA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people should floss at least once a day in addition to brushing. And just as it’s important to brush correctly, you should also floss correctly.
Don’t push the floss straight down between your teeth. This can cut the gums and cause pain. It also fails to remove the plaque. Instead, pull off an 18- to 24-inch piece of floss, wind it around your middle fingers, and hug the sides of the teeth when you go up and down. Use a clean part of the floss for every tooth.
3. Eating too many sugary and starchy foods
You probably heard your parents warn you that eating sugar leads to cavities. Well, it does. Studies continue to report on the significant role sugar has in creating cavities. In addition to candy and desserts, many processed foods contain added sugar that can affect your teeth, too.
Starchy foods like bread, crackers, chips, and pasta can also cause tooth decay. These foods tend to linger in the mouth, breaking down into simple sugars that acid-producing bacteria use for food. The excess acid can cause tooth decay.
The ADA recommends eating lots of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as dairy products that don’t contain added sugar.
4. Failing to use fluoride
Fluoride is a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash. Some dental products don’t contain any and some people don’t bother with it, which can be harmful to your dental health.
A recent review found that even people who brush and floss regularly aren’t protected against getting cavities if they don’t use fluoride. Always look for products that contain the ADA seal of approval; the ADA only approves a paste or wash if it contains fluoride.
5. Failing to schedule regular dental checkups
During routine dental visits, a hygienist cleans your teeth and removes plaque and hardened tartar. The dentist makes a visual inspection for cavities, sometimes supplemented by X-rays, as well as gum disease, mouth cancer, and other oral health problems.
A recent study showed that children and adolescents should see their dentist every six months for cavity prevention. Adults with excellent hygiene may be able to go a year between visits.
Do you want to learn more steps for good dental hygiene? Give Dr. Schneider’s office a call at 925-935-2700 to set up a consultation, or book online. Healthy teeth are an investment that lasts a lifetime.