Obvious, but often overlooked, a well-rounded self-care routine involves taking care of your mouth. A healthy mouth prevents cavities, gum disease, a condition which can lead to other health problems, it builds confidence, and feels good. We put together 4 ways to maintain a solid mouth-care routine.
Are You Flossing Correctly?
There’s a wrong and a right way to floss, and when you get it right, you’ll wonder why you didn’t learn it sooner.
While brushing removes plaque from the surfaces of your teeth, flossing correctly removes plaque underneath the gums and between teeth. These spots are hard to reach via brushing.
How to Floss: Do It For Your Health
“Plaque consists of active colonies of destructive bacteria, which basically eat and then excrete on our teeth.”Northtowne Dental
When you first start flossing correctly, you might find that the gums will bleed and you’ll feel a slight tenderness. This results from inflamed gums, which should go away over time with consistent and correct flossing.
The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day. Although you might floss regularly, flossing incorrectly will make it seem to your dentist as if you’re not flossing at all. One way to learn is to ask your dentist and/or hygienist to teach you how to floss. If they ignore your request, it might be time to find a new dental team.
- Find the floss that’s right for you, from waxed, unwaxed or dental tape.
- Avoid Polytetrafluorethylene floss (PTFE) floss aka Teflon. Compounds found in PTFE are linked to carcinogens and harmful to overall health.
- Floss correctly, daily, and before brushing.
Although researchers are unclear on whether or not flossing prevents cavities, flossing combats gum disease, which affects overall health.
- Brushing your teeth should take around 2 minutes.
- Use pea-size toothpaste amount. Most people over-dispense on toothpaste. Pea-size is about 1 cm. In comparison, a grape is 3 cm.
- Place the brush at a 45 degree angle towards the gum line. Move the brush back and forth in short strokes or a circular motion.
- Use gently pressure.
- Brush all sides of the teeth, your tongue, and brush correctly at least twice a day (American Dental Association).
Are You Brushing Correctly?
Most of the time, we learn how to brush our teeth from our parents at a young age. How about learning how to brush from dentists and hygienists? Brushing might seem like a “natural” hygienic routine that everyone should know about, but this is not the case.
Find a Dentist and a Dental Office You Trust
You don’t have to be friends with your dentist, but you have to like them. Try getting recommendations from family or friends or read reviews thoroughly. And it’s not just the dentist that can make a difference, but the staff, such as hygienists and administration.
Don’t be enamored by fancy offices with new tech gadgets.
And yes, there are dentists with gentle hands. Routines just feel less invasive.
Toothpaste Ingredients: Know Your Choices
The debate around natural vs. regular toothpaste seems to revolved around the presence of Fluoride, but run of the mill toothpaste usually also have Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Saccharin. Here’s what you need to know:
Countries such as the US add fluoride to their drinking water. Fluoride is known to prevent tooth decay, but some would argue that we get enough fluoride from our drinking water, and that if you brush and floss correctly and regularly, you don’t really need that extra fluoride in your toothpaste.
“You really do not need toothpaste to remove the dental plaque from your teeth. Purely the mechanical action of the toothbrush bristles and your dental floss disrupts the dental plaque that ultimately leads to tooth decay and gum disease.”University of Utah Interview with periodontist, Dr. David Okano
From cancer to brain development, at this point, we need more conclusive research to determine the effects of fluoride on our overall health, so the question you should ask yourself and your dentist: do the potential costs outweigh the benefits? With the presence of fluoride in water and certain foods, is it necessary to have it in your toothpaste?
Note that the American Dental Association recommends toothpaste with fluoride.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Manufacturers add SLS to make toothpaste foam. This detergent can also usually be found in shampoos and soaps. The Environmental Working Group labels SLS as fair depending on usage with a warning that SLS can cause skin irritation. SLS can either be petroleum or plant-based.
Used as an artificial sweetener and considered safe for human consumption, we currently have limited evidence on the link between cancer and saccharin. However new research on saccharin shows that the sweetener alters gut bacteria: “…there is strong evidence to suggest that changes in gut bacteria are associated with an increased risk of diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.“
Of course, you don’t necessarily swallow huge amounts or eat your toothpaste, but helpful to note this research.
With inconclusive research on ingredients, the task of practicing self-care is to assess what works best for you and what gives you peace of mind.
If tooth sensitivity prevents you from properly brushing your teeth, ask your dentist for toothpaste recommendations.
Taking care of your mouth requires learning basic skills, finding a team of health professionals that works for you, and spending a few minutes a day taking care of your body. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on new gadgets and potions.
Did You Know?
The tingling sensation you feel after brushing comes from irritants in toothpaste. These ingredients don’t actively prevent cavities, but they act as a reward or a signal that the “product is working”.
“We can make toothpaste taste like anything—blueberries, green tea—and as long as it has a cool tingle, people feel like their mouth is clean. The tingling doesn’t make the toothpaste work any better. It just convinces people it’s doing the job.”Tracy Sinclair, Brand Manager for Oral-B and Crest Kids Toothpaste | Quote from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.