Sometimes, you come home after a busy day at work and decide to treat yourself to some delectable ice-cream or a bag of chips while watching the latest drama on Netflix. Some 2 hours later, the clock strikes 12, signaling your impending bedtime.
You procrastinate. “Maybe another episode,” you tell yourself. Then something horrifying happens.
You head to bed, without brushing your teeth.
In just one night, all the leftover debris from your night-snacking will be a “free-for-all” buffet for the bacteria that live in your mouth, resulting in the release of acids that can cause tooth decay and gum diseases among other dental problems. This also gives existing plaque on your teeth a chance to harden into tartar, which cannot be removed by regular brushing.
So, is regular brushing the ultimate solution to having healthy teeth? Not quite.
While maintaining good oral health is more than just brushing your teeth regularly, it isn’t all that complicated if you cultivate good habits.
Here are some oral hygiene habits you should adopt to keep your teeth clean and healthy.
1. Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day
It is important to brush our teeth twice daily for at least 2 to 3 minutes. However, brushing may only be effective if people use the correct technique.
You should utilise small circular motions to cover all parts of each tooth.
Avoid sawing your brush back-and-forth against your teeth or brushing aggressively as this will not help get rid of the bacteria and plaque faster.
In fact, brushing too hard can cause permanent damage to the tooth’s enamel, gum erosion, and even make your teeth more sensitive to heat or cold.
2. Floss Your Teeth
Just like how you should consume 2 quarters of a plate of fruits and vegetables in every meal, regular brushing and flossing can help remove plaque and bacteria that build up between your teeth.
Our dentists recommend that flossing should be done at least once a day, on top of brushing our teeth regularly.
To ensure optimum flossing, gently push the floss down to the gum line between your teeth before moving it up and down, hugging the side of your tooth. Similar to brushing, running the floss up and down your teeth rapidly doesn’t help get rid of plaque better, and may even cause pain.
3. Use Fluoride Toothpaste
Using fluoride toothpaste helps rebuild weakened tooth enamel, slow down the loss of mineral in tooth enamel, and prevents the growth of oral bacteria.
When good bacteria in your mouth break down minerals in your food, such as protein and sugar, the acids produced in the process can “eat away” your tooth enamel, and this will result in the forming of cavities.
Unless you’re allergic to fluoride, using fluoride toothpaste is recommended as it contains minerals that help remineralise your tooth enamel, giving you healthier teeth.
4. Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks
The countless dental talks at school must have drilled in the fact that sugary drinks are indeed, bad for your teeth. But why is that so?
Sugary drinks, when consumed, are broken down into simple sugars by bacteria in your mouth, producing acids that can cause tooth decay. Similarly, sugary treats can cause the same result or worse. These acids can also affect a tooth’s dentin or even composite fillings, inviting cavities.
According to a study conducted in 2016, drinks that contain citric acid like lemon juice and some variants of fruit juices were shown to be more erosive. Popular soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi are also among the top contenders for highly erosive drinks.
One good dental health tip to reduce the risk of tooth erosion is to wait at least an hour after consuming sugary and starchy foods before brushing your teeth. This allows your saliva to naturally wash away acids and re-harden your enamel with the ionic minerals from your saliva.
Another tip would be the use of mouthwash. Mouthwash contains antibacterial ingredients which help clean the areas between your teeth and gums. Some mouthwashes may also contain fluoride, strengthening teeth.
The next time you mull over which drink to get after a meal, opt to drink plain water instead. In fact, drinking water in most countries around the world contains healthy levels of fluoride, which can help prevent tooth decay!
On top of cultivating good oral hygiene habits, it is also important to plan regular visits to the dentist to catch dental problems early.
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