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(Note: This article is a part of our 31-day series, “31 Days to a Whole Body Makeover“.)
Are you practicing good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing your teeth properly?
Wait… Are you sure about that?
My friend Diana says she loves getting her teeth cleaned; it’s like a visit to the spa for her mouth. Maybe it’s a chance to relax, away from the hassles of daily life, and have someone spend an hour doting over her. If it weren’t for the occasional pinch or poke, perhaps she might liken it to a massage. When it’s over, she feels like a million bucks. Same thing as the day spa, right? (Right?!)
I love that story, because I hated the dentist so much until she told me that, and now I totally see it from her perspective and appreciate the privilege of a good teeth cleaning much, much more.
I happened to see the dentist today, and while talking to my hygienist, she mentioned that many people don’t even know the basics of oral hygiene. You would be amazed at how many parents and dentists don’t adequately explain proper dental hygiene to children so they have those habits properly instilled. I asked her to tell me all about it, so that I could both see if I can improve myself, and to share with you what I had learned.
Asking my hygienist for the optimal / best plan, she gave me the following:
Brush, scrape tongue, floss, optional mouth rinse.
Well, that seems simple enough. Nothing hard about that.
So then why are so many of us getting it wrong?
Turns out, it’s in the technique.
STEP 1. Brush Your Teeth: Brush two to three times per day, for two minutes (2:00) each time. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but if you set a timer, a literal 2 minutes spent brushing your teeth might feel like an eternity! But if you break it up into four sections and spend 30 seconds in each one, it’s not so bad. Set the timer for 2 minutes, then think upper-right, upper-left, bottom right, bottom right. Give extra attention to those hard-to-reach back teeth, and around any dental restoration, such as crowns and bridges.
STEP 2. Scrape Your Tongue: Before rinsing, brush the surface of your tongue, and then scrape with a tongue scraper. This is a sad confession, but I didn’t even know what a tongue scraper was until I was an adult. But you will want to do this step to further clear out bad-breath-causing bacteria hiding on the surface of the tongue.
STEP 3. Floss your Teeth: Flossing is especially tricky for those who have never been shown up close what it is supposed to look like, yet, it is a critical step. Flossing helps keep your gums healthy, strong, and able resist harmful bacteria that could get into the bloodstream and cause major health problems, even death. Healthy gums are pink in color, and do not bleed when you brush and floss. This is why it doesn’t help to skip days/weeks of brushing your teeth and then try to make up for that time by feverishly brushing right before your dentist appointment! Your gums will be swollen and bleeding, a dead give away! (Unless you’re pregnant; those gums are going to bleed no matter what.)
To properly floss your teeth, the main goal is to make sure the floss dips down below the gumline, where the worst offending build up occurs.
Gently zig-zag the floss as it makes its way between your teeth. Make a c-shape with the floss, working on one side of an individual tooth at a time, going in small up and down motions, guide the floss so that it dips down between your tooth and gums 2-3 times.
Reverse the c-shape and repeat the process on the tooth next to the one you just flossed. Pull floss out, and move on to the next to teeth until every individual tooth has been properly flossed on both sides of each tooth.
Here’s an image where I attempt to demonstrate how the floss dips down below the gumline:
STEP 4. Rinse with Mouth rinse. Mouth rinse is not mandatory, but it can definitely help with bad breath. Some may find the alcohol in the mouth rinse to be very drying.
- Replace toothbrushes every 3 months, or when the bristles start to fray. Also replace after recovering from a cold or flu.
- Get regular cleanings / check ups, once every six months.
Free Printable Posters!
Now that you’ve got it down, make sure you pass it on to the young’ens. In case you missed it, I published an article about Creative Tooth Fairy Ideas, and added free printables you are welcome to print out to encourage your kids to practice proper oral hygiene!