With most dentist offices closed for all but emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic, using the proper equipment to keep your teeth healthy and prevent gum disease until you can resume in-office dental visits remains more important now than ever.
1. A quality toothbrush
When you brush your teeth, you remove plaque and food debris from their visible surfaces. Committing to brushing twice a day sets the tone for your routine. But it’s helpful to follow some basic guidelines to get it right:
Spend two minutes and evenly divide the time between all areas.
Use gentle pressure and try to avoid scrubbing.
Try a circular motion that sweeps down and over the gums.
Change your toothbrush every three months or when it’s frayed.
Consider an electric toothbrush but follow the same rules.
Brushing does a great job, but it doesn’t reach the hidden areas between the teeth. If you don’t floss, you leave plaque on a significant percentage of the tooth. Gum disease and cavities often start in these hard-to-reach areas. But 20% of the population never flosses, and many people floss infrequently.¹ Consider this:
Commit to flossing one time of day, morning, or night.
Use waxed floss to make it easier to get between teeth.
Wrap the floss around each tooth and carefully slide it up and down under the gum.
Consider other options to clean between your teeth if flossing is too difficult.
3. Water flossers
Flossing doesn’t give us a feeling of instant gratification like brushing does. But the long-term benefits are worth the small commitment of time each day. These devices use a steady stream of water to flush plaque and food away from between the teeth. They’re especially helpful for patients with braces or gum disease, but they’re an effective tool for most patients. Think about:
Choose a model with adjustable water stream pressure to customize for comfort.
Use a water flosser before bed to wash away debris from the day.
4. Tongue cleaners
Many people forget about their tongue, but a thick blanket of plaque can grow on the top surface. This lining often looks white or discolors from food and drink. It can also keep the bacterial population of the mouth elevated and contribute to oral disease. The tongue is often the source of bad breath. You can make a difference by:
Scrub the tongue with your toothbrush and toothpaste as far back as you can tolerate.
Try a tongue scraper. Designed like a small rake, it removes plaque.
5. Mouth rinse
Mouthwash isn’t as effective as many people think, but it can help your efforts. There isn’t a rinse that’s a good substitute for brushing and flossing, so start with those habits. If you’d like to use a rinse, consider that:
Many types of mouthwash contain alcohol, and they can cause the mouth to dry out faster. This can be a challenge for patients with existing dry mouth problems.²
Consider an alcohol-free fluoride rinse after brushing and flossing instead of traditional mouthwash.
Why oral home care habits matter
The most destructive dental conditions are tooth decay and gum disease. More than half of Americans over the age of 30 have periodontitis, the advanced form of gum disease.³ And 50% of the population has untreated cavities.⁴ In fact, Americans spend over $120 billion every year on dental care.⁵ Dental insurance can help patients with some of these costs. The majority of dental problems are preventable with strategies that remove plaque.
Good oral health tools can pay off
Good oral health tools help improve your oral health regardless of what’s happening in the world. Take the time to review what you’re using and how you can use them to improve your oral health. As part of your longer-term plan, be sure to find a dentist for regular preventive care and checkups.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.
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