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Oral Hygiene Instructions: Best Practices For Healthy Mouth

Updated: Feb 6

Knowing how to take care of your own teeth at home is important for maintaining good oral health. This involves having a robust oral hygiene routine which can fight tooth decay and keep gum disease away.


Best oral hygiene routine:


The routine above is the recommendation by our dentists in Long Island City for what we believe to be the most pragmatic way to keep your mouth healthy under all scenarios. It is the safest way to keep your mouth clean without causing harm.


 

Flossing

Flossing is the act of using dental floss to clean in between your teeth to remove plaque and stuck food. It's purpose is to prevent gum disease and tooth decay by keeping your teeth and gums healthy.


Two types of dental string floss

Dental floss is a string-like product that can slide through the in between (interproximal) areas of your teeth to clean them. It is simple and effective but you may need a flossing alternative if you have braces, permanent retainers, or dental bridges because regular floss won't work.


Flossing alternatives:

  • Water flosser

  • Superfloss

  • Floss threaders

  • Floss picks

  • Interdental brushes (proxy brush)


How to floss


Instructions:

  1. Wrap 18-24" of floss around one finger.

  2. Wrap floss around another finger on the other hand.

  3. Floss through the in between area.

  4. Pull the floss towards one tooth and wrap it in a C-shape.

  5. Slide the floss up and down as deep as you can into the gums.

  6. Now pull the floss towards the other tooth and wrap it in a C-shape.

  7. Slide the floss up and down as deep as you can go.

  8. Remove the floss by pulling it back out.

  9. Repeat steps 1-8 for the in between spaces for every single tooth.


Common mistakes


Not wrapping tooth with floss in C-shape

The floss should be wrapping around and hugging the tooth.



The best analogy we can give is when you dry your wet back with a towel. You want to pull the towel against your body and wrap around it while pulling it up and down. The same can be said for flossing!


Not flossing below the gum line

The floss is able to go up to 2 mm below the gingival margin (gum line). If you're not flossing as deep as it could go, you're not reaping it's full benefits.



 

Rinsing

Rinsing with mouthwash can clean your mouth and make it safer for you to brush by neutralizing acids along with killing bacteria.


Benefits of using mouthwash:

  • Cleans mouth. Swishing with a mouthwash will mechanically wash away plaque and stuck food from the surfaces of your teeth.

  • Neutralizes acids. Rinsing with a mouthwash will neutralize acids in the oral cavity by raising the pH, thus rebalancing it to neutral. This makes it safer for you to brush your teeth because brushing in an acidic environment can strip away enamel.

  • Bactericidal. Certain mouth rinses can kill microbes upon contact such as ones with alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.


How to rinse with mouthwash

  1. Pour about 20 mL or 4 teaspoons into cup.

  2. Swish around for 30-60 seconds.

  3. Spit out and do not swallow.


You can use any type of mouthwash that you want:

  • Listerine

  • ACT

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Salt water

  • Chlorhexidine (prescription only)


Note: For best practices you should wait 30 minutes before drinking water after using a fluoride mouth rinse.


 

Brushing

Brushing your teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste will clean your teeth by mechanically removing plaque and stuck food. It is one of the primary means of preventing cavities and keeping gum disease at bay.


  • Only a soft bristled brush should be used (manual or electric powered are fine).

  • The ADA recommends using a fluoride toothpaste.


Reach soft bristled toothbrush

How to brush your teeth


Instructions:

  1. Wet your toothbrush.

  2. Apply a 1-inch strip of toothpaste to the brush (adults only).

  • Children < 3 years old = "tiny smear" of toothpaste

  • Children > 3 years old = "pea sized" toothpaste

  1. Brush your teeth for a total of 2 minutes (30 seconds per quadrant) using the bass technique.

  • Angle toothbrush bristles towards gum line at 45 degrees.

  • Gentle strokes with a back and forth motion.

  1. Spit out and do not swallow.


 

Frequently Asked Questions


How often should I do my oral hygiene routine?

Ideally you should floss, rinse, and brush after every meal if you really wanted to minimize your chances of getting cavities and gum disease.


However, to be pragmatic the ADA adjusted the recommendation more reasonably.


Oral Hygiene Activity

Frequency

Brushing

Flossing

1x/day

Rinsing

2x/day


Does the order of my oral hygiene routine matter?

The order in which you brush, floss and rinse is a hotly debated topic.


Honestly, it all comes down to personal preference and as long as you're doing your oral hygiene routine, that is enough for us.


Exception

You should not brush your teeth immediately after a meal because there are residual acids on your teeth. Brushing these acids into the enamel may dissolve them. It is better to wait 30 minutes before you brush.


Mouth rinses saliva buffering chart

However, if you rinse with mouthwash it can help neutralize the acid and bring the pH back to neutral. This can make it safe for you to brush.


How long should I brush

The ADA specifically recommends brushing for 2 minutes twice a day. That means you should at the bare minimum be brushing for at least 4 minutes total per day.


This recommendation has been incorporated into electric toothbrush timers, which are set at 2 minutes by default. That means once you turn it on, it won't stop brushing your teeth until all of the two minutes are up.


Interesting facts:

  • On most toothpaste labels, it will tell you to brush for at least 1 minute.

  • The average American only brushes for 45 seconds despite being aware of the 2 minute recommendation.


Takeaway

Yes, the first line of defense against oral diseases like tooth decay, gum disease (gingivitis/periodontitis) and other mishaps is having a strict oral hygiene regime. After all, you only see your dentist twice a year which leaves you to your own methods for the other 363 days of the year.


Oral hygiene is a part of the oral health basics trifecta, which also includes dental care tips and choosing the best oral care products for your mouth.

David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

Association Memberships:

Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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