Common Oral Hygiene Mistakes You're Making

First of all, congratulations! If you’re reading this blog post, you’re obviously interested in improving your oral hygiene routine, and that is a very important step. If you’re thinking about how you can improve your dental home care, it means that you are intentional, which is the most important aspect of developing a great routine. Many people don’t fully realize how much their oral health directly impacts their overall health. So, if you want to improve your systemic health, the mouth is a great place to start. In an effort to help you create a great oral hygiene routine, let’s highlight a number of mistakes that the average person makes frequently

#1 Not Having a Focused Nighttime Routine 

A great deal of the damage that is done to our teeth, gums, and bones happens while we sleep. This is due to a number of factors. For one, our saliva flow, which protects our teeth during the day, slows to a near stop when we sleep. So, the mouth’s natural defenses are down during the night. If you haven’t brushed and flossed right before laying down to sleep, the acids in the food trapped between your teeth now have 8+ hours to combine with the acids excreted from cavity-causing bacteria. This ultimately ends up eating away at your precious enamel. So, if you are a person who only brushes and flosses once a day, (please consider changing that) make sure that it’s right before bed. And since the mouth is kind of like a big petri dish, do your best to not just floss, but clean your entire mouth. Brush. Floss. Scrape your tongue.

#2 Not Using a Remineralizing Toothpaste

Our teeth are very rarely in equilibrium, meaning that they are either breaking down (demineralizing) or building back up (remineralizing). While we have some ingredients in our saliva that build our teeth back up, it’s not enough to overcome the demineralizing efforts of cavity-causing bacteria. Fluoride has long been proven to effectively remineralize weakened enamel, but many people don’t like the idea of fluoride in their water and/or toothpaste because high levels of fluoride (way higher than what is found in toothpaste or water) can be toxic. If you don’t feel comfortable using fluoride, consider utilizing a fluoride substitute to combat the negative effects of demineralization. A relatively new fluoride substitute is nano-hydroxyapatite. Early studies have shown that toothpaste that contains 10% nano-hydroxyapatite is as effective as fluoride at repairing damaged enamel!

#3 Using Alcohol-Containing Mouthwash 

Alcohol kills pretty much everything. This would be great if your mouth was full of only bad bacteria, but there are also a lot of good bacteria in your mouth. For decades, people have thought that the burn of alcohol-containing mouthwash meant that all of the bad-smelling bacteria were being killed and their breath would smell better. What actually happens is that by killing all of the good and bad bacteria in the mouth, the oral environment gets thrown out of equilibrium and the result is usually that the user ends up with worse smelling breath.

#4 Quickly Popping Floss In and Out of Your Teeth

String floss is 100% necessary to prevent cavities between the teeth. No other product can replace it. The tenacious, sticky bacteria that cause cavities between the teeth nestle immediately below the contact point where two adjacent teeth touch. The only way to properly remove it is to momentarily separate the two teeth by passing something through the contact.  Unfortunately, that’s where the advantages of string floss end. Because the space under the tooth contact that needs to be cleaned is so big, and the floss is so small, a large area of the tooth is often left untouched by string floss. For years hygienists have tried to come up with easy ways to describe the manual gymnastics required to make your floss clean the whole space. Things like “make a C shape with the floss” or “hug the floss against the tooth” or “work the floss on either side of the gums” have confused patients for decades. But the truth remains, in order to prevent cavities and gum disease from happening between your teeth, you need to use your floss (or another tool) to clean the entire space between your teeth. 

#5 Not Brushing Your Gums

This one is simple. When you brush your teeth, make sure that ⅓ of the bristles of the brush are on your gums. It’s best to use a soft bristle brush and light pressure in order to not irritate the gums. Brushing along the gumline helps to flush out bacteria that live along the gumline as well as stimulate blood flow in the gums to reduce inflammation, redness, and bleeding.

There are many more errors that people make regarding their oral health, but addressing these five is a good place to start. Let’s end on a positive note by quickly listing the most important things that you should be doing each day to improve your oral health. Brush your teeth and gums twice a day. Floss your teeth and stimulate your gums with a tool like the Slate Electric Flosser. Scrape your tongue twice a day. Rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free, xylitol-containing mouthrinse and try chewing xylitol gum after lunch. If you do all of those things, you’ll set yourself up for great long-term oral health. Now that you’ve learned what not to do, check out some of our other blogs for expert advice on what you can do to get your teeth and mouth as clean as possible.