oral hygiene

How Much Do You Really Know About Oral Hygiene?

By Dr. Nammy Patel

So many brilliant people (my patients, naturally!) are sadly uninformed about oral hygiene. However, once I explain how critical it is to their overall health, they want to know more about how to keep their teeth and mouth clean and healthy. Here are five of the questions I hear most often from them:

Q: Should I invest in a Waterpik, or is flossing enough?

A: If you’re willing to take the time to do a thorough job, flossing is fine. If you’re not going to do it right, get a Waterpik. I’m all about gadgets when they work. Just make it simple. Make sure you’ve got the pressure turned up high enough to really get in there, and that you’re following the directions for use. You can even add a spoonful of hydrogen peroxide to the water in the well to help in the bacteria-banishing efforts. And floss before you brush, not after.

Q: Electric or old-fashioned hand-powered toothbrush?

A: Electric toothbrushes work the best because they hit your teeth with fifty-thousand pulsations per minute and that’s faster than Superman could brush! People with a receding gum line need to be careful to use their weaker hand to brush and go easy, because they tend to brush too hard. One gram of pressure is all you need to apply when brushing your teeth. One gram of pressure is a soft touch. The pressure has zero impact on the effectiveness of the cleaning; it’s the length and thoroughness of the mechanical action that removes bacteria. Regardless of the tool you use, you need to brush twice a day.

Q: Besides keeping my teeth clean, is there anything else I can do to stop the growth of harmful bacteria?

A: Oil pulling is a useful antibacterial therapy you can do at home. Swish coconut oil around in your mouth for about ten to twenty minutes (longer is better). The bacteria that cause problems such as gingivitis, bad breath, and plaque will naturally adhere to the oil. When you’re done, spit it into the trash (not the sink because coconut oil can harden and form clogs). Please note that while oil pulling can be useful as part of a regimen of good care, it does not take the place of regular professional cleanings. Oil pulling does nothing to reverse the damage bacteria may already have done. Once established on your teeth in the form of plaque, bacteria have to be scraped off, and no amount of oil will budge them.

Q: What about oral piercings?

A: Get them out of your mouth! Piercings will break your teeth because the metal constantly hits the enamel and the enamel is a brittle structure like crystal. A tongue piercing will chip your teeth, and a lip piercing will cause gum recession because the metal constantly abrades the gum tissue.

Q: Is vaping a problem?

A: The more we know about vaping, the less harmless it looks. As far as your teeth are concerned, vaping causes dry mouth which encourages the buildup of bacteria and gum disease. Smoking does the same thing. Both smoking and vaping will also discolor your teeth. Why do it?

If I didn’t answer your questions, give me a call! Knowledge is power, and, in this case, it’s the power to stay well.

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