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We’ve mentioned it before—and so did your mom—but it bears repeating. You need to brush and floss daily.
The foundation of a good oral health routine is brushing your teeth twice daily for two minutes. An electric toothbrush can help, but it’s not necessary if you make sure to cover each quadrant of your mouth and all surfaces of your teeth.
However, you might not realize that to brush most effectively, timing matters. You should always brush your teeth before you eat breakfast. You don’t produce as much saliva when you’re sleeping, so the bacteria in your mouth grow and thrive. If you eat breakfast before brushing, they’ll produce more acid, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
If you have to brush after breakfast, wait at least 30 to 60 minutes, especially if you consume foods that contain citric acid, like orange juice or grapefruit. The citric acid weakens your enamel and brushing your teeth afterwards can be more damaging than beneficial.
You only need to floss once a day. It doesn’t matter what time you floss, as long as you are doing it. If flossing requires too much dexterity, or you simply don’t like it, there are other options, like interdental brushes or floss picks.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of brushing and flossing, there are additional things you can do to make sure you have a clean, healthy mouth. The first one is to use mouthwash. Swish a little around your mouth and you instantly feel refreshed. But mouthwash can be more than just a mid-day pick-me-up, and different types of mouthwash have different benefits.
Fluoride mouthwash provides an additional source of a chemical that is crucial to your teeth’s health. If you use toothpaste and drink tap water containing fluoride, you probably get enough. However, your dentist may suggest using fluoride mouthwash if they see some troubled spots.
Antiseptic mouthwashes (like Listerine) kill bacteria, reducing bad breath and the risk of gum disease (gingivitis).
Waterpiks shoot a small, high powered stream of water that you can use to clean along your gum line and in between your teeth, and can be useful if you have pockets or wider gaps between your teeth. However, it still isn’t a substitute for flossing.
If you have braces or other fixed items in your mouth, though, a Waterpik really contributes to your overall oral health. Braces and fixed items can trap food next to your teeth for hours—giving bacteria a chance to produce lots of the acids that cause tooth decay. After eating, you can use it to clean out food that is stuck in your mouth. As a side benefit, you can use a Waterpik after meals with a lot of citric acid—the water won’t damage your tooth enamel.
Since the dental market is enormous, new products and methods will always be emerging. Always do proper research before buying an item or switching your routine. A good rule of thumb to follow is to see if the product is endorsed by the American Dental Association.