Medically reviewed by Dr. Amir Guorgui

The 8 Best Practices for Healthy Teeth and Gums

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Oral health is important, as many studies have shown that there are associations between oral health and the person’s overall health.

On the other hand, oral health is more than simply teeth cavities and gum diseases, and good oral hygiene practices are more than regular brushing and flossing your teeth every day.

Without proper treatment, teeth cavities and gum diseases can lead to various complications from teeth and gum infections to issues with self-confidence to more severe cases like heart disease.

Fortunately, we can avoid these problems with proper oral hygiene and dental care practices, and below are some of the best practices you can do to maintain your oral health.

1. Brush (Correctly) Twice a Day

Virtually everyone is aware of how brushing our teeth regularly for at least twice a day is certainly one of the essential oral hygiene practices.

However, it’s no secret that so many people that have maintained this habit of brushing twice a day still have tooth decay and even infection issues. So, is it a lie?

The thing is, brushing is only effective if you do it right:

  • Use a soft-bristled brush and use the correct-sized brush that can effectively reach the whole area of your mouth
  • Brush your teeth with a 45-degree angle to your gums
  • Move the brush gently back and forth in short strokes
  • Don’t forget to clean the inside surfaces of your teeth, you can tilt the toothbrush vertically and brush them with up and down strokes
  • Replace your toothbrush regularly. The general rule of thumb is to replace your toothbrush as long as the bristles are frayed (generally every three months or so).

2. The Right Flossing Technique

Most people know the importance of brushing regularly, but fewer people floss.

Regular brushing cannot effectively clean the tight spaces between your teeth, and this is where flossing comes in. Flossing (in the right way), is very effective in removing bacteria and plaque from between the teeth.

Floss at least once a day, and use the following technique:

  • Wind around 18 inches of floss. You can use either the index finger or the middle finger to do this (the other finger is free so you can manipulate the floss). Take a small amount onto the middle or index finger of your other hand. Pinch the floss between your thumbs and index/middle fingers, and leave around one or two inches of floss in between these fingers. You can use your thumb to direct the floss’s movement.
  • Keep around one or two inches of floss between your fingers. Use your index or middle fingers to guide the floss between teeth occlusions.
  • Guide the floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag motion. Be gentle, and don’t let the floss snap between teeth contacts. Create a C shape with the floss and ‘wrap’ the tooth.
  • Slide the floss with an up and down motion to clean the tooth’s surface and just under the gum line. Don’t forget to floss the backside of the teeth while using your thumb as the guide.

3.  Use Fluoride Products

Fluoride is a natural mineral that appears naturally in water and many food sources and can allow the teeth to be more resistant to acidity and prevent tooth decay. In early cases of teeth decay, fluoride can also reverse the condition. Also, fluoride can strengthen the tooth’s enamel.

Fluoride is naturally found in some foods and drinks like drinking water, fish, and tea. Nowadays, most kinds of toothpaste contain fluoride, which is very effective in preventing decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

There are also other fluoride products that come in the form of gels and varnishes that are highly concentrated, and can be beneficial in some cases, for example, if you have dry mouth.

4. Visit Your Dentist Regularly

Maintaining good oral hygiene practices like brushing twice a day and flossing daily is essential, but not enough.
There are areas of your mouth you can’t effectively clean with regular flossing or brushing, for example, the spaces behind your gum line. This is where a professional dental cleaning comes in.

Visit your dentist at least twice a year. That is, once every six months. During these visits, the dentist will perform scaling (cleaning the spaces between the teeth), tartar removal, and other cleaning processes that you can’t do at home.

Also, during these routine visits, the dentist will check for symptoms of potential issues from tooth decay (cavity), gum disease, abscess, and even oral cancer. These can help you get an earlier treatment to cure the condition and prevent further complications.

5. Stop Smoking

Stop smoking and other tobacco consumption activities.

Smoking is an important cause of gum disease, which can lead to gum infection and other oral health complications. Also, smoking can significantly lower the body’s immune system, and thus will increase your exposure to infection, and can make it more difficult for your body to heal.

Smoking can also stain the teeth, which leads to the yellowing of the teeth and tongue (that might be permanent), and tobacco also leave a distinct foul odor.

In short, smoking is a habit that can cause all sorts of potential oral health issues.

6. Rinse With Mouthwash Properly

Mouthwash can benefit oral health for several reasons, for example, they can help kill bacteria in your mouth, which can prevent oral diseases and infections, while also help freshen your breath.

Some ingredients/substances included in the mouthwash can also benefit your oral health in different ways, for example:

  • Fluoride mouthwash, as discussed above, can prevent tooth decay
  • Antibacterial or antiseptic mouthwash can control plaque and prevent gum disease
  • Alcohol mouthwash, can be effective as an antiseptic but might cause mouth dryness
  • Fluoride mouthwash, can protect your tooth from acid buildup from bacteria

Choose the right mouthwash according to your individual needs, but remember that rinsing your mouth with mouthwash is not a substitute to flossing and brushing, but a complementary practice.

7. Healthy Diet

One of the biggest culprits of tooth decay and various oral health diseases is sugar. Bacteria, that is accumulated in plaque buildup, love sugar and will consume it. During the breakdown process for this sugar, the process will produce acid.

High acidity in your mouth can damage and even destroy the teeth enamel, causing tooth decay. Common culprits for this issue are deserts, candies, and other sweet foods, but many processed foods might also contain processed sugars.

Starch can be just as damaging, and foods like crackers, pasta, and chips must also be avoided. Sugary drinks like juice, soda, and sugary drinks are also common sources for added sugars.

Instead, eat-fiber rich vegetables, dairy products, and fruits.

8. Drink More Water

Drinking water remains the absolute best beverage for your health, period. This also includes oral and teeth health.

As a general rule of thumb for oral health purposes, drink at least a glass of water after each meal. This practice can help rinse out sugary, sticky, and acidic food particles before you properly brush your teeth.

Here are some important benefits of drinking water for oral health:

  • Water contains fluoride, which as discussed above, is an important ingredient to protect your teeth’s enamels
  • Water has 0 calories and sugars
  • Water obviously prevents dry mouth, so will protect your mouth from bad breath

End Words

In general, good oral hygiene practices can be boiled down to regularly cleaning (brushing and flossing) your teeth, avoid sugary and acidic foods/drinks, and regularly visit your dentist at least twice a year. You should also avoid smoking and maintain a healthy diet to help yourself avoid tooth decay, gum diseases, and other oral health issues.

Andrea Galick

Andrea Galick is an accomplished Dental Hygienist (RDH) with a passion for helping patients achieve optimal oral health. Andrea has built a reputation as a caring and skilled practitioner who puts her patients at ease and provides individualized care that meets their unique needs.