You might think you already know the proper way to care for your teeth, but chances are, your dental routine is probably wrong. After all, what could be complicated about brushing, flossing, and mouth-washing? As it turns out, if you want to achieve your best, healthiest smile, you may want to re-think the order in which you clean your teeth.
Don’t brush after eating and drinking.
Wait…what? Aren’t we supposed to brush after every meal? It’s recommended you brush twice a day. Plus, if you just ate or drank something acidic—like orange juice, pineapple, tomatoes, coffee, or soda—you’ll want to wait at least an hour before brushing.
Acidic food and drink can soften the enamel, and if you tackle those teeth too soon, you might unwittingly remove some of your enamel while you’re cleaning. What you can do is swish your mouth with water after you’ve had your coffee or orange juice to rinse off any acidic residue or food particles.
Ready to clean? Start with flossing – or even better – a water flosser.
Many of us are in the habit of brushing first, then flossing and mouth-washing. But if you want a clean mouth and sparkling teeth, start by flossing first. You dislodge bits of food and plaque when you floss, which is great! That’s what flossing is for. But if you’re in the habit of flossing last—after you’ve brushed—you’re leaving behind all of that residue floating around inside your mouth.
Consider adding a water flosser to your dental hygiene routine. Everyone can benefit from them, and they’re beneficial for people with braces, implants, bridges, and fixed retainers. They’re also great for people who have difficulty with dexterity using manual floss. A water flosser is not a replacement for regular flossing as it cannot remove all the plaque and food from your teeth. It does help, though, and can be used before flossing.
While we’re on the topic of flossing, it’s also essential to pay attention to your technique. Don’t just floss up and down. It’s better to give each tooth plenty of TLC by placing the floss between each tooth and forming a “C” shape rubbing the floss up and down and back and forth along the sides of each tooth. Plaque is very sticky and requires a little elbow grease (well, not really) to remove. If you don’t remove it adequately, plaque can cause issues for your gums and teeth and lead to other health problems later in life.
So you’ve flossed (and maybe even water flossed). Now what?
The next question is mouthwash. For most people, Dr. Chelsea says that mouthwash is unnecessary. However, if your dentist has advised that you use it, it is best to use it before brushing.
Once you’re ready to brush, use toothpaste that includes fluoride. This ingredient is the number one reason you don’t want to use mouthwash after brushing because swishing can rinse away the fluoride you need to fight tooth decay. By waiting to brush until the last step in your routine, you’re allowing the fluoride to linger and do its work. Don’t rinse after brushing. It may seem gross at first but if you rinse your washing away the beneficial fluoride you just gave your teeth while brushing.
A few helpful tips for improving your dental routine
When it comes to maintaining good oral hygiene, you can keep your smile bright by incorporating a few healthy habits into your dental routine:
- Regularly switch out your toothbrush every two to three months.
- Clean your toothbrush holder often, as it can be a receptacle for all kinds of germs.
- Rinse your mouth with water throughout the day, especially after consuming acidic or sugary food or drink.
- Use a tongue scraper or brush your tongue after brushing.
- Make sure to visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning!
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