The American Dental Association recommends cleaning between your teeth daily with an interdental cleaner (like floss). Cleaning between your teeth may help prevent cavities and gum disease. Cleaning between your teeth helps remove a sticky film called plaque. Plaque contains bacteria that feeds on leftover food or sugar in your mouth. When that happens, it releases an acid that can eat away at the outer shell of your teeth and cause cavities.
Plaque that is not removed by brushing and cleaning between your teeth can eventually harden into a rough substance called tartar (or calculus). Tartar collects along your gum line and can lead to gum disease. Once tartar forms, only your dentist can remove it.
What Is The Best Time to Clean Between Your Teeth—Before or After Brushing?
The most important thing about cleaning between your teeth is to do it. As long as you do a thorough job, it doesn’t matter when. Pick a time of day when you can devote an extra couple of minutes to your dental care.
Cleaning between your teeth should not be painful. If you do it too hard, you could damage the tissue between your teeth. If you’re too gentle, you might not be getting the food out. It’s normal to feel some discomfort when you first start, but don’t give up. With daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth, that discomfort should ease within a week or two. If your pain persists, feel free to come talk to Dr. Jessica or Dr. Stevenson.
Brushing and flossing your teeth is still very important. Risk of cavities increases with age, one of the reasons is dry mouth—a common side effect of many prescription medications.
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head to get to those hard to reach areas.
Clean Dentures Daily
Bacteria stick to your teeth and also to full or partial dentures. If you wear dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis with cleaners made specifically for dentures. Do not use toothpastes for natural teeth or household cleaners, which are too abrasive and can damage dentures that can be expensive to replace. Take your dentures out of your mouth for a least four hours every 24 hours to keep the soft and gingival tissues of your mouth healthy.
Visit a Dentist Regularly
Get regular dental checkups at least once a year – do not wait until you have pain. As you age, the nerves inside your teeth constrict and
can decrease in sensitivity. By the time you feel pain from a cavity, it may be too late and you may need root canal therapy or lose your tooth. There are also more serious conditions that your dentist will look for, like oral cancer and gum disease, which do not always cause pain until the advanced stages of the disease. By then, it’s more difficult and costly to treat.
Drink Water with Fluoride
No matter what age you are, drinking water with fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter. Many community water systems contain added fluoride, but if you prefer bottled water, check the label because some do not contain fluoride. And, some home water filters remove fluoride from the tap water.
It’s never too late to quit smoking. Smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss. It also slows down healing after dental procedures and can decrease the success rate of dental implants.
Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.
The physical act of chewing increases salivary flow in the mouth which will help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.
Look for chewing gum with the ADA Seal* because you can be sure it’s sugarless. All gums with the ADA Seal are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol. Of course, chewing sugar-containing gum increases saliva flow too, but it also contains sugar which is used by plaque bacteria to produce decay-causing acids.
Chewing sugarless gum is a great way to help keep your mouth clean and healthy, but it shouldn’t ever replace brushing, flossing and regular teeth cleanings by your dentist.
*A company earns the ADA Seal of Acceptance by producing scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of its product, which the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates according to objective requirements.
In an articles published February 20017 from Harvard Medical School they state:
Could the millions of bacteria in your mouth cause problems for your heart and blood vessels? Could something as simple as brushing your teeth and having good oral hygiene prevent cardiovascular problems?
“The notion that problems in the mouth cause diseases elsewhere in the body makes sense but has been difficult to prove, explains the Harvard Heart Letter. Scientists are exploring several mechanisms that may connect the two processes. In people with periodontitis (erosion of tissue and bone that support the teeth), chewing and toothbrushing release bacteria into the bloodstream. Several species of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the atherosclerotic plaque in arteries in the heart and elsewhere. This plaque can lead to heart attack.
Oral bacteria could also harm blood vessels or cause blood clots by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or the bloodstream. The immune system’s response to these toxins could harm vessel walls or make blood clot more easily. It is also possible that inflammation in the mouth revs up inflammation throughout the body, including in the arteries, where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Although we sill have a lot to learn about whether, and how, periodontitis and other oral problems are linked to heart disease, the Harvard Heart Letter notes that it still makes good sense to take care of your teeth. Brush and floss every day, and see your dentist at least twice a year for regular cleanings and oral exams. This will pay off for your oral health and just may benefit your heart as well.”
Dr. Jessica and Dr. Stevenson would be happy to answer any questions you may have about your daily oral hygiene routine or if you would like to schedule a cleaning.
Smith & Jackson hopes you’re surviving cold and flu season, but if you’re not, here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well:
Practice Good Hygiene
According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. You shouldn’t be sharing your toothbrush in normal circumstances but especially when you are sick. We highly recommend replacing your toothbrush after you’ve been sick even though the chances of reinfecting yourself are very low. Your toothbrush should be replaced every 3-4 months even when you are not sick.
Swish and Spit After Vomiting
One unfortunate side effect of a stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting. You might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but it is better to wait. When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them, if you brush too soon, you’re just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your teeth.
Instead, swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash the acid away. Spit, and brush about 30 minutes later.
Stay Hydrated to Avoid Dry Mouth
When you’re sick, you need plenty of fluids for many reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is it uncomfortable—dry mouth can also put you at greater risk for cavities. The medications you might be taking for a cold or flu—such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers—can also dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on cough drops, or throat lozenges to keep saliva flowing.