As dental professionals, we get asked a lot of questions. There are a lot of answers out there, but also a lot of contradicting opinions, misinformation, and new technology that has changed the way we understand dental hygiene. We’ve collected the most common dental hygiene questions we receive and answered a few of them here. If your question isn’t listed below, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We love your questions, and more than that, we love talking about dental hygiene!

 

How often should I really floss?

The American Dental Association recommends flossing once per day. Flossing gets after extra bacteria that hide between your teeth that brushing can’t reach. If this bacteria is left for too long, it becomes plaque and then can harden into tartar which can only be removed by your dentist. Flossing every day will also prevent sensitivity at your next cleaning appointment. Your gums will strengthen over time so flossing won’t be painful or cause bleeding.

A good way to incorporate flossing into your daily routine is to pick a time each day you can stick to. Some people prefer to floss right before bed so they can sleep with a completely clean mouth. 

If you don’t like using dental floss, there are dentist-recommended alternatives that work just as well. A Waterpik, for example, uses a thin stream of pressurized water to clean in between teeth. It’s especially useful for people with braces or permanent retainers, as it can be difficult to thread dental floss around the wires.

 

How can I avoid long-term tooth stains?

Stains can form from the repeated consumption of certain foods and beverages. Coffee, wine, black tea, chocolate, and berries are common offenders. If you can, eat or drink these things in moderation. Otherwise, consider brushing your teeth after consuming them. Dentists also recommend drinking with a reusable straw whenever possible if you’re concerned about staining your teeth.

Most stains on teeth only affect the enamel, or the surface of your teeth. This type is stain is called an extrinsic stain. Extrinsic stains can be corrected with whitening procedures in your dentist’s office or at home through the use of whitening toothpastes or strips. If you’re concerned about a stain you can’t get rid of, talk to your dentist.

 

How do I convince my kids to brush their teeth?

The best way to convince your child to brush their teeth is to make it part of your routine together — and to make it fun. Come up with a song to sing with your toothbrushes in your mouths that lasts a few minutes while you thoroughly clean your teeth. Use a fun toothbrush or flavored toothpaste to make your child look forward to using it. 

Most importantly, make sure that brushing your teeth is a part of your routine. If it seems important to you, it will be important to them. Try to set an example early in your child’s life that dental hygiene is a priority. We recommend having your child visit a dentist for the first time at least 6 months after they get their first tooth, or before their first birthday. 

If you need more ideas for making brushing fun, talk with your child’s dentist! More than likely, they’ve had to talk a kid or two into a dental cleaning they were less-than-excited about. They’ve definitely learned a few tricks for making dental hygiene exciting.

 

Which is better: manual vs. electric toothbrush?

Electric toothbrushes are consistent and easy to use. Some dentists say that electric brushes are more effective at cleaning because they are gentle on teeth and have features like built-in timers that make sure people are brushing for a sufficient time. Electric brushes are more expensive, however, and not as convenient if you’re traveling. 

Manual toothbrushes can be found at almost any drugstore for a low cost. If you have a good brushing technique, manual toothbrushes are just as effective as electric ones. Your dentist may warn against overbrushing, as it’s easy to brush too roughly with a manual brush. Ultimately, as long as you’re brushing thoroughly every day, either is fine.

 

How can I prevent cavities?

Another common dental hygiene question is about avoiding the dreaded cavity. Cavities form when plaque is left to its own devices and eats away at the protective enamel on your teeth. If not removed by regular brushing or a dentist’s tools, the bacteria will eat its way through your tooth until it causes severe damage, pain, and possibly infection or tooth loss. 

The best way to prevent cavities is regular, twice-daily brushing and once-daily flossing. Brush your teeth for two or three minutes, being careful to clean around every tooth — even the ones in the very back. Limit the amount of sugary foods or drinks you consume, or at least limit when you have them — i.e. once per day. After having sugary foods, brush your teeth as soon as you can to prevent plaque from forming. Be sure to visit your dentist regularly each year to remove plaque and tartar. 

If you do get a cavity, it’s okay. Cavities are one of the most common health problems in the world and they happen to a lot of people. The most important thing you can do is address it right away. Call your dentist’s attention to any tooth pain you might be experiencing before it gets worse.

 

Why do I need to visit my dentist regularly?

Rather than waiting until you have a toothache or pain in your mouth, visiting your dentist is preventative care. By taking care of your teeth and mouth now, you can prevent decay, tooth problems and pain down the road. Dentists recommend at least two cleaning visits per year, and x-rays to be taken at one of those visits as well as the annual application of fluoride. 

If you’re unsure if you’re due for your next dental appointment, give your dentist a call! It’s better to take care of your teeth now, than wait and be sorry!

Now that you’ve got the scoop on some of our most common dental hygiene questions, make sure your next cleaning is on the calendar! There’s no better way to avoid cavities and keep your teeth healthy than by scheduling biannual dental cleanings.