You probably think that if you’re brushing your teeth and flossing regularly, you’re not at risk for gum disease, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all Americans have some form of gum disease (or periodontal disease). You can only combat it with a combination of a healthy diet, proper oral hygiene, and professional care.
You might have some misconceptions about what “proper oral care” really means. Let’s take a look:
Make sure you use extra soft bristles.
When you purchase your toothbrush, you have the option of a variety of brush textures, from ultra soft to extra hard. In theory, you might think that harder bristles will do a better job of removing stains and plaque.
This might be the case, but they also do a pretty good job of removing your tooth enamel and eroding your gums. Soft bristles are still hard enough to remove debris and polish your teeth without doing damage.
Avoid strong antibacterial mouthwashes.
You don’t have to suffer through your Listerine routine anymore. We’re here to tell you that an overly strong antibacterial mouthwash that was originally developed as a surgical antiseptic is not a great choice for cleaning your mouth. (For the record, it was also used as a floor cleaner and hair tonic at various points throughout history.)
Why? Because Listerine can’t distinguish between the good and bad bacteria in your mouth. It simply destroys both. You need some bacteria in your mouth to maintain your correct oral microbiome.
When disrupted, the result can actually be worsening problems with bad breath, digestive issues, and even cardiovascular health through disruption of nitric oxide production. Oil-pulling is a better and safer alternative.
Don’t brush too hard or for too long.
You might be getting a little aggressive with your brushing techniques in your effort to maintain squeaky clean teeth. This can do more harm than good. If you get heavy-handed with your toothbrush, you risk breaking down your tooth enamel and abusing the soft tissue of your gums.
A great way to ensure you aren’t brushing too hard is by using your non-dominant hand. Likewise, be sure you aren’t brushing your teeth for too long. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes twice per day.
Most modern electric toothbrushes have a built-in timer so they shut off after the two-minute mark. Several also come equipped with a little buzzer indicating when you should switch to the other side of your mouth, which can be helpful.
Swap out your toothbrush every three months.
This might sound counterintuitive, but your brush bristles actually sharpen over time, which can cause gum bleeding. They also become more prone to bacterial growth and fungi.
Set a calendar reminder to throw away your toothbrush and exchange it for a new one every three months. If you use an electric toothbrush, swap out the brush head at this time.
If you feel like your oral hygiene habits aren’t cutting it, these tips might help you regain control over your routine. Of course, brushing habits are only part of a sound defense against gum disease. Be sure to schedule regular visits with your dentist or periodontist, and if you’re experiencing inflammation or other obvious symptoms, discuss them with a professional.