Lessons in Dental Care

Over the last two years, my hygienist Michelle has been especially helpful in getting me to properly take care of my teeth. At every check up, she recommends the #1 change I can make for better teeth. We started out with “For the love of God, floss every day!” and gradually worked our way up to “It looks like you’re not giving these two teeth as much attention as the rest.”

For the first time in my life my visits to the dentist are shame-free, so I thought I’d share my fine-tuned routine.

Disclaimer: I am not a dentist. Proceed at your own risk.

Night Guard

Years of unknowingly grinding/clenching your teeth at night is a great way to wear them down prematurely. I’m not sure when I started clenching, and I don’t know if it’s something I do every night or only when I’m stressed. Either way, I only wish I had started using a night guard earlier than I did. If you think you may be grinding or clenching your teeth at night (your dentist can tell you), you really want to start wearing a night guard when you sleep.

Cheap ones are available for $15 or so at supermarkets and drugstores, but your dentist should be able to make one that is thinner and more comfortable. At around $50 and lasting a few years, totally worth it in my opinion.

Brushing

My dentist recommended the Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush. It’s rechargeable, easy to use, and does a great job. I took it around the world with me and only had to charge it every week or two.

Besides having a good toothbrush, you’re going to want to make sure you pay attention to your technique. Important things to remember when brushing:

  • Brush at least twice a day, but three times might be better if you can pull it off
  • Be sure to spend enough time on all your teeth (I used to get bored and hurry up after the first few)
  • Brush all surfaces and sides (front, back, sides, top surface)
  • Brush the gums and give them a good massage
  • Brush your tongue or use a dedicated tongue cleaner
  • Rinse with mouthwash

Toothpaste

I was originally using Sensodyne Pronamel, but I’ve decided to start making my own toothpaste. For details on that story and the recipe, click here.

Flossing

I used to spit out some blood every time I brushed my teeth, until I started regularly flossing. I didn’t know this until recently, but apparently if you had to choose between flossing and brushing, you’d be better off flossing. This is because flossing helps dislodge bacteria that get between your teeth and under your gums, where serious damage can be done.

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The Listerine Ultraclean Access Flosser changed my world by making flossing much easier. The key is that the head is at a right angle to the handle. This allows you to reach the back teeth without having to stretch your mouth in uncomfortable directions. Whatever you use for flossing, technique here is also important:

  • Get between each pair of teeth and the outside of the back molars
  • Gently rub the the string up and down against the sides of all teeth
  • Press/massage the gum tissue between the teeth

Regular Dentist Checkups

Visit your dentist twice a year and actively ask if they see anything in particular that you should pay attention to. I think dentists can sometimes get jaded by clients who simply don’t take dental care seriously, and give up on trying to do more than what’s required. But if you make an effort and ask questions, any good dentist will be willing to make that extra effort.

Review and Refresh

Take time to review details of proper dental care periodically. This will ensure that you’re not forgetting anything. For example: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/default.htm

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