Let’s begin with an OVERVIEW: The name of the game is getting the bugs off of the teeth. “BUGS BE GONE” is Job One. Get it done without causing harm.
Is ONCE a day enough? Yes!! It takes bacteria about 24 hours to re-colonize on your teeth. So, if you zap the bugs once daily, you can maintain health. Do it more often for your mouth to feel clean and your breath to smell fresh but do it at least once a day - THOROUGHLY - for health.
Is there a secret to good home care? Sorry, no secret. And it’s not all that easy either. But you can learn how! It may take some effort so don’t get discouraged. If you stick with it, you’ll get there. Here are a few tips:
Make Home Care a Habit - by doing it at the same time everyday. There may be added benefit to doing it before bed but the key is consistency, so make it the most convenient time for you. In the shower, after breakfast, after lunch, after exercise, after dinner, before bed, in bed—same time, EVERYDAY. No excuses. Just do it!
Be systematic. Learn your way around your mouth. Imagine you’re trying to clean ivory pegs (your teeth) sticking out of two horseshoes (your jaws) that are inside your mouth.
FOCUS! Pay attention to what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and if you’re being effective! This could be the most important tip of all!! Put brain in gear before cleaning!
Which brushing technique should I use? Good question. Get a hold of this: There is no “Right” or “Wrong” way to brush! It doesn’t matter how you get the bugs off. Just get them off and don’t hurt yourself. Here are a few tips:
- Use a soft brush. A hard one can damage the gums. You need to be thorough but not forceful.
- Make sure you get the area where the tooth meets the gum. Don’t use the same stroke every time - go in different motions. Pretend you’re scrubbing mold off of tile - but remember - don’t press hard, just be thorough.
- Spend longer on the insides and in the back. Spend at least twice as much time on the insides and the back because these are the most difficult sites to get clean. Watch yourself in the mirror to help make sure you’re reaching “where the tooth meets the gums!”
- Consider investing in a quality electric toothbrush. They’re not essential, however, most people do a better job with them. See the last page of this handout for more information.
- Brush your Tongue and the Roof of Your Mouth. Clean your mouth – not just your teeth. Use a tongue scraper to take it to the next level!
Make sure you get the area where the tooth meets the gums. Yes, this is the third time we’ve said this. Adults learn by repetition.
When you are watching TV or reading or whatever, take your toothbrush and try to shove the bristles in between your teeth from the inside and out. We call it “dry brushing”. It works! Well.
Have your hygienist check how you’re doing by staining your teeth with red dye. Nobody can assess your effectiveness unless they stain your teeth with disclosing solution. The value of this assessment cannot be overstated.
How about flossing? It’s no fun, but it is beneficial. The bacterial battle is mostly fought in between the teeth where the toothbrush won’t reach so you’ve got to get those bugs off. Proper flossing must be demonstrated in the dental office but here are a few tips:
- Sea-saw back and forth to get through where the teeth touch. Go down gently into the gums but never gouge them. Be nice!
- Wrap the floss around the tooth in a C-shape and put firm pressure against the tooth. Be mean!
- Each time you go between two teeth, rub the sides of BOTH of them.
- Try to make the floss touch as much tooth surface as possible. You can do this by keeping your fingers closer together, instead of far apart, as you push back or pull forward.
- If flossing is difficult for you, consider using a floss aid. The “Reach” by Johnson & Johnson is good but use what YOU like!
- Behind your back teeth, GUAZE works better than floss! Ask for a demo. Have a dentist or hygienist evaluate your technique.
Anything else I can do? How did you guess?? Perhaps the most beneficial aid for people with gum disease is a small brush used in between the teeth called a Proxabrush. You simply must try it. You’ll love it! It will help you keep your teeth! Some tips:
- Only use it in spaces where it goes through relatively easy. Don’t force it.
- Consider using a thin toothpick in the tighter spots or use FLIX (ask us :p)
- Make sure you’re moving it in and out as much as you can, with pressure against the sides of the teeth. Friction is good!
- When you are effective at using it from the outside, try going through from the inside but don’t sweat it if you can’t.
- Become a fanatic. Have one at the office, in the car, in your purse, in your briefcase. Use it while you’re watching TV, in the shower, or wherever.
- Dip the proxabrush in Chlorhexidine (Peridex) for additional benefit.
Anything else? You better believe it!! Use a WATERPIK. It should not take the place of anything else but it is an excellent adjunct. See below for more information. USE MOUTHWASH INSTEAD OF JUST WATER!
Whew! That’s a lot…. How long should it take? Well, at first, it may take a while. But shoot for efficiency. With practice you should be able to do it all in 10-12 minutes maximum. No kidding!!
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Home Care 101
DON’T BRUSH YOUR TEETH. CLEAN YOUR MOUTH! Although there is no “right or wrong” way, the following approach is suggested:
BRUSH FIRST. Brush your teeth, the roof of your mouth, and your tongue!
Brush your whole mouth. Make sure you brush where the tooth meets the gums!
Pay extra attention to the inside of your teeth and your very back teeth.
A soft manual toothbrush is fine but most patients do better with an electric brush:
Oral B Triumph – an excellent brush with a small attachment for between the teeth
Sonicare – great brush but often “misused”. Don’t use it in a straight line - move it all around – tickle your gums!
Rotadent – an extremely effective brush but pricey……..
FLOSS / GAUZE / STIMUDENT / FLIX - for between & behind your teeth
- Floss- “Glide” is good. Use an aid if you don’t want to use your fingers.
- Gauze- Johnson & Johnson Sterile Rolled Gauze 2 inch wide. For behind the back teeth and where there are spaces. Cut it down the middle and fold once. This requires a little effort but nothing works better.
- Stimudent - available online at drugstores.com
- FLIX – a plastic tip with guaze glued to it – not the “Ultimate” but as good as I have found. Available on-line or at Periocare.
WATERPIK- We suggest the Hydrofloss unit. It creates a magnetic charge on the minerals in tap water, which helps remove bacteria from the root surface – but any Waterpik is OK. If you can tolerate the taste, add a SMALL tsp of Clorox bleach in 300 ml of water. If it is too strong, try less bleach. An alternative is Listerine full strength or 50/50 with water. Get the big jugs at Costco. It’s best to flush the lines to minimize corrosion but the Hydrofloss has a 3 year warranty so…. .
PROXABRUSH- potentially the most important element! As a rule, it’s used primarily on back teeth. Use it from the outside for sure, and the inside if possible. If you are not using the Waterpik with bleach or Listerine, then dip the brush in Chlorhexidine Rinse - EACH TIME YOU GO IN!!! You want to get some kind of bug killer in between the teeth on a daily basis. If this is your choice for a bug killer, do it after you WaterPik so you don’t rinse the Chlorhexidine away. You can also use a fluoride gel instead of Chlorhexidine. The down side to Chlorhexidine is that it can stain. There are various sizes of brushes available.
TONGUE SCRAPER- Try It - if you use it for a week, you’ll never quit. While you watch TV or read, use a manual brush and shove the bristles between the teeth - especially from the inside.
Go Get ‘Em!