As we’ve all heard a thousand times, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Being well-groomed and well-dressed go a long way toward making that good first impression, but leading with a bright smile and fresh breath are key to sealing the deal on that impression. Moreover, good oral hygiene and health are critical for maintaining overall good health on a day-to-day basis.
Achieving and maintaining good oral hygiene and health is not that difficult. The five basics are brushing, flossing, swishing, chewing, fluoridating and avoiding.
Choose your toothbrush carefully. Both manual and electric brushes can be effective, depending on brushing technique. Most people make sure to brush the chewing surfaces, but it is important to brush all of the teeth surfaces, as well your lips, tongue and the roof of your mouth. The brush should be held at a 45 degree angle to the surface being brushed, and the brush should be “vibrated” against the surface for 3 – 5 seconds. Hard scrubbing can damage tooth enamel and skin surfaces. Select the type of brush that works best for you in terms of brushing all of the important surfaces with the proper technique. Also, replace your brush, or electric brush head, every 3 to 4 months to make sure you are getting the best results.
When it comes to your mouth, bacteria is not your friend. Bacteria can “hide” on tight surfaces between your teeth where you can’t reach with a brush. Make sure you floss from the gums all the way to the other end of each tooth. For bridges or larger gaps between teeth, an interdental cleaner may work better.
Using an antimicrobial wash or rinse on a daily basis is an additional safeguard against the build-up of bacteria in the mouth. Also, depending on the type used, the bonus is super-fresh breath for a period after swishing.
Chewing snacks and food is just fine in terms of keeping your mouth clean, as long as those snacks and food are not loaded with sugar on a regular basis. Sugar can directly cause tooth decay and cavities, and it can change the chemistry of your mouth such that it is easier for acid to build. When that happens, you are also at a greater for cavities. If you do chew snacks or food with sugar in them, follow them with a glass of water to dilute the impact of the sugar. Chewing sugarless gum after meals helps with oral hygiene, because it generates saliva that can help neutralize harmful acids in the mouth.
A strong majority of municipalities (more than 70%) fluoridate their culinary water supplies. If they do, simply drinking a couple glasses of water from a faucet every day means you will improve your chances of avoiding tooth decay. If your home drinking water comes from a well, or if you are served by a water system that is not fluoridated, seek out an inexpensive fluoride supplement to it add to your drinking water.
Avoiding things that can undermine good oral hygiene and health does not mean abstinence (with one exception). It simply means that there are some things we put in our mouths that are not conducive to a brilliant white smile, so moderation is the name of the game. That goes for sugary foods, red wine, black coffee, tea, dark sodas, slushies and popsicles, cranberry juice, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, blueberries, beets, tomato sauces, and curry. The exception, of course, is cigarettes. They guarantee bad breath, cause gum disease and oral cancer, and turn teeth yellow and brown. No room for moderation there.
Making that good first impression with a gleaming smile and minty breath is very attainable with a little bit of thought and effort.