Teeth are something we can certainly take for granted, but taking care of our pearly whites is super important. Without proper dental hygiene, bacteria can harm both teeth and gums.
So, if you feel like you’ve been slacking on your dental hygiene, keep reading for basic teeth-whitening tips to help you get back on track.
Why good dental hygiene is important
You might think that you can skip brushing and flossing your teeth, but the consequences aren’t really worth it. Bacteria builds up in the mouth and creates a sticky film called plaque. If plaque sits for too long on the teeth, it starts to eat away at them.
This can lead to tooth decay or cavities. Furthermore, too much bacteria in the mouth can also lead to gum disease, or gingivitis.
Brushing, flossing and lots of other dental hygiene practices help to keep the mouth clean and protected from bacteria overload.
How to brush your teeth
You’ve probably been brushing your teeth for a long time, but a simple refresher on how to brush your teeth never hurts. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should brush your teeth twice a day.
And even though there are lots of toothbrush options, the ADA recommends always using a soft-bristle brush. This tip alone can save you a lot of time in the grocery store!
Think about replacing your toothbrush every three to four months, depending on how the bristles look. If your toothbrush is too frayed and flat, it won’t really clean your teeth very well. And it’s like throwing away all your teeth brushing endeavors down the drain.
When brushing your teeth, use gentle back-and-forth strokes, and avoid brushing the gums. Instead, keep the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle. Doing so can prevent gum damage.
Brushing teeth can be a pretty mindless activity, but try to pay attention and brush both the outer, inner and top surfaces of teeth.
Tips for better flossing
Flossing might seem a bit redundant if you already brush your teeth. But don’t skip this all-important step. Food can get trapped between the teeth, and this can lead to bacterial growth, plaque, and ultimately tooth decay and gum disease.
So, when flossing, the point is to remove trapped food, but you don’t want to injure your gums in the process. So, remember to be gentle and guide the floss between the teeth.
Once you’ve guided the floss up to the gum line, the ADA recommends curving the floss into a C shape curve alongside one tooth. Then, softly slide the floss between the tooth and the gum.
The key word here is to be gentle. Flossing too roughly can cut gums and cause pain.
You should floss twice per day, and after you brush your teeth.
There are so many toothpastes to choose from, aren’t there? And marketing and packaging make each one look like the perfect one for sparkling, clean teeth. And while the advertising is appealing, it’s important to be aware of what’s actually inside your toothpaste.
The truth is, there are many toxic ingredients in the average toothpaste, and since your mouth is so absorbent, you end up ingesting these chemicals, too.
Some of these toxic chemicals include triclosan, a substance linked to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There’s also sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) – another toxic ingredient, which is labeled as an insecticide and may also be contaminated with a carcinogenic substance.
Fluoride is another common, yet controversial ingredient. Fluoride is said to offer a protective layering to the teeth, but scientists aren’t convinced since the layer is too thin to make much of a difference.
What’s more, Dr. Joseph Mercola reminds that fluoride is, in fact, a toxic chemical that can produce many “adverse health effects, including neurological and endocrine dysfunction.”
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to eschew toothpaste. We need it for clean, healthy teeth. But it might be a good idea to look for brands that offer safer options. There are more and more fluoride-free toothpastes available, and many natural brands that produce effective alternatives, free of triclosan and sodium lauryl sulfate, too.
Mouthwashes: are they really necessary?
Along with hundreds of toothpaste and toothbrush options, there’s also mouthwash to consider. But do you really need this dental hygiene product? The answer may come as a bit of a surprise.
Mouthwash actually plays a fairly minor role in the prevention of plaque and gum disease. Brushing and flossing are much more important.
According to Anthony Komaroff, M.D. and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, “Mouthwash actually plays a fairly minor role in the prevention of plaque and gum disease.” Komaroff goes on to explain that “Brushing and flossing are much more important.”
But there’s more to it than that. Not only is mouthwash unnecessary, but it also can make your mouth more susceptible to bacteria. How’s that possible?
The problem is the alcohol content in mouthwashes. It has a drying effect on the mouth, and that makes it a lot easier for bacteria to grow.
You don’t have to cut out mouthwash from your dental hygiene routine. But just know that it can’t and shouldn’t replace proper brushing and flossing.
Does chewing gum give you cleaner teeth?
According to the ADA, chewing sugarless gum after meals can actually help to prevent tooth decay. How does that work?
It all boils down to the fact that when you chew gum, your mouth produces more saliva. And saliva does two very important things in the mouth. First, it helps to wash away leftover food particles. Secondly, saliva helps to neutralize acids which bacteria produce.
Does this mean you can replace brushing and flossing with a stick of ADA-approved gum? Definitely not.
However, chewing sugarless gum is a convenient way to take care of your teeth during the workday, or when you’re out running errands – whenever you can’t brush your teeth.
The benefits of a copper tongue scraper
Tongue scraping is actually an Ayurvedic practice, but anyone can do it. If you’re not familiar with a copper tongue scraper and it’s many benefits, here’s a crash course.
While you sleep, your digestive system is busy getting rid of toxins in the body. Some of them end up on the top of your tongue. You may notice a filmy layer on the top of your tongue in the morning. It can be clear, white, yellow or green.
If you don’t remove these toxins from your tongue, you’ll just put them right back into your body with your first glass of water, a cup of coffee, or breakfast bowl.
But that’s where a copper tongue scraper comes in. When you gently pull the scraper over the top of your tongue, it collects the toxic layer and removes harmful bacteria from your mouth.
This can leave you with better breath, boost your sense of taste, and of course, improve dental health, too.
Oil pulling for dental health
Oil pulling is another Ayurvedic practice, but it’s something everyone and anyone can do. All you need is coconut oil and about 10 to 20 minutes.
Like tongue scraping, it helps to remove bacteria from the mouth. And the nutrients in coconut oil help to soothe and nourish teeth and gums, too.
How does oil pulling work? You simply put about a tablespoon of high-quality coconut oil in your mouth and swoosh it around, or pull the oil through your teeth, for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
That might seem like a long time, but if you do it before and during your shower, or as you’re making breakfast, it flies by in no time.
Just be sure that you don’t swallow the oil when you’re done. That’s because it has collected toxins and bacteria from your mouth, and you want that stuff out of your body, not in it.
According to Dr. Josh Axe, oil pulling is an effective procedure for treating and preventing tooth decay and gingivitis, as well as whitening teeth and eliminating bad breath.
The best essential oils for dental hygiene
If you do oil pulling, you can bump it up a notch by adding essential oils to your oil pulling session. Many essential oils have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and they can really help to clear away nasty toxins and bacteria along with the coconut oil.
You might wonder what the difference is between oil pulling with an essential oil, and a ready-made mouthwash. Aren’t they doing the same thing?
Here are some main differences:
- Mouthwashes contain alcohol and have a drying effect on the mouth, making it more vulnerable to bacteria.
- Oil pulling with essential oils hydrates and soothes the mouth, while also detoxifying it.
If you’d like to try adding essential oils to your oil pulling routine, you can use any of the following options, or a combination of them. Just add one drop of each essential oil to about one tablespoon of coconut oil.
- Melaleuca (Tea Tree)
Can activated charcoal actually improve dental health?
It might seem incredibly counterintuitive to use a black, grimy substance to clean your teeth, but it’s a common natural practice that many people are tapping into. Here’s how it works.
Activated charcoal might be ugly and give you a scary smile while you use it, but activated charcoal is a super absorbent substance. So, all the bacteria, toxins and nasty stuff in your mouth get absorbed by the charcoal, which you then spit out.
And yes, the black color washes away when you rinse and spit.
Top nutrients for strong, healthy teeth
We all know that a healthy, balanced diet supports a healthy body and mind. And the same goes for your teeth. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, the best nutrients for dental health are as follows:
Vitamins C, D, and K2
Vitamin C is crucial for strong and healthy gums and can help to prevent gum disease. Great sources of Vitamin C include black currants, berries, kiwi, oranges, and even broccoli and kale.
Healthy bones, including your teeth, need Vitamin D. So look for Vitamin D in fish, cod liver oil and eggs.
Vitamin K2 is necessary because it helps to transport calcium throughout the body. And calcium is one of the key nutrients for healthy bones, and therefore, healthy teeth. You can get Vitamin K2 in hard cheese, egg yolks, Japanese natto, as well as chicken liver and breast.
Phosphorous and calcium
Because your tooth enamel is made from minerals, it’s important to consume healthy sources of two top teeth minerals, phosphorous and calcium. You can obtain phosphorous in most animal foods and most calcium-rich foods.
So, look for dark leafy green vegetables, fish and dairy products for both of these key minerals.
Magnesium helps the body absorb calcium, which as we know, helps to build strong teeth. Good sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, spinach, chard, almonds, and yogurt.
Good dental hygiene is so much more than just brushing your teeth. Of course, brushing and flossing your teeth is a great place to start. But as you can see, there are so many other things you can do to protect your teeth and gums and enjoy a bright smile.