Beyond the Brush: 8 Oral Hygiene Hacks

by James Florence


When it comes to oral hygiene, brushing and flossing are the just tip of the iceberg. Photo: Richmond Neighborhood Family Dental (2015)

From early childhood, the merits of a daily oral hygiene routine are so thoroughly ingrained in our minds that, for most of us, they’ve practically become second nature. However, while brushing and flossing remain the major pillars of this practice, few people are aware that there are many additional ways to supplement these standard steps. Read on to learn about eight oral hygiene hacks for a healthier mouth.

1. Rinse with water immediately following a meal. When food particles remain in the mouth, oral bacteria acts upon them to produce acids, which is the root cause of problems like cavities and gum disease. Rinsing with water directly after eating will help remove food residue and prevent bacterial growth. To maximize the effectiveness of rinsing, repeat three times and swish thoroughly to ensure contact with all of your teeth.

2. Use hydrogen peroxide as mouthwash. While name-brand mouthwash products boast advantageous attributes like teeth whitening, you can derive similar benefits from a simple household product: hydrogen peroxide. Since it’s often used as both a bleaching agent and a disinfectant, it makes sense that hydrogen peroxide is also an effective mouthwash, as it disinfects the mouth and naturally whitens the teeth.

3. Incorporate oral probiotics. Many people have a negative perception of oral bacteria, but there are beneficial bacteria that inhabit the mouth as well. By increasing the presence of good bacteria, supplemental oral probiotics help combat the effects of bad breath and gum disease.

4. Break up your flossing routine. If you lack the patience to develop a steady flossing routine, Dr. Judy L. Husen offers a helpful trick: “Floss half of your teeth in the morning and the other half at night. This makes flossing seem less time-intensive and ensures all teeth get flossed within a 24-hour period.”

5. Clean your tongue. In addition to cleaning your teeth, use a toothbrush or tongue scraper to clean your tongue—it’ll remove bacterial buildup that contributes to bad breath.

6. Wait to brush after consuming acidic beverages. When you drink an acidic beverage such as juice or soda, it lowers the pH in your mouth, making it more acidic and leaving your tooth enamel more susceptible to being removed during brushing. For this reason, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes after drinking an acidic beverage before brushing.

7. Avoid whitening toothpastes. While there are numerous ways to whiten your teeth, you shouldn’t rely on your toothpaste to do it. According to Dr. William M. Schneider, the abrasive nature of whitening toothpastes may contribute to enamel loss and tooth sensitivity.

8. Use xylitol. A natural sweetener used for years as a sugar substitute, xylitol has recently been shown to provide a unique dental health benefit. By neutralizing pH levels in the mouth, it can both reduce the risk of enamel damage from oral acids and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Available in a variety of forms (including chewing gum and mouthwash), xylitol is an easy way to augment your daily dental hygiene routine.

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