Generally, if you can say you have a dental care routine, you’re already off to a strong start in managing your oral health. So, it should be a positive thing to be able to report that you routinely carry out the basic self-care habits that are so important, like brushing and flossing your teeth.
But, it’s also important to dig a little deeper into that routine and make sure what you’re doing regularly is actually helping rather than harming, and that the right habits are being formed and maintained.
Issue 1: Over-brushing
Did you know that, like so many other areas of life, it’s possible to do too much of a good thing when it comes to your dental care routine?
According to Dr. Mark Burhenne, “It is absolutely possible to over-brush — but this will depend on your technique and your toothbrush, not necessarily on how often you brush.” He goes on to explain, “I would estimate that 80% of us are over-brushing. We’re obsessed, but we’re brushing incorrectly and we’re brushing with the wrong toothbrush. I see everyday people in my practice that have brushed away tooth structure and worn their teeth away using a toothbrush.”
The reasons behind this issue are varied:
- The nylon bristles of mass-produced toothbrushes can develop sharp, hard edges over time as use wears away the machine-rounded edges they come with.
- Many people brush too aggressively, which can do damage to tooth enamel and/or gum tissue.
- If the brushing technique is thoughtless or habitual, there could be areas in the mouth that receive too much attention while other areas are being neglected.
"Dentists recommend brushing your teeth a minimum of twice per day, for about two minutes each time, using a soft-bristled toothbrush."
To solve this issue, dentists recommend brushing your teeth a minimum of twice per day, for about two minutes each time, using a soft-bristled toothbrush. It’s also recommended that you replace your toothbrush regularly before it’s had a chance for the bristles to wear down to more abrasive edges.
While a soft-bristled brush in good repair likely won’t harm your teeth if you use multiple times a day, even brushing twice with a more abrasive brush — and/or with the wrong technique — can end up doing far more damage than good.
Issue 2: Over-flossing
The professionals at Water Tower Dental in Chicago, IL state the following: “You can floss too much, and if you do you can seriously irritate and damage gum tissue. They can become sore and swollen and even start to bleed.”
The potential damage caused by over-flossing doesn’t end there. Just as with over-brushing, flossing too much can lead to dangerous loss of enamel on the sides of the teeth and near or below the gum line. This leaves your teeth vulnerable to cavities, increases the chances of infections, and could even lead to receding gums and tooth loss.
Issue 3: Infrequent dental visits
The third pillar of a solid dental care routine is a visit to the dentist at least once every six months.
It’s not really possible to visit the dentist too much, per se, and that’s not an issue that comes up very often. But putting off the semiannual cleaning and examination is extremely common, and it can be dangerous to more than just your teeth.
The routine dental visit that’s supposed to occur every six months offers many benefits and serves as a protection for the patient:
- Thorough, professional cleaning
- Visual examination to catch current or potential oral health concerns
- X-rays to monitor bone, root, and nerve health
- An opportunity for the dentist to observe any oral signs of other systemic health concerns, like diabetes, high blood pressure, possible stroke, and some types of cancer
Cost is certainly a factor in many patients failing to maintain a strict every-six-months routine, especially if they’re not experiencing any pain or other oral health concerns when that time comes around. Of course, with dental discount plans and many other low- or no-cost options available in most areas, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
For the ultimate dental care routine, make sure you have all three pillars in place:
- Brush twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time, using a soft-bristled brush in good repair, and make sure you do a thorough job.
- Floss your teeth at least once a day, but be careful about overdoing it, either in frequency or in aggressiveness.
- Visit the dentist once every 6 months for a routine cleaning and examination.
With this routine in place, you’ll have a smile worth bragging about.