Generally, if you can say you have a dental care routine, you’re already off to a strong start in managing your oral health.
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.
Here are three common oral health mistakes to keep an eye out for and how to correct them:
Issue 1: Over-brushing
Like so many other things in life, it’s possible to do too much of a good thing when it comes to your dental care routine.
Dr. Mark Burhenne, estimates that 80% of us are over-brushing our teeth.
“It is absolutely possible to over-brush," he said. "But this will depend on your technique and your toothbrush, not necessarily on how often you brush.”
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.
While a soft-bristled brush in good repair likely won’t harm your teeth if you use it multiple times a day, even brushing twice with a more abrasive brush (or with the wrong technique) can end up doing far more harm than good.
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 the bristles have a chance to wear down to more abrasive edges.
Issue 2: Over-flossing
We'll let the professionals at Water Tower Dental in Chicago, Ill. take this one:
“You can floss too much, and if you do, you can seriously irritate and damage gum tissue. They can become sore, swollen and even start to bleed.”
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.
So, floss once a day and check in on your technique with our judgment-free guide to flossing.
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.
Putting off a semiannual cleaning and examination is extremely common, but doing so can be dangerous to more than just your teeth.
The routine dental visit offers many benefits, including:
- 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
Bringing it all together
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.
- Floss your teeth once a day, but be careful about overdoing it. Be gentle, but thorough.
- Visit the dentist once every six months for a routine cleaning and examination.
The bottom line: Oral health habits are most effective when done correctly. Check in on your routine and make corrections where needed.