Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ditch Your Toothbrush

Ditch Your Toothbrush

By Jess Levine, Women's Health

Sorry, you do still have to brush, but you may be able to do more to keep your teeth clean. Yep, we said it and we’ll say it again: Ditch your toothbrush! At least ditch it every three to four months, that is, says the American Dental Association’s recommendation for toothbrush replacement. But consider replacing it today, because beyond brushing the old-fashioned way, we have six tricks, tips, and technological innovations that could keep your teeth even healthier. “There’s really nothing that can replace brushing and flossing,” says dentist Ruchi Nijjar Sahota, DDS, in Fremont, California, “but knowing how to brush and floss correctly and knowing what is necessary to keep your particular teeth healthy is very important.” She says the most important thing is visiting your dentist at least twice a year to make sure that you’re doing everything right. Here are a few things you might try in the meantime.

1. Let the brush do the work.
You have the latest HDTV, but perhaps haven’t considered going high-tech with your toothbrush. “Some people brush too hard. Some people don’t brush enough,” Dr. Sahota says. And neither are good. She says brushing too hard can actually scrub away tooth enamel. “Electronic toothbrushes can make it easier for everyone to brush in the right way, but you’ve gotta allow the toothbrush to do its thing,” she explains. “The electronic toothbrush moves on its own, so you should try to be gentle with it to allow the bristles to work.” She recommends just a gentle side-to-side motion across your teeth without applying any pressure. Your dentist will be able to tell you if, control freak, you’re trying to do too much yourself.

2. Make flossing effortless.
If flossing your teeth is one of those shoulda-wouldas that have never become routine, maybe you need some help. Flossing aids like Dentek Triple Clean Floss Picks can make the process a lot easier for some people. “It’s difficult to get to the back of your mouth sometimes,” Dr. Sahota says. “Anything that can make flossing easier is great, but you’ve still gotta make sure you’re doing it properly. If you’re not, it’s as good as not doing it.” She says to make sure you’re getting between the teeth gently, making a c-shape around each tooth, and reaching the backs of the last teeth.

3. Stop snacking.
“Eating a really balanced diet is important but the most important thing is limiting your snacking,” Dr. Sahota says. Saliva production is stimulated by chewing so during a meal, your mouth is producing enough saliva to flush sugar and the bacteria that feeds on it off your teeth, but with a sugary snack (and she points out that that can include anything from milk or crackers to fruit or sugary candy) the sugar just sits on your teeth for about 20 minutes waiting for bacteria to come get it and created the acid that causes tooth decay. “If you snack a lot between meals that bacteria sticks to your teeth and has more time to do damage because it’s just sitting there, whereas if you eat during a meal there’s more saliva release and that can help wash away the foods.”

4. Start chewing gum.
Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, which flushes food and bacteria from the surface of the teeth. And research shows the right kind of gum could be even better for your teeth. You want to go with sugarless for obvious reasons. And look especially for xylitol, a sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute in candy and gum. This sweetener doesn’t attract bacteria like sugar, but actually fights it. Good ol' Trident should do the trick.

5. Take a toothbrush to go.
Let’s get real, most of us don’t have time to brush after each meal. That’s why twice a day became the standard recommendation. But with the new mini on-the-go-friendly toothbrushes like the Colgate Wisp, freshening up before that post-lunch meeting or discreetly unsticking something from between your teeth is easy. The lip gloss-size brush comes loaded with a dab of breath freshener and a soft pick on one end for unsticking stubborn food particles. And it doesn’t even require water. Just brush, pick, and feel fresh.

6. Drink up
If you do just one thing, drink more water. “Drinking as much water as possible allows you to flush bacteria and food out of your mouth,” Dr. Sahota says. “Water has a pH of 7, so it helps neutralize the environment in your mouth as well.” Since it’s the acid that the sugar-eating bacteria create that causes cavities in the first place, the simplest thing you can do for your dental health is drink more H2O.


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