As much as proper dental hygiene practices were drilled into my head as a child, I was recently surprised when my hygienist let me know that I had been making a mistake while brushing my teeth. You see, when I was younger, my mom was the type whose first followup question to "How was your day?" was "How many servings of fruits and vegetables have you eaten today?" She's health-conscious to say the least, so I was trained in the importance of brushing and flossing daily.
And while it is super boring, it really is important. Not only does keeping a proper toothbrushing regimen help whiten teeth and prevent bad breath, but it also helps prevent more serious issues like gum disease and tooth decay. It does suck that it's hard to see immediate results from brushing and flossing, which is why it feels so easy to skip a day without consequences. But those days can add up. On the other hand, it's also possible to be too on top of things.
So whether you're prone to lazy brushing or consistently brushing after every meal, there are mistakes you could be making that are slowly sacrificing your pearly whites. Here are 10 common ones to avoid to help your choppers stay healthy and bright.
1. You Brush Right After Eating
The Daily Mail spoke to London dentist Dr. Phil Stemmer who says that certain acids and sugars can make enamel temporarily soft. If you brush while the enamel is soft, it could prematurely wear away. Instead, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing, he says. But if you did eat something particularly acidic or sugary, such as sour candy, swish some water in your mouth to help clean away some of the residue.
2. You're Not Using the Right Toothbrush
Not just any ol' toothbrush will do the job. Because they come in different sizes, shapes, and stiffness, it's important to choose the best type for your needs. Have a smaller mouth or smaller teeth? Pick a smaller brush. Have sensitive gums? Pick a soft-bristle brush. Regardless of what you can tolerate though, Good Housekeeping talked to New York City-based cosmetic dentist, Timothy Chase, who says it's generally not good to use hard bristles everyday anyway.
3. You Don't Brush Often or Long Enough
Twice a day for two minutes each time is ideal, according to WebMD.
4. You Brush Too Often or Too Long
On the other hand, WebMD notes that brushing too much can lead to enamel prematurely wearing down and damaged gums. It actually doesn't take brushing after every meal to keep your teeth in tip-top shape. (But remember to not brush immediately after any meal, anyway.)
5. You Always Start in the Same Place
Dr. Richard H. Price told WebMd most of us tend to start in the same place when we brush, whether or not we realize it. This can lead to certain areas of the mouth receiving more attention than others. To make sure all teeth receive equal maintenance, try to switch up your brushing patterns.
6. You're Too Aggressive
Brushing hard does not mean that you're cleaning your teeth better. In fact, according to The Huffington Post, it can lead to teeth sensitivity, damaged gums, and even exposed roots. Your mouth is more delicate than it seems, and it needs to be treated as such.
7. You Only Brush Your Teeth
According to Good Housekeeping, gums, along with your tongue, still need to be cleaned to ensure that bacteria that can cause gum disease and bad breath aren't lingering around.
8. You Don't Know When to Say Goodbye
A toothbrush will not work as effectively when it is too old. Good Housekeeping recommends that once the bristles start fraying out to the sides, that's when your brush needs to be replaced.
9. You Don't Floss
You're probably sick of hearing it, but flossing really is a necessity. It can be surprising just how much you miss from only brushing. Even if it seems like you're not uncovering massive food particles left behind, according to The Huffington Post, flossing still helps displace bad bacteria that could cause gum disease down the line.
10. You Whiten Too Much
According to teeth-whitening expert Dr. Van B. Haywood who spoke with DearDoctor.com whitening teeth, especially with at-home kits can lead to sensitivity. And prolonged or misuse of whitening products can also damage enamel and irritate or even burn gums. So if you want to whiten your teeth, always try to consult a professional first, and make sure to carefully follow the directions.
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