Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping your teeth and gums healthy is important not just for your mouth, but for your overall health. However, very few of us follow a thorough oral hygiene routine on a daily basis, even if we know better.
In our selection of articles on this topic you'll find information on:
- Common problems linked to oral hygiene
- Ways to improve your oral hygiene
- Products that can make it easier to clean your teeth and maintain healthy gums
- Seeing a dental hygienist
Our aim is to empower you to make better decisions about your oral health, so we hope you find this information useful.
Table of contents
- 1 How to brush your teeth
- 2 Toothbrushes
- 3 Toothpaste
- 4 Flossing
- 5 Interdental brushes
- 6 Mouthwash
- 7 Tongue scrapers
- 8 Dental plaque and tartar
- 9 Plaque disclosing tablets
- 10 Bad breath
- 11 Scale and polish at the dentist
- 12 Natural tooth care
How to brush your teeth
Let's start with the basics: are you brushing your teeth often enough, for long enough, and using the correct technique? If you don't get this right, you're at increased risk of cavities, gum disease, bad breath and a whole load of other dental complications.
However, a large number of Americans are brushing their teeth wrong. Whether it's only brushing once a day, scrubbing too hard, rinsing after you brush, or using a brush that's too big, there are a whole load of things that can sabotage your brushing routine.
Do yourself a favor and check out our guide to brushing teeth to see whether you need to change some habits.
Brushing your teeth each and every day is the most important step in your oral hygiene routine. However, many people get into the motions of brushing their teeth fast to get it done. It’s important that you brush your teeth correctly for optimal oral health. Here are some things to remember:
- You should be brushing your teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time.
- When brushing, move in small, circular motions and be sure to focus gently on the gumline.
- Don’t brush your teeth too hard, as this can weaken your enamel and also cause bleeding gums.
- Change your toothbrush at least every three months, or as soon as you’ve recovered from an illness. If you have an electric toothbrush, be sure you’re changing the head this frequently as well.
Dr. Ania Mohelicki, Dr. Ania
If you want to take good care of your teeth, it's important to choose the right toothbrush. These guides will take you through all the things to consider and the best products on the market, whether it's an electric or manual toothbrush you're after.
Electric toothbrush guide
Many people find that an electric toothbrush helps them do a better job of cleaning their teeth than a manual brush. Not just because powered brushes take away the job of manual scrubbing, but because of the technology they use to encourage good brushing habits.
You might be familiar with brushes that have a timer and a pressure sensor, but toothbrushes have come a long way in the last few years. The newest models use AI to track how you brush and train you to do a better job, via a mobile app. If that interests you, you might want to take a look at Sonicare brushes. And some models make an effort to be electric and minimalist at the same time, like the Quip.
Of course, these advanced features come at a price. Our electric toothbrush guide will help you work out what's important to you, what's worth paying more for, and which brand and model would best suit your oral hygiene needs.
Manual toothbrush guide
Many dentists will tell you that it doesn't matter if you have an electric or manual toothbrush—the most important thing is to brush your teeth regularly and with good technique. So if manual toothbrushes are more your thing, you can read all about the different options in our manual toothbrush guide.
Find the right manual toothbrush for you based on your oral health needs—whether you need a brush for gum health, sensitive teeth or stain removal.
Electric toothbrushes for children
It can often be a struggle to get children to brush their teeth twice a day, let alone spend two minutes on it and do a thorough job. If this is something you can relate to, an electric toothbrush might just help.
With fun characters, timers, and app connectivity, electric toothbrushes for children are designed to offer that extra encouragement and motivation to brush properly.
In our guide to the best kids' electric toothbrushes you can read about the various features that might help your child take good care of their teeth and develop good oral hygiene habits for life. We review various battery-powered and rechargeable brushes so you can decide what's best for your little one.
Manual toothbrushes for babies and children
If simplicity is more your style, a manual brush can still clean your child's teeth effectively. Manual brushing actually requires specific motor skills, which children can lose if they switch to an electric brush too early. There are also special types of baby toothbrushes which are ideal for keeping their teeth clean while they are still teething.
Read our guide to manual toothbrushes for babies and children for information about how to choose an appropriate brush for your child's age, along with other factors to consider.
As sustainability takes a larger role in our daily lives, many people are becoming increasingly concerned with the amount of plastic waste generated by the billions of toothbrushes that are discarded every year. One of the more recent solutions to this problem is bamboo toothbrushes because they can be composted and decompose relatively quickly. If you are interested in learning about this eco-friendly option, read our guide to bamboo toothbrushes.
Toothpaste is almost as important for your oral hygiene as brushing your teeth. But with so many options for toothpaste on the market, how can you possibly choose what's right for you. To help narrow it down a bit, let's take a look at some of the things to look for when it comes to the right toothpaste.
Toothpaste for adults
There seems to be an unlimited number of options when it comes to toothpaste for adults. You can get natural toothpaste, organic toothpaste, fluoride-free toothpaste, extra-fluoride toothpaste, whitening toothpaste and so on and so forth.
So when you are deciding which toothpaste you want to use, you should figure out what your principal concerns are when it comes to your oral health, and you can even ask your dentist if you're not sure. You may have sensitive teeth and gums for instance, in which case, you'll want to find a toothpaste that will help strengthen enamel, and that doesn't have too strong of a mint taste. Or if you're diabetic, you may want to find a toothpaste flavored with xylitol instead of sugar.
To learn more about the different kinds of toothpaste and find the right one for you, you can read or guide to toothpaste for adults.
Toothpaste for kids and babies
In some cases, like if you have older kids, you may find that the whole family shares the same toothpaste. But especially if your children are still quite young, it may be important for them to use their own special toothpaste.
For starters, toothpaste for children usually contains less fluoride than toothpaste for adults, and you may even opt for fluoride-free toothpaste for your baby. Also, your children's toothpaste shouldn't be too abrasive on their sensitive baby teeth, and your child might be more inclined to brush if it has a fun fruity or bubblegum flavor as opposed to harsh mint.
Read our kids' toothpaste guide to get more information about the most suitable toothpaste for your child. You'll find product recommendations and fun flavorful options.
Many consumers are looking for toothpaste options that don't have chemicals. Besides the chemicals, many are also looking for options that are made from eco-friendly ingredients, or come in eco-friendly packaging. If this sounds like you, you can read our guide to natural toothpaste. This article talks all about the ingredients in normal toothpaste, and the potential reasons to avoid them. You'll learn all about the best brands of natural toothpaste in the US depending on your oral health needs, like gum disease, sensitive teeth or whitening. And you can also check out some great recipes to make your own toothpaste at home including using baking soda or activated charcoal powder.
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to oral hygiene and esthetics is whitening. More and more people are paying big money for professional teeth whitening, which leaves many wondering if you can achieve whiter teeth with something a bit more affordable—say toothpaste. There are some toothpastes made especially for whitening teeth, including Ap 24 whitening toothpaste and other options from mainstream brands like Crest and Colgate, and you can read more about them, how effective they are, and which is the best brand for you, in our guide to the best whitening toothpaste.
Brushing your teeth only cleans three out of five surfaces, so it's important to floss daily as well. But wait – before you scroll past – know that traditional floss is not the only way to complement your oral hygiene routine. If you and string floss aren't best friends, there are alternative products that can make flossing a less annoying part of your oral hygiene routine.
How to floss
In our guide to flossing you can read about why it's important to floss and how to incorporate it in your daily routine. Discover the various types of dental floss and other flossing products which are designed to clean between your teeth.
If you experience pain or bleeding gums when you first floss, it might just be that you're doing a good job of dislodging plaque. But, you could also be doing it wrong. Check some common mistakes and ensure you're using the right technique to floss effectively without damaging your gums.
Are you wondering whether you should floss before or after you brush your teeth? We go full-on investigation in our article here.
Water flossers, also called oral irrigators, shoot a high-powered jet of water between your teeth to remove food debris and loosen plaque. If you're not a fan of string floss and tend not to bother with it, a water flosser is probably the next best thing to get your teeth cleaning back on track.
But there are several decisions to make before you make your purchase. Countertop or cordless? How many power settings? Are different tips necessary? Which brand is best? Waterpik is the biggest name on the market but there are plenty of others worth considering.
Choosing the right product for your needs should be much simpler once you've consulted our water flosser guide. We also have some tips for using them without making too much of a mess…
Flossing with braces
Normal flossing can be difficult and time-consuming, but having a metal wire blocking the way makes it even more so. At the same time, braces create lots of places for food to get stuck. Fortunately, there are special types of floss that can make flossing with braces easier – or you may decide to invest in a water flosser to really make things easier.
Either way, check out our guide to flossing with braces so you know the best ways to keep your teeth clean while they're being straightened.
An interdental brush is sort of like a tiny toothbrush, but instead of cleaning the surface of your teeth, it's meant to clean in between teeth like floss. These tools consist of a handle and bristles or filament held in place by a metal wire. The wire can usually be angled or bent to make it easier to reach the back of your mouth or approach from awkward angles.
These can be very useful for people who have braces or other dental work, or for those who just don't like to use traditional floss. To learn more about interdental brushes, you can read our full interdental brush guide.
Mouthwash can be a great addition to your oral hygiene routine. Depending on what you need, you can find mouthwashes that can help with a wide variety of ailments, including gum disease, ulcers, bad breath or dry mouth. Or maybe you're looking for a mouthwash for sensitive teeth, or one to help your kids jumpstart their oral hygiene routine. To learn all about mouthwash to find the best one for you, you can read our complete mouthwash guide. And if you want to find out how to make your own mouthwash, you can read our DIY mouthwash article here.
Have you ever looked at your tongue and noticed that it had a sort of white fuzzy coating? What you're seeing is a buildup of bacteria on the surface of your tongue. And not only does it look kind of strange, but it can also contribute to bad breath and other oral health problems. You can try gently scrubbing at it with your toothbrush, but the best way to eliminate this layer of bacteria is with a tongue scraper.
Tongue scrapers are designed specially to clean the whole surface of your tongue. They come in a variety of materials; you can get stainless steel scrapers, copper scrappers and plastic scrapers. They are also made in a range of styles. To learn more about how to keep your tongue clean you can read our full tongue cleaning guide.
Dental plaque and tartar
Ever wondered why it's so important to brush your teeth in the first place, or what that fuzzy coating is that builds up when you let your oral hygiene slip? That would be plaque, a film of bacteria which feed off the food particles in your mouth.
Plaque is simple enough to remove with your daily brushing and flossing. But, if you don't get it all off, it quickly hardens into tartar. This mineral deposit clings to your teeth and can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.
Read all about plaque and tartar here, including how to remove plaque and which foods and drinks to avoid to keep those bacteria at bay.
Plaque disclosing tablets
Do you wish you could see the plaque left behind on your teeth after you brush and floss? Well, with plaque disclosing tablets, you can. These chewable tablets contain a dye which sticks to plaque and shows you exactly where you need to concentrate when you clean your teeth.
Also available as a liquid solution, plaque disclosers can really help you make sure you brush and floss more thoroughly. They are safe for kids to use too, and can provide some much-needed motivation to brush properly!
It's normal to get bad breath after consuming certain foods and drinks, or starting diets like keto, but if you think your breath often smells, there might be something else that needs attention. Poor oral hygiene is a major cause of halitosis (chronic bad breath), so you may just need to clean your teeth and mouth better. It could also be that a dental problem or other health issue is making your breath stinky.
Read all about what causes bad breath and what to do if halitosis seems to be an ongoing problem for you. And if you just need to freshen your breath up quickly? We have some natural remedies as well as recommendations for mouthwash and breath spray.
Scale and polish at the dentist
Even with the best oral hygiene routine, it’s hard to remove all the plaque from your teeth, all the time. When tartar builds up, the only way to remove it is with a professional teeth cleaning at the dentist. In the US, this can involve polishing, scaling and sometimes root planing. When both scaling and root planing are done, this is known as a deep cleaning.
Find out what a standard professional cleaning involves, how much it costs, and how long it usually takes. If you have extensive tartar build-up, your scaling and root planing may have to happen over a series of visits. However, if you have minimal tartar, your dentist may scale a bit off during a standard cleaning. If you have major tartar buildup, your dentist may give you an anesthetic to numb your mouth during the teeth scaling. This process may sound daunting, but your dentist will make sure it's manageable for you. And when it's over, you'll have a smile that you won't want to hide.
Natural tooth care
Natural ways to take care of teeth are becoming more and more popular as consumers become more aware of chemicals that exist in many commercial products. For some people, switching entirely to a natural oral hygiene routine may be the best route (while still visiting your dentist periodically) while for others, the best options might be to keep some aspects of their normal oral hygiene routine, while exchanging others for more natural solutions.
You can read all about natural tooth care in our full guide here. We'll talk all about the different ways you can say goodbye to chemicals and even make your oral hygiene routine more eco-friendly. Some of the natural dental remedies we mention include oil pulling, an ancient Ayurvedic practice that has recently become very popular, natural toothpastes (mentioned above) and activated charcoal as a natural way to whiten teeth.