Taking great care of your teeth isn’t just a way of avoiding a lecture from your dentist or maintaining the appearance of your smile.
Proper dental hygiene is essential for avoiding painful conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease, and other health conditions you may not even realize are directly linked to your mouth.
Curious about how you can improve your oral hygiene practices? Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when caring for their teeth.
1. Avoiding Regular Dentist Checkups
Only visiting the dentist when you’re experiencing issues like pain, sensitivity, discoloration, or other types of discomfort can lead to major dental health problems long term. Some of them can be treated, but others (such as tooth loss and severe gum disease) can not.
While it may feel like a chore, make sure you visit your dentist every six months for a routine cleaning and checkup. Preventative care and early detection of issues are the best way to avoid expensive, painful dental procedures.
2. Brushing Incorrectly
Brushing your teeth is a pretty straightforward ordeal, right? It is, but many of us still aren’t brushing correctly despite good intentions.
Some of the most common mistakes include brushing too aggressively, not brushing for long enough, and brushing too infrequently (like skipping your oral hygiene routine before bed).
To avoid complications from incorrect techniques, follow these simple rules:
- Brush gently
- Brush for 2 minutes, not much longer
- Brush only twice per day (after breakfast and before bed)
- Use only a soft-bristled toothbrush
3. Not Flossing
Flossing shouldn’t be reserved for occasions where you feel or see food particles stuck in your teeth. Regular flossing removes plaque and food debris you might not be able to see between your teeth and along your gumline.
If plaque and food particles aren’t removed, they harbor the bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum disease, and even fungal yeast infections such as oral thrush.
If possible, commit to flossing your teeth each time you brush (which should be two times per day). The most optimal opportunities to floss your teeth are in the morning, about an hour after you’ve finished breakfast and right before bedtime.
4. Not Using a Night Guard
Everyone can benefit from using a night guard for a variety of reasons.
Even if you aren’t currently experiencing any severe tooth or jaw problems, wearing a night guard can help prevent these challenging conditions from developing at all.
Most people aren’t aware that they’re grinding their teeth (bruxism) or clenching their jaw at night because they are asleep while it’s happening.
These seemingly harmless behaviors are often caused by stress and can weaken the protective layer of enamel on your teeth, leading to tooth decay and loss. You may also be at risk for temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMD or TMJ) that make speaking, eating, and drinking painful and challenging.
5. Eating or Drinking After Brushing at Night
You may have a perfect evening dental healthcare routine that includes brushing with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, flossing, and finishing with a quality mouthwash.
However, if you eat or drink anything other than water afterward without repeating these steps, you might as well not have completed them at all.
6. Consuming Too Much Sugar
Cavity-causing sugar doesn’t just come in the blatant form of soda, candy, desserts, and sweetened gum.
Even some healthy foods contain sugar that can cause cavities if it lingers on your teeth too long. That’s right: tea with honey, fruit (yes, even apples), or dairy products like milk and cheese all contain a certain amount of sugar that can cause harm.
Alcoholic beverages also have high sugar content, even if they don’t taste sweet.
7. Whitening Too Often
Naturally, you want to keep your smile bright and ward off stains from food and drinks like coffee, tea, and acidic juices.
But what you may not know is that using whitening products too frequently can actually damage the layer of enamel that protects your teeth from decay and irritate your gums. Excessive use of whitening gels, strips, and pens can lead to permanent problems that may not be reversible with treatment.
If you’re not sure how often you can safely whiten your teeth, ask your dentist or dental hygienist for personal advice.
If you didn’t previously know about the potentially serious consequences of not keeping up with a thorough oral hygiene routine, don’t stress.
It’s never too late to remedy these common mistakes. However, it’s better to commit to regular dental healthcare practices as soon as possible to avoid painful conditions that can be expensive or impossible to fully treat if they become severe.