10 common oral hygiene mistakes, according to dentists

Brushing too hard, using floss picks and other mistakes that put the health of your mouth at risk.

It’s been ingrained in your mind since you were old enough to wield a toothbrush: spend two minutes brushing your teeth three times a day. You still might even hum a familiar tune every time you step in front of the sink or go through the exact same “up and down, round and round” motions you did at age five.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 80 percent of people develop at least one cavity by age 34, so something’s not quite adding up. While genetics plays a factor in your likelihood to experience tooth decay, it’s not the only variable. To uncover some of the most common oral hygiene mistakes that may be contributing to the problem, we asked dentists to weigh in.

Problem #5: Only using floss picks

While using floss picks is better than not flossing at all, they’re not as effective as traditional string floss or water flossers. “Most people don’t even use the picks to their fullest potential [and instead] ‘pop’ them through the contacts and move on to the next space,” says Dr. Irina Sinensky, a dentist for NYC's Dental House. In addition to not being thorough enough, “this can also spread bacteria from one location to another. It’s the up and down cleaning motion of each root surface that is recommended,” she says.

Problem #6: Not flossing because you see blood

“Patients tell me all the time that they don’t floss because their gums bleed when they do. I tell them to floss more instead,” says Dr. Sinensky. “Unhealthy gums — usually caused by bad oral hygiene — will bleed easily when they are touched. It’s like having a splinter under your skin that you never remove. The body will try to rectify the situation by bringing blood to the area and try to get rid of the infection.”

The more you floss, the less you’ll bleed and the better your oral health will be. Sinensky says to try a one-week challenge of flossing daily. You’ll see a significant improvement.

Problem #10: Only seeing the dentist when you’re in pain

Leaving work early to get to the dentist is, well, a pain — but it will save you real pain in the long run. Seeing a dentist regularly ensures your teeth and mouth are healthy. If you wait until you feel pain to see the dentist, there’s a strong likelihood you’re dealing with a serious issue versus one that could have been addressed effectively — and less expensively — much earlier.

“Many believe that if their mouth doesn’t hurt then there are no problems, and therefore they do not see their dentist regularly. However, a more intense and expensive treatment will be required if patients neglect to see their dentists at regular intervals and treat the small issues that may arise,” says Sinensky.

You should see your dentist for a regular checkup every six months. How long has it been for you? Time to get an appointment on the calendar.

By Wendy Rose Gould

Author
Irina Sinensky DDS Dr. Irina Sinensky is the co-founder of Dental House.

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