But when we get older, we never get instructions on how to brush properly, even though our teeth and dental issues are different from when we were children.
“When we’re adults, we tend to get periodontal disease [aka gum disease] and not cavities,” says periodontist Joan Otomo-Corgel, DDS, MPH, FACD, APDC. “The problem is on the root and underneath the gum tissues. The way we brush as adults should be different from the way we brushed as children.”
And the truth is that without our parents forcing us to get annual dental visits, many of us don’t really take great care of our mouths! One study found that a third of adults polled had not visited their dentist in the last year. And another study found that half of all American adults suffer from gum disease.
Here’s some advice for grown-ups from Otomo-Corgel on how to take good care of your teeth and gums.
Brush your chewing surfaces, first. Then brush the inside of the mouth. Brush the outside of your teeth last because the bristles will be more flexible and less likely to cause abrasion and striping of the gum tissues, says Otomo Corgel.
She also says that if you’re rubbing your hand back and forth, then you’re doing it wrong. You need to jiggle it. While electric toothbrushes are not necessary, they do promote “jiggling” so it makes brushing correctly a no-brainer. A soft brush is best, she says.
Visit your dentist twice a year, or more if you’re prone to tartar buildup or gum disease. While brushing and flossing daily helps prevent bacteria from building up in your mouth, you need a dentist visit to fully scrape clean the tartar that can build up and lead to gum disease.
Brushing twice a day is sufficient for most. Floss daily, preferably at night. Really. You need to floss. “If my patients flossed once a day it would be a hallelujah moment for me,” jokes Otom-Corgel.
Anti-bacterial mouthwash and/or a water pick can help if you’re experiencing some mild gum tenderness, bleeding or swelling—an indication that you probably have some form of gum disease—and you need some extra cleaning help.
Good teeth and gum health is more important than most of us realize. Gum disease has been associated with many chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and even heart disease. Make a dentist appointment for you or someone in your family—today.