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Oral Hygiene Aids

Regular dental exams are essential for maintaining excellent oral hygiene and diagnosing potential problems, but they are not a “fix-all” solution. To avoid furure dental problems, thorough oral homecare routines should be maintained on a daily basis.

Periodontitis (also called gum or periodontal disease) is the #1 cause of tooth loss in the developed world, and is completely preventable in the vast majority of cases. Professional cleanings twice a year along with daily self-cleaning can remove a high percentage of disease-causing plaque and bacteria. In addition, teeth that are regularly maintained make for a sparkling white smile.

There are many types of oral hygiene products on the supermarket shelves, and it can be hard to select which will provide the ultimate benefit to your teeth.

Some of the most common oral hygiene products for homecare are:

Dental Flosses

Dental floss is the most common subgingival (below the gum) and interdental cleaner and comes in a variety of flavors and types. The floss itself is made from either mono (polyethelene) ribbons (ex.- Glide) or multi (nylon) filaments. The former is the better type. Vigorous flossing with a floss holder are becoming more popular, but can cause soft tissue damage and bleeding, so greater care should be taken. Floss should normally be used twice a day after brushing.

Interdental Cleaners

Many periodontists and hygienists recommend interdental brushes in addition to dental floss. These tiny brushes are very effective and gentle in cleaning the contours of teeth in between the gums. Interdental brushes come in various sizes and shapes.

Mouth Rinses

There are basically two types of mouth rinses available: Therapeutic rinses which may or may not require a prescription and cosmetic rinses which are sold OTC and temporarily suppress bad breath. Most dentists are unsure about the benefits of cosmetic rinses because several studies have shown that their effectiveness against plaque is minimal. Therapeutic rinses contain active ingredients that can help reduce plaque, bad breath, and are regulated by the FDA. Mouth rinses should typically be used after brushing and flossing.

Oral Irrigators

Oral irrigators, like Waterpiks and Water Jets, have been shown to clean bacteria and food particles from below the gum line. They should not be used instead of brushing and flossing and should be used on a very low setting. Professional cleanings are recommended at least twice a year to remove deeper debris.


Tongue Scrapers

Tongue scrapers are special devices which have been designed to remove the buildup of bacteria, fungi, and food debris from the tongue surface. Tongue scrapers can be made from metal, plastic, or wood and made in accordance with the contours of the tongue. The bacteria and fungi that colonize on the tongue have been related to bad breath (halitosis) and a great many systemic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and respiratory disease. Tongue cleaning should be done prior to brushing to prevent the intake of bacteria and fungi.


There are a great many toothbrush types available. Electric toothbrushes (ex.- Sonicare or Oral B) are typically recommended by dentists because electric brushes are much more effective than manual brushes. The rotary or vibrating motion helps to easily remove food particles and easily dislodge plaque from around the teeth and gums. The same results can be obtained using a manual brush, but much more effort is needed to do so.

Manual toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months because worn bristles become ineffective over time. Soft bristle toothbrushes are far less damaging to gum tissue than the medium and hard bristle varieties.  Teeth should ideally be brushed after each meal, or minimally twice every day.

If you have any questions about oral hygiene aids, please ask Dr. Braithwaite or the dental hygienist.