Although this sounds like a very basic question, it is something we hear a lot. Surprisingly, the dental care aisle at your regular supermarket can be an overwhelming place. The amount of choices in various products can be paralyzing, leaving you with an uncertainty to what actually is the best choice for you and your dental health. There are almost unlimited options for everything from toothpastes and mouthwashes to cleaning products like toothbrushes and interproximal cleaners. Amazingly enough, they are all “dentist recommended’. So how do you weed through the noise? We can help.
Choosing which type of toothbrush you should use is the first choice you need to make. Your toothbrush is the workhorse of your oral hygiene routine. Our recommendation is any toothbrush made by Sonicare. Our patients who use a Sonicare electric toothbrush regularly have less plaque accumulation at their checkup, less cavities and healthier gums. The secret is in the action of the brush doing the work for you, so that all you have to do is move it to the areas you want to clean. It does the rest. The built-in timer also keeps people brushing the two minutes twice a day we want them to instead of stopping early. If you absolutely refuse to go electric, then make sure you never brush with anything but a soft or extra soft bristle toothbrush. Medium and hard bristle toothbrushes are for shining shoes and creating gum recession. Harder is not better.
Our recommendation: Sonicare Diamond Clean or FlexCare
Once you’ve selected your new Sonicare toothbrush, the next task on the list is how to clean in between your teeth. The immediate answer is flossing. Flossing is the most neglected part of a good oral hygiene routine. Flossing, or lack thereof, is the primary culprit for tooth decay in our adult patients. A wise man once said, “Only floss the ones you want to keep”. If you are looking for specific recommendations, Glide floss by Oral B is our favorite floss on the market. It is thin, which allows it to get into tighter spots. It is also a superior quality and less likely to shred and get stuck in between your teeth. Interdental picks or plackers are very popular with people, but the quality of the floss in the prefabricated flosser is generally lower quality and tends to break or shred in tight spots. If you have trouble flossing effectively due to dexterity, or just don’t like it, a Waterpik, water flosser is an alternative to flossing to clean in between your teeth. Whatever your preference may be, get some and make it part of your routine once a day when brushing your teeth.
Our recommendation: OralB Glide floss or Waterpik Water Flosser
Our honorable mention as a sometimes-used dental instrument goes to the tongue scraper. When properly used, a tongue scraper will remove residual food debris and bacteria from the crevasses of your tongue. Doing this can significantly reduce bad breath, as well as reduce the risk of tooth decay. In certain cases, it can also improve your sense of taste.
Choosing a toothpaste can be more confusing than ordering from a menu in a foreign language. It seems like the companies that make them try to see just how many different variations of a product they can fit on a shelf. Cavity protection, Tooth whitening, Tartar control, Formulated for gum health, gel or paste…..the list goes on and on. Let’s simplify that for you. From a dental professional’s perspective, the number one rule of toothpaste is that it must contain fluoride. Fluoride helps to remineralize your teeth that have been damaged throughout the day by things you have eaten or drank. The use of a fluoride toothpaste twice a day is a pillar of cavity prevention. Once you check the fluoride box, the rest of the decision making with a toothpaste is a personal preference. The dirty little secret of the toothpaste aisle is they are all almost exactly the same. “Features” are added to toothpastes to be able to advertise to a different niche. Whitening toothpastes just have a larger abrasive. Anti-cavity toothpaste is just a fancy way of saying it has fluoride in it. Just pick what texture, flavor and brand you prefer and use that. Only one over-the-counter toothpaste gets an exception here. Toothpastes with potassium nitrate as an active ingredient, as popularized by Sensodyne, actually do work more effectively to reduce dentinal hypersensitivity. Other brands now use this ingredient as well. Be careful when choosing an anti-sensitivity product, and check the active ingredients on the box.
Our Recommendation: Sensodyne Pronamel for sensitive teeth. Any fluoride toothpaste for everyone else.
Many people use a mouthwash as part of their regular cleaning routine. Mouthwashes are yet another choice we make staring into a sea of different brands, flavors, colors and amazing claims of grandeur. First and foremost, mouthwash CANNOT take the place of flossing. Period. A few mouthwashes have claimed this in the past and have been subsequently reprimanded for false advertising. It is very important when choosing a mouthwash to know exactly what its purpose is for you. There are three main objectives of mouthwash: prevent cavities, reduce bacteria and freshen breath.
Cavity prevention mouthwashes are essentially fluoride mouth rinses. Any mouthwash with an acceptable concentration of fluoride will serve as another line of defense against tooth decay. There are many different products on the market from ACT, Colgate, Listerine and Crest that fall into this category. If you are prone to tooth decay, this is the choice for you. Check the active ingredients on the label as the claims on the front can be misleading.
Mouthwashes that kill bacteria will work two-fold as the reduction of the germs reduce the prevalence of gum disease as well as tooth decay. Mouthwashes do this in two separate ways, depending on the brand. Listerine brand mouthwashes rely primarily on alcohol to kill bacteria. Combined with essential oils in their rinse, Listerine has clinically proven to reduce gingivitis. Other mouthwashes, like Crest Pro Health rinse, use cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) as an active ingredient. These, too, have been shown to work well to reduce the bacteria in the mouth without the drying or burning of the higher alcohol rinses. As a disclaimer, we have seen in our clinic a few people on these rinses that have a side effect of staining of the teeth. It doesn’t happen often, but be aware and discontinue if you experience it.
The third and most popular reason to use mouthwash is to freshen breath. The best in class is Smart Mouth rinse. It uses Zinc as an active ingredient to reduce bad breath. If you prefer minty goodness, then you can pick any of the many options you like the flavor to get your boost of freshness. If solely using the rinse for bad breath, do try to avoid the super high concentrations of alcohol as they can dry out the mouth and make you feel like you need to use it more and more often.
Our recommendations: Choose your own adventure here. Every brand has options that fit most categories. Smart Mouth is by far the leader in bad breath prevention.
Hopefully that can condense hours of internet research into a few minutes of reading to allow you to choose the absolute best instruments and products for your home care routine. Remember, these products only work if you use them regularly. Brushing for 2 minutes twice a day and flossing/waterflossing once a day is the gold standard in dental health. If you have any questions that we haven’t answered feel free to contact us at [email protected] for more information.