November 26, 2022

Which oral hygiene products are the most effective—and which ones can you skip?
You could spend a small fortune on home dental care if you believed the ads, but research from the American Dental Association (ADA) shows, for the average patient, following your dentist’s and hygienist’s advice is all you need: Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth daily. Still, your options are many; here’s what the professionals say is worth your time and money.  
“Statistically, one is no better than the other. If you were a perfect brusher with a regular toothbrush, you could do just as good a job as the electric toothbrush. The electric toothbrush compensates for less-than-perfect brushing,” says Dr. Liam Doran, with Avon Family Dentistry. The built-in timers help ensure people brush for the recommended two minutes, he says. During those two minutes, the ADA and Doran recommend brushing top and bottom teeth, inside and outside. Brushing the tongue can help with bad breath, and can be done with either type of toothbrush.
Be sure it contains fluoride, and for those with sensitive teeth, choose toothpaste designed for such teeth. While whitening toothpastes can have slight effects by removing surface stains due to coffee and smoking, they don’t change the natural color that goes beyond the tooth’s surface. For that, you need over-the-counter or professional bleaching products that have contact with the teeth for extended periods. If you have gum problems, use caution with whitening toothpastes, as they can aggravate gum sensitivity for those with gum recession.
The best way to clean between teeth daily is the method patients prefer and will follow, according to the ADA. Whether you choose waxed or unwaxed floss, glide floss or floss picks, research shows daily use decreases tooth decay. (If you’re worried about waste, there are now floss picks made of biodegradable or sustainable materials rather than plastics.) “I’d rather patients use the floss that they would use more regularly,” Doran says.
“Super floss” is extra thick, looks a little bit like a pipe cleaner and has a stiffness that’s effective at cleaning under an oral bridge, he says. Floss threaders also allow people to clean under the bridge. 
For people with dexterity challenges, oral irrigators, or water picks, are another option for cleaning between the teeth, Doran says. “They’re helpful around implants or bridges,” he says. For those with braces, water picks help irrigate around the gum tissue and wash away debris between the teeth. “Does everyone need it? Probably not,” he says. Be warned: Water picks make a bit of a mess. “It’s hard to keep the water from getting everywhere.” 
Wooden toothpicks and interdental brushes (with small, round or cone-shaped brushes) remove plaque and food between the teeth, but they can’t get between the top of the tooth and the gum the way floss can.
There’s nothing on the ADA website for home oral care recommending mouthwash, and Doran says he doesn’t recommend it after brushing. If you’ve brushed with a fluoride toothpaste, he recommends against rinsing your mouth afterward with mouthwash or water because you’re removing the fluoride protection from your teeth. Using mouthwash removes some bacteria initially, but the results are short-lived and typically have very little overall effect in reducing bacteria in the mouth, he says. “Aside from that, there are some mouth rinses with fluoride. Those are helpful for people with orthodontics,” he says. 
People with dry mouth, a common medication side effect, are more susceptible to tooth decay, and he recommends they stay hydrated and use oral sprays, mints, rinses or gum containing Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar that does not cause cavities. 
A small study published on PubMed.gov found that when people used products containing Xylitol, olive oil or betaine, it helped lessen dry-mouth symptoms without adverse side effects. Betaine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the body, and can also be found in foods such as beets, spinach, cereals, seafood and wine.
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