Keeping Your Smile Healthy Between Dental Hygiene Visits

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By Kim Glover, RDH

Our dental office and others have been instructed by our state’s governor to temporarily close our doors to everyone except those needing emergency care. This is to reduce the demand for gloves and masks, which are needed by our medical friends treating COVID-19 in hospitals.

At this time, some of my patients may have to wait three months or more to reschedule their postponed dental hygiene appointments. What can happen in three months? A lot! Three months is the amount of time it takes for bacteria to become fully organized under the gums. Once these bugs have organized themselves into little “armies,” they can be very destructive to gums and bone around the teeth! If a hygienist can see her patients at three-month intervals, we have the best chance to keep these bacteria armies under control.

Here are some ways you can keep your mouth as healthy as possible between dental appointments:

  1. Use a quality electric toothbrush. An electric toothbrush just cleans better than a manual brush can. Here are some ADA approved electric toothbrushes.
  2. Clean well between your teeth at least 1-2 times daily. Don’t just pop floss in and out quickly between your teeth; take a little extra time to “scrub” the floss all over to remove the thin, stuck-on plaque layer where “bacteria armies” grow.
  3. Use small, bristly brushes to scrub between your molars and premolars. These are called interproximal brushes and look like tiny pipe cleaners. Even excellent flossers are not able to remove all of the plaque from the dips and dimples on the in-between surfaces of our back teeth.
  4. Use a water flosser! You can find a good one in drugstores and online for $35-$60. This shoots a stream of water between your teeth and stirs up the bacteria armies under the gums that your toothbrush and floss probably cannot reach. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your water flosser. Here’s one that earned the ADA Seal of Approval.

Use warm water with a touch of plain chlorine bleach added for your water flosser. One teaspoon bleach to one quart of water is the right amount to keep your water flosser clean and to help kill bad bugs under your gums. You can keep a small bottle of bleach in your bathroom and add it with an eyedropper to your water flosser.

  1. Use an alcohol-free antiseptic rinse. My favorite is a rinse called Closys, available at drugstores and online.
  2. Check out dental probiotics! These good bacteria compete with and overcrowd bad bacteria to make your mouth a healthier place. I believe we are going to see more probiotic solutions to medical and dental problems in the future.

If you have had to postpone your routine dental care appointment, I sympathize; I had to do that, too! Use these tips to keep your mouth as healthy as possible until we meet again!