July 24, 2020 — 11:30 a.m. EST
On days when I don’t feel like flossing, I find the motivation by remembering that an unexpected tooth issue could lead to a very unexpected trip to the dentist. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m trying not to make any trips I don’t have to. To make sure I was taking care of my teeth the best way I could, I was curious about easy ways to improve oral health at home.
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To find out more, DoctorOz.com spoke with Dr. Nammy Patel, DDS, who runs Green Dentistry in San Francisco, and the author of Age With Style: Your Guide To a Youthful Smile & Healthy Living. Dr. Patel helped share five things anyone can start doing today that will have lasting effects on their oral health in the long run. Here’s what she suggests.
Use an Electric Toothbrush
In multiple independent studies, electric toothbrushes outweighed the benefits of manual brushes by a landslide. According to the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, “electric toothbrushes resulted in 22% less gum recession and 18% less tooth decay over the 11-year period.” Why? Because electric toothbrushes with oscillating heads make it easy to remove plaque. According to DentalHealth.org, a healthy brushing routine consists of brushing for two minutes, twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste.
Dr. Patel credits the effects of electric toothbrushes to the pulsations. “It hits your tooth with up to 50,000 pulsations per minute so your teeth are super clean,” she says. Though electric toothbrushes were once thought of as the more expensive option, they are more accessible than ever. Rechargeable electric brushes are now available for as little as under $15.
Use a Water Flosser
While Dr. Patel says everyone should make flossing part of their daily routine, adding a water flosser can only help. She says it’s perfect for hard to reach places and is a much faster way to floss. According to Healthline, this can also be particularly helpful if you wear braces, have removable bridgework, or have crowns or dental implants.
Try Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is basically like swishing with mouthwash. Try swishing with sesame or coconut oil and “pull” it back and forth between your teeth to help clean them. “It has been shown to pull toxins out of the gums and to reduce plaque and gingivitis,” says Dr. Patel. “I recommend swishing with 2 tbsp of oil once daily at night before bed,” she says. There’s not a ton of research on oil pulling, but it is a cheaper alternative to mouthwash that some experts say yield similar results.
Rinse with Hydrogen Peroxide & Salt
Rinsing with salt has antibacterial properties, which is why it’s so often recommended for oral care post-wisdom teeth surgery or to help fight off gingivitis. To up the ante, Dr. Patel recommends mixing salt with hydrogen peroxide and water for an even deeper clean. “I highly recommend mixing a tablespoon of peroxide with 8 ounces of water and a teaspoon of salt: swish for 30-60 seconds. This can break down the outer layer of viruses and reduce that population in the mouth area,” she says. She recommends doing this daily at night.
Try & Avoid Mouth Breathing
Dr. Patel says this dries out the mouth, which can “increase gum disease, plaque, and tooth decay. Breathing through the nose activates nitric oxide.” According to Healthline, “Nitric oxide production is essential for overall health because it allows blood, nutrients and oxygen to travel to every part of your body effectively and efficiently.”
If you’re a mouth breather, Dr. Patel recommends mouth taping — yep, literally taping your mouth shut as you sleep — to train yourself to sleep with your mouth closed and paying close attention to your sinuses so you can nip any breathing issue in the bud as it starts. If you notice an issue, try taking a decongestant.
These tricks are easy, affordable, and can have real results when it comes to improving your oral health. Remember, keeping up a safe oral health routine is crucial for not only the health of your mouth, but larger health issues such as liver and heart functions. Ignoring dental care can be detrimental for your overall health over time.
Cheaper dental plans that aren’t provided by an employer can range from $9 to $15 per month, and can help prevent larger oral health problems in the future. If you still can't get on a dental health insurance plan, look for a public dental clinic in your area or look up your local dental school. Most dental schools offer reduced rates to get your problem taken care of by a student.