Choosing Oral Hygiene Products

added on: December 15, 2014

We get a lot of questions about the best products for taking care of your teeth. I usually answer this by reminding my patients why we are buying these products.

Dental plaque builds up on our teeth within 24 hours after being removed, and the bacteria in plaque cause damage to our teeth and gums after 72 hours. Plaque is the leading cause of decay and gum disease, so the goal of taking care of our teeth is to remove all the plaque every day.

How do you know if you are removing all the plaque?

Our Dental Fitness Program measures the percentage of plaque free and bleeding free areas on your teeth and gums during your preventive care visit – this gives you great feedback on how you are doing and where you might need to improve. With levels above 90%, you are well on your way to great dental health.

There are so many products on the market it can become confusing.

It is important to realize, however, that brushing technique is the MOST important factor in successful daily oral hygiene. The selection of “new,” “improved,” or “revolutionary” home care devices can never overcome poor technique or irregular use. You can have a very effective level of home care with an inexpensive manual toothbrush and floss, when done correctly.

Toothbrush selection

This is largely a matter of personal choice but should follow a few important guidelines. Always choose a SOFT bristled toothbrush. The size of the bristle head should not exceed the width of two back teeth. Ease and comfort of the handle is important individually. Automatic and electronic toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of our patients, and especially helpful if dexterity is an issue. We see excellent results with electric toothbrushes namely Sonicare and Oral-B. Pay particular attention to the manufacturer’s directions for use, as they are slightly different than manual brushing techniques.

Oral Irrigators

Oral Irrigators (water spraying devices like Waterpik) will rinse your mouth thoroughly, but will not remove plaque. You need to brush and floss in conjunction with the irrigator. Automatic air flossers are new on the market and have no yet proven to be more effective than regular flossing, but may be easier. There are also tiny brushes, often oddly angled, (interproximal toothbrushes) that clean between your teeth. The use of these should be in very specific areas as instructed by our hygienists. Improper use could injure the gums.

Fluoride mouth rinses

Mouth rinses like ACT, if used in conjunction with brushing and flossing can reduce tooth decay as much as 40%. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age. Antibacterial rinses such as Triology and Peridex have proven to be effective for reducing the inflammation of gingivitis when used after brushing and flossing.


Use any toothpaste you like with fluoride. Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but gum disease starts below the gum line so these products have not been proven to reduce the early stage of gum disease. Additionally, some patients report increased tooth root sensitivity with tartar control toothpastes. If you notice this, discontinue their use and consult our team for additional recommendations. Sensitive toothpastes have been around a long time, and have proven to be helpful in reducing sensitive teeth in about 2/3 of the cases. They need to be used at least 3-4 weeks to judge their effectiveness.

What about whitening toothpastes?

There are two kinds – those with mild abrasives to remove stains and those with bleach to take out deep-down discoloration. Whitening toothpastes are not on your teeth long enough to bleach, but can take out some stains. Also, most whitening toothpastes are low in abrasion and contain a form of peroxide, so are pretty safe.

Dental Floss

Some people’s teeth are very tight and those people should use thin, Teflon-coated tape or floss. Usually, lightly waxed or unwaxed floss is better when the space between the teeth becomes really clean, the floss makes a noise – squeaky clean!

Finally, The American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance is there to help you make good choices. When you see the ADA Seal on a package, you can be sure the product inside has been scientifically evaluated to be safe and effective. You may take it for granted that’s true of all products, but not all products submitted for the Seal meet the ADA’s stringent requirements. In fact, to obtain the ADA Seal companies frequently are asked to meet higher standards than what is required by law.

As always, if you have questions or our looking for recommendations – ask our hygienists at your next preventive care visit. We know that if you use oral care products correctly, you will require less dentistry in your lifetime. It’s what you do at home that matters for your good dental health!