The Oral Hygiene Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Teeth


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You’ve got your skincare regimen and beauty routine on lock – but how well do you score when it comes to oral health? You obviously know you’ve got to brush your teeth two or three times a day, and that eating or drinking tons of sugary stuff is a recipe for cavities. What about the not-so-obvious mistakes, though? We’re talking about the kinds of oblivious mishaps lots of people make every day without ever realizing they’re wreaking havoc on their smile. We reached out to three dentists who were happy to share the common oral hygiene no-nos they see their own patients make all the damn time. BTW, you probably do at least two of these!

1. Using Toothpicks to Clean

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Restaurants may provide toothpicks for you at the end of your meal, or you may even have a stash you keep at home. Our dentists say… just don’t. “The sharp aspect of the toothpick can damage the delicate gum tissue between the teeth. Also, the toothpick does nothing to clean between the teeth or move plaque from under the gum line,” says Dr. Inna Chern, DDS and founder of New York General Dentistry. “In fact, sometimes a toothpick has the negative counter effect of pushing food particles lower into the gum tissue. I recommend flossing with either regular floss or using a water flosser, such as Waterpik Portable, $55, a personal favorite of mine.”

2. Ignoring the How-To Instructions on Your Electric Toothbrush

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Raise a sheepish hand if you’ve purchased an electric toothbrush, quickly unwrapped it, and didn’t give a second glance to all the instructional literature printed on the package before tossing it. We’re going to wager that many of us have done this – guilty! While electric toothbrushes are basically a gift from the dental gods, that’s only true if you’re using them as instructed.

“Different electric brushes require different brushing techniques, and that the wrong technique could render this potentially very effective brush almost useless,” says Dr. Marc Lazare, DDS and president of the Academy of Biomimetic Dentistry. “For example, if you use the Sonicare, you must hold the bristles lightly over two teeth at a time for a few seconds and move slowly to the next two in order for the ultrasonic technology to work and vibrate everything off. Or with the Oral B, you need to move the round brush head slowly over each surface. As long as it touches the surface, it will do a much better job than the manual brush, but if you are pressing too hard or moving it around too fast you might as well go back to the manual brush.”

3. Rinsing or Brushing with Baking Soda

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Baking soda is a key ingredient in tons of toothpastes and oral hygiene products, so it should be okay to have a go with the straight stuff, right? Think again, friend. “Baking soda is essentially sodium bicarbonate, which is a basic solution that has a pH of about eight,” says Dr. Andi-Jean Miro, DDS. “Compare that to most over the counter [products], which have a pH range of about six to help kill off bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. [Making your own baking soda concoction] can totally throw your oral cavity balance out of harmony.”

4. DIYing Your Own “Natural” Toothpaste

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On that note, let’s talk about all DIY concoctions. How many of you have tried activated charcoal powder? (guilty, again!) There’s a line when it comes to concocting beauty and skincare goods at home. Easy, no-fail recipes – like sugar scrubs or hair masks – are one thing but retire the DIY hat and leave it to the pros when it comes to oral products. Even if you’re tempted to make your own “all natural” or “eco-friendly” formulation.

“As much as I love DIY, when it comes to health items, I recommend sticking to brands that have tested their formulations,” says Dr. Chern. “The mouth has a delicate harmony, and DIY products don’t have the same controls as companies that need to test before they go on the market. You may damage enamel if the DIY paste is too abrasive, or cause irritation to the delicate gum tissue if the pH is off in the toothpaste.”

This includes DIY baking soda, charcoal, and peroxide formulations. If you’re seeking a natural brand, Dr. Chern recommends the entire Tom’s of Maine line. Another great natural brand is Hello, and if you’re seeking environmentally friendly packaging then try BITE, which uses glass bottles.

Okay, confession time… Let us know how many of these oral hygiene mistakes you’ve been making in the comments!