‘I’m a Dental Hygienist, and This Is My 6-Step Oral Health Routine’
Before we get into Difoggio's routine, a quick word on why the two major pillars of dental health—ie, flossing and brushing—even matter in the first place. (Hey! The basics are important.) Brushing your teeth twice daily helps rid your teeth of food and plaque: that white, tacky material on your teeth that contains bacteria that's harmful to your enamel."Eventually, the acid can break down tooth enamel, causing cavities. Plaque that isn't removed can also harden into tartar, making it harder to keep teeth clean," according to the Mayo Clinic. "Tartar buildup on your gums leads to inflammation that causes gum disease." Flossing, meanwhile, helps slow the onset of gum disease by further ridding the mouth of bacteria and halting the development of gingivitis, bad breath, and inflammation.
It's also worth remembering that a healthy mouth is an investment in your overall health and well-being. "Removing the bacteria lifts the burden off of your immune system, giving your body the chance to send resources elsewhere," Chris Strandburg, DDS, dentist and spokesperson for WaterPik, previously told Well+Good. "When your body is constantly fighting these bacteria, your immune system is taxed, inflammation occurs, and this can have a domino effect on your overall health."
Now that you know why your oral health deserves to be Important Habit Number One, it's time to get the specifics of DiFoggio's routine. Just make sure you that you also consult your dentist about what routine will be the right one for you.
A dental hygienist's morning oral health routine
- "The absolute first thing I do in the morning is take out my night guard and retainer and clean them," says DiFoggio. "I use soap and water with a soft toothbrush, but depending on what type of retainer or what type of night guard you have, your dentist may have different instructions for you on how to clean them. So always follow their instructions." She leaves her retainer and night guard case open so they can dry out during the day.
- Next up is brushing! "I brush with my electric toothbrush before I eat breakfast," says the dental hygienist.
- Third, DiFoggio pulls out her tongue scraper. "A tongue scraper is so good to use, especially in the morning, to get all of that morning breath gunk off of your tongue," she says.
- "Next, I rinse and then use my interdental brushes. They are super quick and I feel these help so much to use in the mornings right when you wake up, especially for those of us who get heavy plaque and tartar build up on our lower front teeth," says DiFoggio.
- She then rinses her mouth, moisturizes, the goes to breakfast.
- "Following breakfast, I'm back to the bathroom to brush (if it's been at least 30 minutes after eating). You don't want to brush immediately after eating and should wait at least 30 to 60 minutes. This is because brushing too soon may damage your enamel while it's in its weakened state from the acids from the foods that you just at," says DiFoggio. If she doesn't have time to wait for 30 minutes, she'll simply rinse her mouth with water and an anti-cavity mouthwash.
A dental hygienist's evening oral health routine
- "For nighttime, I brush using my electric toothbrush. I brush with whatever toothpaste I have on hand as long as it contains fluoride. I do not rinse with water yet—all I do is spit the toothpaste out. I then clean out my electric toothbrush by rinsing it while it is turned on," says DiFoggio.
- It's nighttime and that means... flossing! Because DiFoggio hasn't rinsed her mouth yet, there's still some toothpaste on her teeth. "The idea is that the floss is spreading the toothpaste up and down in between my teeth," she says. Talk about a pro tip.
- "Then, I will use my tongue scraper. The tongue scraper that I use has rubber bristles and a scraper at the back so it both brushes and scrapes your tongue," says DiFoggio.
- Now, DiFoggio is finally ready to rinse and gargle with water. "I like to use super warm water to gargle with to help prevent tonsil stones and get mucus out of my throat," she says, noting that it is actually recommended to leave the toothpaste on your teeth, but she prefers to gargle and rinse.
- Afterward, DiFoggio likes to either uses her interdental brushes or water floss. "On the nights I don't use interdental brushes, I will water flosser. While some people need to water floss daily—especially those who have gingivitis or gum disease—I still love it and anyone can benefit from it," she says.
- "Nearing the end, I do my fluoride mouthwash. I try to swish for the full one minute, according to the instructions. Once I'm done rinsing, I will spit it out and will not rinse with any water after," says DiFoggio. She puts on her night guard and her retainer, and moisturizers her lips one last time. Then, bam, she's done!
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