Oral Hygiene Routine Steps: Dental Care Guide 2022

Written by Dr. Febin Mary George, BDS | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Shaista Salam, BDS; Dr. Zein El Hammouz, DDS, MFD/RCSI Fact Checked ✓

Table of Contents 

1. 5 top steps of a healthy teeth care routine

2. What's the correct order of oral hygiene?

3. Oral hygiene routine: Best practices & tips 

4. What happens if you don't clean your teeth?

5. How to take care of teeth (Special Cases)

 

Healthy and strong teeth cannot be developed overnight. You must practice the steps in your oral hygiene routine properly to achieve optimum oral health. 

This article will walk you through the ideal oral hygiene routine, so read on to find out how you can plan one for yourself!

5 Top Steps of a Healthy Teeth Care Routine

1. Follow Good Dental Practices

Educate yourselves about good dental practices and follow them diligently. For instance, brushing your teeth at least twice daily or after each meal. 

2. Clean Your Teeth in the Right Order

Following the right order of oral hygiene practices can make a lot of difference to your oral health. While the recommended order is flossing, brushing, and then rinsing with a mouthwash, you can follow what works best for you.

3. Avoid Bad Dental Habits

Habits that may harm your teeth or gums should be avoided. For instance, opening bottle caps with your front teeth or chewing on hard substances like ice, candy, pens, etc.

4. Protect Your Teeth With Regular Checkups 

Visit your dentist at least once every 6 months to ensure your teeth are free from cavities and your gums stay healthy.

5. Good Nutrition for Oral Health

Our nutrition is deeply connected with our oral health. Therefore, one should have a balanced diet and avoid sugary foods and beverages to maintain good oral health.

 

What's The Correct Order Of Oral Hygiene?

We understand that brushing and flossing are imperative for clean and healthy teeth. Wondering whether there is a specific oral hygiene routine order you should follow? According to our team of dental professionals, this is the order you should stick with :

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Flossing, brushing and mouthwash are the three steps to ideal oral hygiene

 

1. Flossing

When we floss between two teeth, the food debris stuck in the interdental spaces is pushed out. These areas are otherwise inaccessible by your toothbrush bristles. If flossing is followed by brushing, then the fluoride in your toothpaste can flow into these tiny interdental areas and exert its antibacterial action. 

Moreover, some studies suggest that a proper oral hygiene routine should have flossing first, followed by brushing, to reduce interdental plaque. (1) 

2. Brushing

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth at least twice daily for around two minutes. 

3. Mouthwash

Among the many dental hygiene tips outlined by dentists, using fluoride mouthwash can be an effective adjunct to your oral hygiene.(11)

  • According to the National Health Service (NHS), mouthwash should not be used right after brushing. (2) 
  • The American Dental Association (ADA) says that mouthwash can be used either before or after brushing, but it is preferable to wait at least 15-30 minutes after brushing. (12

Brushing and flossing daily, irrespective of the order, will certainly keep your teeth in good shape, but following the recommended order can help you get the most out of your oral hygiene routine.

 

Oral Hygiene Routine: Best Practices & Tips

 

1. Flossing Tips  

  • Flossing the whole teeth:

You should ensure all the surfaces of your teeth are getting cleaned with your floss. When flossing between two teeth, floss against one surface first, then proceed to floss the other surface too. Click here to learn which is the best type of floss for you.  

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A boy flosses his white teeth to maintain his oral hygiene

 

  • Use different floss sections when cleaning

Cleaning two or more interdental areas with the same floss section will distribute bacteria present in one spot to all the teeth. Therefore, use different sections of floss for different teeth.  

  • Do not stop if your gums bleed

If you find that your gums bleed while flossing, do not get discouraged and discontinue flossing. Bleeding is a sign of inflamed gums, which occurs due to irritation from bacteria and plaque buildup. Flossing clears this bacterial plaque and helps your gums recover. 

2. Mouthwash Tips

  • Do not overuse mouthwash

Most mouthwash brands recommend usage twice a day. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to stay within safe limits.

As per studies, the overuse of chlorhexidine mouthwash can cause staining on the teeth. (7)

  • Choose the best mouthwash for you

With so many brands of mouthwash available in the market, choosing the right one can get tricky. Focus on the goals you wish to achieve and select the mouthwash based on its ingredients. 

For instance, a plaque-control mouthwash containing chlorhexidine is a practical choice if bad breath and inflamed gums are your primary concern. (13

  • Don’t immediately rinse with water

To ensure maximum effectiveness, avoid eating or drinking anything for at least half an hour after rinsing your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash. (2)

3. Brushing Tips

  • Pick the right toothbrush for you

With companies offering toothbrushes in various colors and shapes, choosing the right one for you can be daunting. 

  • Pick one with a head that can easily reach all the parts of your mouth.
  • The handle should be of adequate length and grip. 
  • Always check the bristles’ texture for soft or ultra-soft, as these are the most recommended options by dentists.

After use, store your toothbrush upright using a toothbrush holder or cup.

  • Replace your toothbrush often

Your brush may be unfit for use if its bristles start fraying. Therefore, it is advisable to replace your toothbrush every three to four months to ensure optimum cleaning efficiency. (3) 

  • Don’t forget to brush your tongue!

Your teeth care routine is incomplete if you forget to brush your tongue! Our tongue has tiny projections on its surface. Food particles get trapped in these spaces, which serve as an excellent breeding spot for oral bacteria. Therefore, tongue cleaning is an essential step in your dental hygiene routine.

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A girl brushes her tongue as a good oral hygiene practice

 

  • Soft vs. Hard brush

The American Dental Association recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth.  Hard bristles can injure your gums and wear away the outermost layer (enamel) of your teeth. (3)

 

What happens if you don't clean your teeth?

If proper oral hygiene is not maintained, you can end up with plaque and calculus buildup. This can then progress to gum disease and, in the most advanced stages, even tooth loss. 

1. Dental Plaque

Dental plaque is a sticky film formed by bacteria and food debris present in your mouth. (8) The bacteria release acids when they feed on these food particles stuck on the teeth. The acids damage the teeth' structure which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.  

2. Gum disease

Dental plaque can form on the teeth as well as along the gumline. If not removed by cleaning, it turns into hard calculus, which irritates the gums, causing gum inflammation, swelling, bleeding on brushing, etc. (9) When left untreated, gum disease can progress to more severe stages (periodontitis). 

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Healthy gums and bones vs unhealthy gums and bone due to good oral hygiene vs poor oral hygiene

3. Tooth decay and loss

Acids produced by oral bacteria destroy the teeth' structure and cause cavities. (10) Additionally, advanced gum disease can destroy the bone supporting your teeth, resulting in your tooth falling out. 

 

Is Professional Teeth Cleaning Necessary?

Yes. Teeth cleaning at home removes only the soft deposits and food remnants stuck to your teeth. Without correct brushing techniques, these soft deposits are left behind on the teeth and harden over time to form calculus that is difficult to remove through regular brushing. 

During professional teeth cleaning, special tools are used to loosen the hard deposits and clean the visible surfaces of your teeth. Thus, regular professional cleanings ensure good gum health and cavity-free teeth.

 

The Importance Of Nutrition In Oral Health

Good nutrition is of great significance for optimum oral health. (4) Whatever we consume affects our teeth. For instance, sugary substances can increase the chances of dental decay, whereas frequently having acidic foods or beverages can wear down the teeth.

Having a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables ensures that you receive a good supply of fiber and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. 

 

How To Take Care Of Teeth (Special Cases)

 

1. With Clear Aligners or Braces

If you have clear aligners, you can take them off and brush and floss your teeth as you normally would. 

With braces, you may find it challenging to clean your teeth because of all the metal components. In such cases, you can use special interdental toothbrushes to navigate between the wires and brackets and maintain good oral hygiene. 

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A girl uses the interdental brush to clean her metal braces

 

2. When You are Pregnant 

Brush your teeth at least two times a day and floss daily to keep all the teeth surfaces clean. If you have morning sickness and are frequently vomiting, your doctor may recommend the use of antibacterial mouthwash, in addition to toothbrushing, to keep a check on plaque formation (15). It’s a good idea to try and find a mild-flavored toothpaste that doesn't trigger a gag reflex.

In conclusion, having a well-planned oral hygiene routine makes a huge difference to the condition of your teeth, gums, and your overall oral health. Pick the right order as per your preferences to make sure to floss, brush and use mouthwash every day!

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FAQs

1. What is a good oral hygiene routine?

A good oral hygiene routine involves tooth brushing, flossing, tongue-cleaning, and rinsing with mouthwash. 

2. In what order should I brush, floss and mouthwash?

It is advisable to floss first, then brush. Use a mouthwash for at least 15-30 minutes after brushing or after your meals. (1)

3. How do you fix poor oral hygiene?

Keeping your mouth clean with a good oral care routine is the best way to fix poor oral hygiene.

4. How to prevent tooth decay?

Dental decay occurs when oral bacteria act on the food debris stuck to your teeth and produce acids that dissolve your teeth' structure. (10

Hence, toothbrushing after meals and avoiding foods that are starchy or sticky can help you prevent tooth decay.

5. How can I keep my teeth healthy and strong?

An effective oral hygiene routine with regular dental checkups every 6 months can help keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong.

 

References

  1. Mazhari, F., Boskabady, M., Moeintaghavi, A. and Habibi, A. (2018). The effect of toothbrushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Periodontology, 89(7), pp.824–832. doi:10.1002/jper.17-0149.
  2. ‌nhs.uk. (2022). How to keep your teeth clean. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/how-to-keep-your-te….
  3. www.ada.org. (n.d.). Toothbrushes. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/o….
  4. www.ada.org. (n.d.). Nutrition and Oral Health. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/nutrition-and-oral-health.
  5. Assari, A.S., Mohammed Mahrous, M., Ahmad, Y.A., Alotaibi, F., Alshammari, M., AlTurki, F. and AlShammari, T. (2022). Efficacy of Different Sterilization Techniques for Toothbrush Decontamination: An Ex Vivo Study. Cureus. doi:10.7759/cureus.21117.
  6. ‌CDCTobaccoFree (2022). Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss. [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html#:~:text=In%20severe%20cases%2C%20it%20can.
  7. Pałka, Ł., Nowakowska-Toporowska, A. and Dalewski, B. (2022). Is Chlorhexidine in Dentistry an Ally or a Foe? A Narrative Review. Healthcare, 10(5), p.764. doi:10.3390/healthcare10050764.
  8. ‌Kamath, S. and Hegde, R. (2017). Comparison of the Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus colony count changes in saliva following chlorhexidine (0.12%) mouth rinse, combination mouth rinse, and green tea extract (0.5%) mouth rinse in children. Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, 35(2), p.150. doi:10.4103/jisppd.jisppd_13_17.
  9. ‌Rathee, M. and Jain, P. (2020). Gingivitis. [online] PubMed. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557422/.
  10. ‌Fibryanto (n.d.). Effect of brushing the teeth before and after meals on salivary pH: A quasi-experimental study. [online] www.jioh.org. Available at: https://www.jioh.org/text.asp?2022/14/2/163/344062 [Accessed 26 Sep. 2022].
  11. Radzki, D., Wilhelm-Węglarz, M., Pruska, K., Kusiak, A. and Ordyniec-Kwaśnica, I. (2022). A Fresh Look at Mouthwashes—What Is Inside and What Is It For? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(7), p.3926. doi:10.3390/ijerph19073926.
  12. www.ada.org. (n.d.). Mouthrinse (Mouthwash). [online] Available at: https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/mouthrinse-mouthwash.
  13. Brookes, Z.L.S., Bescos, R., Belfield, L.A., Ali, K. and Roberts, A. (2020). Current uses of chlorhexidine for management of oral disease: a narrative review. Journal of Dentistry, 103, p.103497. doi:10.1016/j.jdent.2020.103497.
  14. ‌journal (2022). CHEMICAL FORMULATIONS FOR MOUTHWASHES. [online] journalijisr.com. Available at: http://journalijisr.com/issue/chemical-formulations-mouthwashes [Accessed 27 Sep. 2022].
  15. Erchick, D.J., Agrawal, N.K., Khatry, S.K., Katz, J., LeClerq, S.C., Reynolds, M.A. and Mullany, L.C. (2020). Adherence to and acceptability of three alcohol‐free, antiseptic oral rinses: A community‐based pilot randomized controlled trial among pregnant women in rural Nepal. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, [online] 48(6), pp.501–512. doi:10.1111/cdoe.12562.