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Brushing Up on Dental Products

Some expert advice on how to find the best dental products for you.

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"Everyone's mouth is different," Harms says. "For some, a sensitive toothpaste can help prevent mouth pain -- it works." Other people tend to build up tartar quickly. For them, Harms says, tartar control is a help, not hype.

What about whitening? Harms explains that there are two kinds of whitening, 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," she says. Douglass dismisses worries that whitening toothpastes can be too abrasive. "Most are low in abrasion and contain a form of peroxide," he says.

As for whiteners in general, including those applied by dentists, Douglass declares that they seem to be fine. Harms recommends seeing a dentist before using an over-the-counter brand to be sure your teeth are free of cracks or exposed root surfaces. "If your gums get irritated, stop using the product," Douglass says.

Both dentists had the same reaction on the subject of flosses: "We don't care what you use, just use some!" Harms notes that people could make such great strides in their dental health if they would just floss more -- or at all.

As with all dental products, Harms recommends checking on the floss packages for the ADA seal of approval, which shows the product has been independently tested and shown to be safe and effective.

Some people's teeth are very tight and those people should use thin, Teflon-coated tape. Usually, Douglass says, a lightly waxed or unwaxed floss is better -- when the space between the teeth becomes really clean, the floss makes a noise. "Squeaky clean!" he yelps.

How about those little brushes that go between teeth? "They are good for patients with space between their teeth or an area with space between," Harms says.

Rinses

Douglass says no mouthwash kills all the bacteria that cause gum disease. However, he does admit that mouthwashes containing essential oils, can slow the formation of plaque -- those amazingly successful, tight-knit globs of cooperating bacteria that can coat teeth and cause decay.

"Every little bit helps," Douglass says. "Rinsing with an essential oil mouthwash or even with plain water after brushing and flossing can cut plaque a little, although rinsing is no substitute for brushing and flossing."

Reminds Harms: "Every 24 hours a new crop of germs emerges." She also cautions that you must rinse the amount of time stated on the label. One last piece of advice. Don't overuse mouthwash. The American Academy of Periodontology says overuse can produce "sloughy, stinky tissue that is worse than what your breath is already like."

Miscellaneous Products

Dentists often prescribe mouth guards to stabilize jaws in people who grind their teeth at night. Generic guards are available at the drugstore and prescribed ones can cost hundreds of dollars. "I wouldn't treat this on your own," Harms says. "It is amazing the force your jaw can exert on your teeth. The specially measured guards can prevent other problems from arising by keeping teeth evenly apart."

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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