6 oral care products for a healthier smile

The dentist has probably repeated this message dozens of times: It’s important to take care of your teeth and gums. “When you have poor oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to tooth decay and gum disease,” says Jessica Tasios, D.D.S., owner of Ora Dental and Edition Dental in Toronto.  

And it’s not just the mouth that’s at risk when that happens. Poor oral hygiene and gum disease may be harming overall health. Luckily, the drugstore aisles are filled with oral care products that can keep a mouth in tip-top shape. Here are Dr. Tasio’s suggestions for 6 items that are good to have at home.

1. Toothbrush

Of course, you brush your teeth every morning and night — or at least know you need to. After all, brushing removes plaque, which builds up on your teeth and causes cavities. Brushing also helps prevent gum disease and tooth decay.1  

But is it better to brush with an electric toothbrush or keep using a manual one? Either option helps keep the mouth healthy. But Dr. Tasios says electric toothbrushes are easier to use, especially for older adults who may have trouble using their hands. Electric brushes can be a bit more expensive but may be worth the investment depending on your oral health needs.

“Electric toothbrushes are good at removing the sticky films of bacteria that form on the teeth,” she says. “They also prevent a serious gum infection called periodontitis.” Periodontitis is also known as gingivitis when it’s in an early stage. It can lead to tooth and bone loss if it becomes more serious.2

Sticking with a manual toothbrush? Choose one with soft bristles and a smaller head that can reach all the corners of the mouth, says Dr. Tasios. Also consider a brush with angled bristles. That design is better at removing plaque, she says.

2. Toothpaste

Most of us already have a favorite kind of toothpaste. But if it doesn’t contain fluoride, it should. According to the ADA, all toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance must contain fluoride.3 Fluoride helps keep tooth enamel strong.3

It might be necessary to rethink toothpaste choices as a person gets older. As people age, they’re more likely to be taking medications that make the mouth dry.4 Having the right kind of toothpaste may help with reducing the symptoms of dry mouth.

“Dry mouth can cause discomfort, bad breath, mouth sores and trouble swallowing,” says Dr. Tasios. She recommends trying a toothpaste that contains ingredients that help lubricate the mouth, like xylitol and hyaluronic acid.

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3. Water flosser

A water flosser or water jet cleans plaque and food from underneath dentures and hard-to-reach areas. They’re easy to use and are a smart idea for older adults, who tend to have more dental work such as implants, crowns, bridges and dentures.  

“It’s like a power washer for your teeth,” Dr. Tasios says. “I use one myself every day.”

4. Floss

It’s common to skip this oral health step. But it’s important not to. Flossing removes food and plaque in between your teeth and along your gumline. Those are places that a toothbrush can’t reach well. Flossing helps lower the risk of gum disease, tooth decay and cavities.5 It helps keep breath fresher too.  

Dr. Tasios recommends flossing at least once a day, preferably before brushing. Use waxed floss and floss picks for better results.

5. Tongue scraper

A tongue scraper is a tool used to help clean the tongue. According to the ADA, use it by starting at the back of the tongue and pulling the scraper forward to remove bacteria and food debris.6

“People don’t realize, you can have a lot of harmful bacteria on your tongue that inflames your gums and causes cavities,” Dr. Tasios says. “A tongue scraper is a game changer, especially if you have bad breath.”  

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Talk to the dentist about the one that will work best for you. Another option: Brushing the tongue with a toothbrush to get similar results.

6. Denture adhesive

If you don’t wear dentures, you won’t need this one. But many older adults wear them and may need adhesive to keep them in place. If dentures slip often, that’s a sign of a problem. Dr. Tasios says people don’t need to use adhesive regularly if their dentures fit correctly.  

She also recommends choosing an adhesive that does not contain zinc. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, too much zinc can build up in your body and cause nerve damage.7

Use these tools every day to help keep your mouth in tip-top shape — your teeth and gums will thank you.

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