October 11, 2020
Perhaps we don't spend enough time in the dental care aisle of our grocery store, drug store, or pharmacy--at least not enough time to make our dentists happy.
The next time you're in your bathroom, cast a glance at your toothbrush. Does it look fresh, clean, and ready for action? Are the bristles peppy? Or does it look like something sad, like a puppy abandoned in the rain? Would you hide your toothbrush if you had company?
Move on to the medicine cabinet now and rustle up your dental floss. Do you even own any? Or how old is this stuff? Does it ever expire? How often do you use it?
We often have the best intentions for taking care of our teeth, but in reality, many of us are overdue for a walk down the dental care aisle.
Let's start with the toothbrush
A good rule of thumb is this: If you were to have a romantic encounter tonight with somebody new, would the state of your toothbrush embarrass you? Is the stem besmirched with dried toothpaste? Do the bristles look like Nick Nolte's hair?
The popular wisdom is to replace your toothbrush--or, in the case of an electric toothbrush, the head--once every three months. After all, we are sticking this thing in our mouths at least twice a day.
Buying a new toothbrush can seem like a chore; there are so many different kinds of toothbrushes on the dental care aisle. But why not try something exciting and new this time? What about something sustainable, like a bamboo toothbrush, instead of another hunk of plastic from a mega-brand? Bamboo toothbrushes can be biodegradable and stylish. Some bamboo brushes come with activated charcoal bristles, for additional cleaning power. (Activated charcoal has been shown to help clean bacteria and plaque out of your mouth and to help remove stains).
And now, some new toothpaste
The same rule for toothbrushes should apply to toothpaste: If you'd be embarrassed to let company see your tube of toothpaste--if it's missing the cap, covered in dried paste, and smashed into an odd shape--consider picking up something new when you buy your new brush.
And, while you're on the sustainability kick, why not try a natural toothpaste tablet? Powders and tablets are rising in popularity. The packaging for those products is probably easier to recycle (or reuse) than the traditional tube of mega-mart toothpaste you grew up on.
There is also research that suggests that toothpaste containing fluoride is harmful to the production of nitric oxide in our bodies. And nitric oxide is believed to be beneficial in helping our bodies fight the coronavirus.
What about mouthwash?
The same research suggests that antiseptic mouthwash is also bad for nitric oxide production. Antiseptic mouthwashes can inhibit the growth of all bacteria in your mouth, both good and bad. Alcoholic mouthwashes can also cause a bad breath problem to become worse because they dry out your mouth. Your saliva works to maintain a proper pH in your mouth; without it, bad bacteria are free to run amok.
You know we have to talk about dental floss
Studies from the American Dental Association usually show that everybody hates flossing. Seriously. A few years back, the number was something like 10% of people in the U.S. floss daily.
Dentists recommend flossing because you can't brush the sides of your teeth that are next to other teeth. If you leave bacteria in there, you are opening yourself up to all kinds of dental problems.
It's often a source of humor that dentists are so adamant about flossing. However, the problem remains that we probably just don't floss nough. Be sure to visit our step-by-step flossing guide for more information on technique.