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An electric toothbrush is almost always more effective than a manual brush because the brushing motion and speed is faster and more even. Inexpensive electric toothbrushes can still be extremely effective – you don’t need all the bells and whistles to find an electric toothbrush that does the job. If you’re having dexterity issues, look for an electric brush with a smaller brush head. To brush with an electric toothbrush, slide the brush over all the surfaces of your teeth, which takes about 30 seconds for each quadrant of your mouth. You don’t need to brush or scrub with the electric brush.
The only surefire way to remove bacteria and food from between your teeth is to use dental floss to scrape up and down between your teeth. Traditional floss is most effective here. Water silks squirt water between and around teeth, but don’t have the same mechanical effect of scraping off bacteria. That being said, it is better to use a water floss than to go without flossing altogether. Water silk can also be extremely useful for people with braces, bridges, or other orthodontists.
If the contacts or spaces between your teeth are close together, you may want to opt for waxed floss as it is a little more lubricated than unwaxed floss.
Oral care for sensitive teeth and gums
Sensitivity of the teeth and gums can cause a burning sensation or prolonged tingling sensation. Sensitive gums may be inflamed, swollen, or redder than usual. You may notice signs of sensitivity after eating particularly cold or hot foods, or after using certain mouthwashes and toothpastes. There are times when moderate sensitivity is normal, such as the few seconds after rinsing out a mouthwash or floss. However, if this sensation lasts longer – even hours – or your gum tissue has persistent pain, you may be dealing with more sensitivity. If you ever experience extreme oral pain or discomfort, or if you don’t like anything about your teeth, tongue, or gums, see a dentist right away.
If your teeth feel tender, especially after being triggered by a home whitening or certain food or drink, rub a pea-sized amount of delicate tooth-friendly toothpaste on your teeth before bed. You can do this every night for seven to ten days. If you have persistent painful or uncomfortable sensitivity, contact your dentist.
Ingredients to look for:
- fluoride helps strengthen teeth and fight sensitivity. While fluoride can benefit everyone, it is especially helpful for people who are prone to or want to prevent tooth decay. You can find both toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain fluoride.
- Potassium nitrate can help counteract sensitivity, especially when used as an additive in lightening products.
Ingredients to Avoid:
- If you are prone to developing canker sores (also known as stomatitis), avoid it Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, a chemical compound that works as a foaming agent in mouthwashes and toothpastes.
- You can avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Alcohol is found in some mouthwashes to break down the essential oils in the solution and can be especially irritating for people with dry mouth as it makes the dryness worse.
- Opt for mouthwashes that don’t contain one peroxide. Peroxide gently erodes your tooth enamel, which is helpful in removing surface stains. But it can also be inflammatory in people with sensitive teeth.
Oral care for teeth whitening
While whitening mouthwashes and toothpastes can be somewhat helpful with superficial stains on your teeth – such as when you drink coffee – their effectiveness pales in comparison to a real bleaching treatment done either at home or in a dentist’s office. Because the contact time between the bleach and your teeth is usually too short for your teeth to react to the active ingredients.
What makes a whitening treatment effective depends on a few variables, such as the concentration of the bleach, the intensity of the LED light used (if applicable), and the delivery system (how the light and bleach are delivered to the teeth). LED whitening treatments use blue light to speed up the chemical reaction between the bleach, usually hydrogen peroxide, and your teeth. Most home LED whitening treatments are not powerful enough to cause damage when used as directed, although they can cause sensitivity.
If you have sensitive teeth but still want to try whitening at home, apply a toothpaste for sensitive teeth to your teeth at the same time as the whitening agent. It shouldn’t affect whitening results and can help soothe irritated teeth and gums.
Ingredients to look for:
- Look for it in mouthwash peroxide, Hydrogen peroxide, or another Peroxide derivative.
- Whitening toothpastes often use special abrasives that gently polish teeth and chemicals that help break down or dissolve stains. Look for mentions of Silica, Pyrophosphates, Carbamide peroxide, or Hydrogen peroxide.