Oral Care: Mouth Maintenance

To keep it clean and germ-free, your mouth needs more than just brushing. Here are the other things you need to do...


Floss it out

  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Take approximately 18 – 20 inches of floss. Wind a substantial amount about your middle or index finger of each hand in a way that you have about two inches of floss left in the middle. The floss should be stretched taut between the fingers. Use the thumb for support.
  • Don’t floss up and down along the gums as they are sensitive. Instead, use back and forth movements along the curve of each tooth where the tooth meets the gums, going a little under the gum line.
  • Use gentle movements taking care that you don’t bruise the delicate tissue of the gums by using force or snappy movements. Avoid snapping or forcing the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue.
  • Floss between each tooth trying to reach in all gaps.
  • If you are flossing for the first time, chances are it may bleed. Don’t fear, the gums harden over time.
  • Use a new piece of floss after every few teeth.

Rinse it well

  • Clean your mouth using mouthwash twice a day; mouthwash reaches those corners of the mouth, which a brush can’t reach. Brushing cleans only 20 – 25 per cent of the cavity. Therefore, brushing though important; is not enough.
  • Use mouthwash after you brush. Mix 20ml of water and 20ml of the mouth rinse or in the ratio 1:1. Swish the liquid thoroughly in the mouth; gargle for 30 – 40 seconds so that the solution cleans the inner lining of the mouth. Then spit it out.
  • The entire procedure should last a whole minute and should be done every morning and every night.

Clean the tongue

  • Most people clean their tongues. An unclean tongue fosters bacteria to grow on its surface, which leads to bad breath.
  • Use a good quality tongue scrapper for thorough cleaning.
  • Stick your tongue as far out as possible. Start from the back of your tongue, near the opening of the throat.
  • Press the cleaner on the tongue and gently bring it forward using both hands, covering the entire length of the tongue. Repeat twice or thrice. Rinse well.
  • Clean the tongue cleaner thoroughly after each use. And get a new one every three months.

Eat for your mouth

  • Like the hygiene rituals, some foods are good for your oral health too. Foods that are high in fibre help release more saliva into your mouth, which helps regulate the pH in your mouth.
  • Foods that are high in vitamin C are good for your gums and teeth. These include kiwis, strawberries and apples. Crunchy vegetables like carrots and broccoli also help clean the teeth and strengthen the gums. Other vegetables that are recommended include pumpkin, celery and sweet potatoes. You can also eat eggs, green tea, sesame seeds, and milk products like yoghurt and cheese. Eat onions raw. The sulphur compounds in the onions have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Food introduces bacteria into the mouth. Limit your intake of sugar-heavy foods as they stick to the teeth helping bacteria breed. Also avoid consuming carbohydrates [cooked starches in particular] like potato chips, as they damage teeth.
  • Avoid consuming processed fruit juices, soft drinks and vinegar in excess. The acids in such drinks demineralise the enamel of the teeth by bringing down the pH levels in the mouth.
  • Chew gum from time to time. The chewing helps move the saliva around the mouth facilitating oral irrigation, which helps remove stuck particles from hard-to-reach corners and prevents the mouth from drying up. However, do not chew gum if you have loose fillings or if your teeth are in poor health. It will increase the damage.

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Dr D Gopalakrishnan is a Professor of Periodontology at Santosh University as well as the Secretary General of the International Clinical Dental Research Organization.


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