Walk into the average big box store, and you’ll see an entire aisle dedicated to oral hygiene. If you’re a fan of clean teeth and healthy gums, you might enjoy comparison-shopping electric toothbrushes, dental water jets, specialized mouth rinses, and organic toothpaste. But do all these products really do what they say they will?
Some experts say that certain products can have unexpected side effects. Others, such as water flossers, may do more harm than good because of the unintended, indirect way they can affect your oral care routine.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that patients interested in bleaching their teeth seek treatment from a dentist, rather than trying to do it at home. This is because over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products are not customized to an individual patient’s mouth, and so the chemicals come into contact with the sensitive gum tissue, causing pain, irritation, and tooth sensitivity that can persist.
Another downside of OTC whitening products is that they require repeated use over a long period of time to achieve visible results. And you could still end up with uneven white patches in your smile. If you use the whitening strips and your teeth aren’t perfectly straight and even, the chemicals probably won’t get to all areas of the teeth, leaving some spots untreated.
Water flossers, commonly known as waterpiks or sometimes dental water jets, are devices that shoot a high-velocity stream of water. They’re supposed to be aimed at the spaces between the teeth to knock loose food particles and bacteria. Water flossers can be helpful for people with limited dexterity, and they’re good for people who have a history of gum disease. This is because the water can flush out the pockets that form when the gums pull away from the teeth.
However, water flossers do have a dark side. Even if they’re advertised as being able to remove plaque and hardened tartar, they can’t. The only way you can get rid of tartar is by visiting your dentist for a professional cleaning, and the only way to get rid of plaque between your teeth is by flossing. But some people who use water flossers trick themselves into thinking that it’s a substitute for actual flossing, which is why these handy devices may sometimes do more harm than good. It’s great if you do want to add a water flosser to your daily routine, just as long as you continue to floss thoroughly at least once every day.
Nothing caps off a great teeth cleaning session like a swish of mouthwash. But you should always check the label carefully before you buy. Mouthwash products with alcohol can do more harm than good. If you have a canker sore, a high amount of alcohol can irritate it. Even worse, alcohol-containing mouthwash can contribute to dry mouth. Your teeth and gums need a steady flow of saliva to wash away bacteria and food particles, so having dry mouth can actually increase your risk of cavities. Plus, like water flossers, mouth rinses aren’t a substitute for brushing and flossing.
Protect your oral health by choosing non-alcohol, fluoridated mouthwash, and use it only to complement, rather than replace your main oral care routine.
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