Dental Care At Home02/04/2021 ● By Dr. Tara Paluska, DDS
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some of our home health care dental routines may have been neglected. It’s understandable. Brushing twice daily for two minutes may not feel important right now; after all, no one can see our mouths under masks! However, it’s vital to maintain our hygiene routines so our teeth and gums stay healthy.
For example, using a toothbrush that is also healthy - in good shape, not worn, and plan to replace it every few months. It’s a cost-effective investment – and be sure to use a “Soft” brush. Alternatively, an electric toothbrush is also effective at removing plaque or debris. Whatever style brush you choose, be mindful to not ‘scrub’ your teeth – this adds wear and tear to teeth and gums. Pay extra attention to the backs of your lower, middle teeth too, as these teeth tend to collect plaque, and a fluoridated toothpaste is also recommended. For mouth-wash, opt for alcohol-free.
Younger children should have supervision and guidance as they learn to brush and floss. Baby teeth determine the mouth’s skeletal growth and provide proper spacing for permanent teeth, so start early and plan a dental visit by your child’s first birthday (or when their first tooth erupts). This appointment can uncover any anatomical abnormalities and you’ll leave with good information and details on preventive care.
For older children, it can be fun to have them brush and then chew a dissolving tablet that clings to plaque. It will highlight (with color) any places their brushing has missed, helping them learn to brush more effectively. When children have the dexterity to write in cursive, they will be able to brush and floss effectively on their own (although you may still need to remind them to do it). And the old rule of thumb of brushing for two minutes still applies! Setting a timer can be helpful here.
After brushing, it’s time to floss! Flossing helps reach places your toothbrush can’t, as well as assisting in removal of harmful bacteria and plaque. But, as with brushing - floss gently. You can use a long string of floss wrapped around your fingers and work it between the teeth, buy pre-threaded floss, or use a dental pick or interdental floss holder like, ‘Plackers’. While a water flosser helps combat gum disease or debris around braces, it is an additional step, and should not be a replacement for flossing.
Beyond cleaning teeth and gums, also consider what you put into your mouth. Of course, comfort foods and sugary desserts are tempting, but keep these to a minimum. If you enjoy carbonated beverages, finish them quickly and rinse with fresh water afterwards, as carbonation stays in the mouth and can weaken tooth enamel. Water will return your mouth to its normal pH level; but wait 20 minutes after drinking a carbonated beverage before brushing.
Rest assured, your family’s dental cleanings and other appointments can continue during the pandemic. At Kaiser Permanente Dental, we are practicing strict safety protocols, so it is safe for you and your family to continue taking care of your smiles, today and in the future.
Tara Paluska, DDS, is a Kaiser Permanente dentist in Eugene. Read more about Kaiser Permanente at kp.org/lanedental.