How do I choose the right oral hygiene product for me?

The toothpaste aisle can be pretty overwhelming. Over the past few years, companies have introduced so many options for toothpastes, brushes and mouthwashes that even the most discerning consumer often doesn’t know where to begin. Here are a some hints for picking the right products for your particular needs:

Toothbrush
Toothbrush. The question we hear the most is, electric or manual? It really just depends on your personal preference. Both brushes are effective at removing plaque, but electric brushes can make the process easier for you. If you find manual brushes difficult to use, or just don’t enjoy the process, an electric one might make brushing easier and allow you to do a better job. When choosing a manual brush, opt for soft bristles with the smallest head—they’re easy on gum tissue and can fit around the back molars. Regardless of your hardware of choice, just be sure to brush long enough! Although it takes a full 2–3 minutes to brush every tooth effectively, most people only brush for an average of 30 seconds.

Toothpaste
Toothpaste. First and foremost, always check for the ADA seal of approval. Despite the large variety of toothpastes available, most contain similar agents geared toward scrubbing, flavoring or keeping your paste moist. It’s a good idea to choose a paste that contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and makes teeth less prone to decay. Tartar-control toothpastes usually contain fluoride, but they also contain chemicals to break down plaque and antibacterials to kill lingering germs. After checking those off, choose your paste based on your personal needs. Whitening varieties have added abrasive agents (not bleach) that polish the surfaces of your teeth without damaging enamel. If you have sensitive teeth, certain toothpastes provide chemical compounds that, when used on a regular basis, can reduce sensitivity over time.

floss
Floss. While most people brush the recommended two times a day, flossing sometimes gets placed on the back burner. However, neglecting to floss at least once daily is doing your mouth a serious disservice, as up to 50% of plaque accumulation occurs between teeth. That’s why you should floss before you brush, to loosen up that plaque for easier removal with your toothbrush. If you find flossing too difficult or unpleasant, try using a flosser. They’re reusable, use disposable heads, and with handles just like toothbrushes, they make flossing as neat and easy as brushing your teeth. You can find them at most grocery and drug stores.

Mouthwash
Mouthwash. There are as many different types of mouthwashes available as there are flavors, and it’s important to choose the one that’s best for you. Cosmetic mouthwashes can rinse away debris, provide a pleasant taste, and mask bad breath temporarily. If you’re looking for a mouthwash with a purpose, look for an FDA-approved therapeutic rinse, with either antiplaque or anticavity ingredients. Mouthwashes are particularly useful for people with canker sores, braces, and dry mouth, but they shouldn’t replace brushing or flossing.

Combing all of these factors makes a complete and effective oral hygiene routine, but you don’t need the fancy, expensive products to have your healthiest smile. Just do your part at home and stay up-to-date with professional check-ups, and you’ll be set to go!