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Oh did you hear? I’m a dental hygienist. Yep yep, been doing it for almost 11 years now. I worked full time until Cohen was born and am now down to part time, which is pretty dang great. It gives me enough time at home to make sure things get done and allows me to spend time with my kids, but also lets me to get out of the house, help provide for our family (aka, plan and pay for vacations, contribute to retirement accounts and justifies when I splurge on skincare stuff), and get away from those sweet kids that make me a little bonkers at the end of the day. It’s a balancing act sometimes, but right now it is one that is definitely worth it.
So at work, I talk all day about tools and techniques that my patients can use to improve their oral health. And these are the five things that I feel like I always end up coming back to. Now the funny thing is that before publishing this, I randomly asked my sister, who is also a hygienist, what her top three would be, and she mentioned two things that I had on here, but had a different answer for her third. So know that your hygienist may have a few different recommendations, but overall, these are all great products that will keep you, and your hygienist, smiling. (Ugh, I know just how cheesy that sounded, it’s like I can’t help but have the voice of a dental brochure when talking about these things!)
#1. Electric toothbrush
This is a no brainer and I think every hygienist will agree that 95% of patients that use an electric toothbrush have cleaner teeth than those that don’t. Now don’t get me wrong, you still need to have good technique and use it often, because sometimes I’ll have a patient that tells me they use one and my first thought is, “WHERE???” and my second thought is, “HOW???” So again, you need to use it well. (Bristles pointed at a 45 degree angle towards the gumline, move brush in small circles.) But overall, it allows you to do a better job because it has a two minute timer on it, the head is already moving as you get it in hard to reach areas that would be difficult to clean, and also electric brushes remove more plaque in general. As far as which kind? Well, ask your hygienist. 🙂 I like both Sonicares and Oral Bs for different reasons and either one would work for kids too! My only tip? Don’t spend a billion dollars on one. Because no matter what bells and whistles it has, at the end of the day, it’s a toothbrush (I’m looking at you, Diamond Clean). And I’m here to encourage spending money on things that add value to your life and I just don’t think that spending an extra $100 on a toothbrush is really going to change your life.
#2. Cordless WaterPik
Hi! Do you floss? If you are like 150% of my patients, the answer is, “I could be better.” Well, how’s that for vague? So here’s the thing, I get that flossing is tricky for a lot of people, and I’m here to tell you that while I wish you would floss, if you know yourself well enough to know it just isn’t going to happen, here’s another option.
A WaterPik is a fantastic tool. The one that I like for beginners is the “travel” one, which is cordless. The reason why is twofold. First, there is a bit of a learning curve with a WaterPik, so the first time you use it, you might end up with water all over your bathroom. But! Not when you have a cordless one. With this one, I recommend taking it in the shower. Everything in there is wet anyway, so it doesn’t matter if water gets everywhere. Also, they are smaller so it doesn’t take up as much real estate on your bathroom counters and is easier to put under the sink when cleaning up. But really, not getting water everywhere is the main thing.
The second reason I like it, is because, surprise, it’s cheaper. 🙂 The travel kind can usually be found south of $40 at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc. Similar to the toothbrushes, it won’t have all the bells and whistles that the more expensive kinds do, but will work well for you.
And lastly, if you have crowns, implants, or bridges, a WaterPik will be even more helpful for you to clean around them more thoroughly. Your hygienist will die of excitement at your next cleaning appointment, because that’s the level of nerds that we are, we get REALLY excited about clean teeth. It’s silly, but very very true.
Check this one out!
#3. ACT fluoride rinse
My love for fluoride rinse has no bounds. Here at the Lindblom house, we are cavity kids. We don’t try to be, but genetically, it’s the card we were dealt. As an example, I have had a few different areas on my check up x-rays that have the start of small cavities. We first saw them after I had Maren, six years ago, and since then I’ve committed to flossing and using ACT fluoride rinse. I’m happy to report on my latest set of x-rays last month, they still haven’t progressed! Now flossing obviously helps too, but fluoride is such an easy thing to add that helps remineralize the broken down areas on the enamel, as well as strengthen areas to prevent future cavities.
Now I know that some people take issue with fluoride, and I agree that ingested in large quantities, it is not healthy. However, topical fluoride, meaning a rinse that is spit out, or a fluoride treatment done in a dental office that is eventually brushed off, is very safe. And very effective.
So how do you know if you need a fluoride rinse? Well are you a breathing human? Then the answer is probably yes. I have myself and Philip using it, as well as Maren using it daily. As soon as at the younger two can swish and spit, I’ll have them start using it also. Will it prevent us from ever getting cavities again? Unfortunately, no. But it will slow the progression of them developing and growing. I tell patients all the time, fluoride is like sunscreen, it doesn’t mean you’ll never get a sunburn, but it lessens the likelihood of it happening. And on that same analogy, small applications more frequently (like in the case of an at home rinse), can be super effective and helpful for the cavity kids in your family.
#4. Opal Pix toothpicks
These little gems were introduced to me by my sister-in-law, who also happens to be a hygienist, a few years ago. (And the answer is yes, I have a billion family members who are also hygienists. One sister, two sisters-in-law, and two cousins. It makes going to continuing education classes a lot more fun.) Remember five seconds ago when I said that everybody needs to floss better? Here is another tool for those of us that occasionally struggle. It is basically like a plastic toothpick, but instead of it being round, it is super thin and flat, almost like a teeny sword that you can slide easily between your teeth. After using one for the first time, I felt like I had just flossed my teeth really thoroughly, it is incredible! Again, I would love it if you would just floss, but this is an easier option for some people, and definitely something that is a quick on-the-go solution. I literally keep these in my Amazon shopping cart so that I can pull it up on my phone to show patients. It is just so helpful.
So here they are for you too!
#5. BreathRx tongue scraper
Last, but certainly not least, is a tongue scraper. Tongue scrapers are used to, you guessed it, scrape your tongue. It can remove plaque and debris that have embedded themselves in the fuzziness that is on the top of your tongue. Sounds great, right? Right. But a lot of tongue scrapers that have bristles on them aren’t quite as effective, and other ones I just don’t like as much. These BreathRx ones are LEGIT. They look like a tiny plastic two-man saw, you bend it like a U-shape, put it far back on your tongue and pull forward. You will be amazed and moderately grossed out at what you’re able to scrape off! But it can help with bad breath, as well as residual tastes that may be in your mouth. They last forever, I’ve had mine since I started hygiene school 12 years ago and it is still going strong. I love love love them and tell patients often to google them and order them. And lucky for you, I’ll just give you the link to them. 🙂
So that’s it! There are a billion different products out there that can be helpful in improving your oral health, these are just the things that I recommend most to my patients. Honorable mention also goes to proxy brushes, especially for patients in braces, they can be a total game changer. Also, my sister was schooling me a bit on the benefits of Closys rinse which she loves to recommend and I’m now so interested in looking into next! Like I said, SO MANY PRODUCTS!
Any questions? It can be product related or not, but let me know if there’s something I can help with!