Best Habits for Oral Health

Developing good oral health habits is critical to protecting your teeth and gums in the long term. Some of the best oral health habits include brushing multiple times a day, flossing, rinsing with flouride, visiting the dentist twice a year, eating a healthy diet and using a bite guard.

What is the best method for brushing teeth and why is it important to brush properly?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well that’s a really broad topic, and I’m not going to take all day for it, but I could. In my opinion, the best method for brushing is frequently and gently. Way too many people get in there and they are brushing away like they are trying to scrub away paint. That is the worst thing you can do. You are really only trying to disturb the bacteria enough that they don’t get organized and then you can basically rinse them away. People tend to not brush frequently enough. When you do brush, a lot of people only brush the white things, the teeth. They forget the gums meet the teeth and that interface, where the red meets the white, is where most bacteria is going to accumulate that a brush can remove. You really want to get in there and make sure you are brushing the gums as well as the teeth. In addition to that, nowadays we have all sorts of additional adjuncts, like electronic brushes, vibrating brushes, those are all great, and you tend not to lean on them as hard a regular manual toothbrush, but the problem is most people don’t use them long enough. You really want to make sure you get every surface in the mouth, clean it well, then move on to your flossing and then in my opinion, people should rinse with a fluoride rinse once a day.

Will healthy eating improve oral health?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Absolutely. Cutting out things that are negative to the mouth is a big benefit for all people. The most important things that we see that are detrimental that wouldn’t fall into eating healthy is cutting out sugars, cutting out soda. But in addition to that, providing proper nutrition is obviously going to benefit the teeth. If you are not providing the right vitamins, the proteins aren’t going to keep your gums healthy properly, you are not going to get enough calcium possibly if you are not intaking enough calcium. Then your mouth is going to suffer. When we say healthy eating, what we really mean is don’t eat the bad things that are going to help destroy your teeth or your gums.

How often should people visit the dentist for a checkup and professional teeth cleaning?

Dr. Darren McKeever: If you are living by the rules of the insurance companies, it is twice a year. Unfortunately, that is really an arbitrary number. There is no scientific information that literally says people will be benefited by cleaning twice a year at a six-month interval. Bacteria which are negative to your periodontal condition, your gum condition, start to become predominant after about three months, not six months. By four months, they’re actually the number one bacteria in the mouth. Ideally, people should really have their teeth cleaned every four months. But most people clean well enough that they can get away with that additional two months when their insurance company will cover their cleaning. That seems to be the mindset of most people in the United States. But from a scientific standpoint, people really should have their teeth cleaned a little more frequently.

What are some bad habits to avoid in order to maintain oral health?

Dr. Darren McKeever: There’s two different habits I think in categories, if you really want to put it that way. One, people don’t realize they clench or they grind their teeth in their sleep. It is a habit; it is not something they do consciously though. But that is one thing that should be prevented. But the biggest thing we tend to see other than that, that is kind of a conscious habit, is people use their teeth like tools. Teeth are not tools. Teeth are not meant to bite off nails off of your fingertips. Teeth are not meant to separate the little plastic thing that holds a price tag to clothing. They are not meant to do that. They are not meant to open up bobby pins. They are just not strong enough or designed to do that, and then they tend to break and chip and that’s when they have to be repaired.

Do you recommend using a bite guard to protect teeth from night time crunching or grinding?

Dr. Darren McKeever: I absolutely am a huge proponent of bite guards or bite splints, depending on what the symptoms of the patient are. The problem is compliance because more often than not, what people are doing that is damaging their teeth, clenching or grinding, is happening during a period of their day when they don’t realize they are doing it, because they are asleep. We all think we’re just laying there like a mummy not moving, but sleep is a very, very active process and we don’t know exactly what we’re doing during all of it. Not a week goes by that I don’t look at a patient and I say to myself, I wish I had met this person when they were 20 or 25 years old, educated them on the need for a bite splint or a bite guard, and now today 20 or 30 years later, they wouldn’t need all of this dentistry because they were an undiagnosed clencher that has broken their teeth, reduced the size of their bite, chipped the front teeth, cracked root canals, all sorts of negative things happen from that. I am a huge proponent of a bite guard, but unfortunately like I said, I can’t be there to put it in every night before bed. If people aren’t going to use it, and be convinced that it is beneficial, it ends up staying in their cabinet or in the sock drawer and it is not helping anybody at that point.

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If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.

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