Understanding the Basics of Dental Hygiene

Understanding the Basics of Dental Hygiene

Healthy teeth not only make for a beautiful smile, they allow people to speak clearly and chew properly. Oral health is linked to whole-body health, and learning good oral hygiene habits early in life can help prevent expensive dental procedures and long-term health issues.

The basics of oral hygiene include brushing twice daily and flossing, using an ADA-approved mouthwash, and visiting the dentist for regular X-rays and exams.


The basics of dental hygiene include brushing and flossing to prevent cavities, gum disease and bad breath. These practices can also limit visits to your dental health care provider.

Brushing removes plaque, a sticky colorless film that builds up on your teeth. This film consists of bacteria, sugar and acids that damage your teeth and lead to cavities and gum disease.

The good news is that your body’s natural defenses and proper oral hygiene keep bacteria at bay. However, some medications—like decongestants, antihistamines and diuretics —may reduce saliva flow, allowing bacteria to increase in your mouth. Additionally, poor oral hygiene has been linked to a variety of other diseases. This is because the mouth is the gateway into your digestive and respiratory systems, both of which are vital for your overall well-being. Practicing good dental hygiene can help prevent long-term health issues like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can also reduce your risk of infections in the jaw, rheumatoid arthritis and other joint problems.


Flossing is an important part of dental hygiene because it removes bacteria, food and plaque from the tiny spaces between your teeth. It also decreases the load on your immune system because it doesn’t have to constantly fight bacteria in your mouth, allowing it to focus on protecting your body from other threats.

Many people dislike flossing, but it’s one of the most important parts of oral care. You can get help with the process from a dental hygienist, but you can also use toothpicks and water flossers to make it easier.

Regardless of what kind of floss you choose, it’s important to make it a daily habit and to do it correctly. If you don’t floss properly, you won’t remove enough bacteria, food and plaque to protect your gums and teeth from disease. The best way to learn the right technique is to ask your dentist or dental hygienist for assistance. They can also offer tips to help you get the most out of your daily flossing routine.


Mouthwash is an important part of any oral health regimen. Its rinsing action helps to rinse away food debris and loose plaque. The mouthwash also contains ingredients that help to kill bacteria and germs that contribute to bad breath and gum disease.

However, despite the benefits of using mouthwash, it is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. Mouthwash does not clean the hard-to-reach spaces in the mouth or strengthen teeth.

Whether or not mouthwash is necessary for an individual depends on many factors, including age, education, dietary and lifestyle habits. The best way to determine if mouthwash is needed or what kind is appropriate for you is by consulting with a dentist.

The University at Buffalo’s Dental Hygiene program offers an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, combining general education courses with introductory science classes such as biology, anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, physics, and pathology. Learn more about our program!

Dental Checkups

Dental checkups are a crucial part of maintaining good oral health. These appointments allow dentists to remove tooth-decaying plaque and tartar, which even the most fastidious brushing cannot do. Dental checkups also allow dentists to catch issues, like cavities, early on. When a dentist is able to spot a problem, they can often use preventative measures like fillings or fluoride treatments to keep it from getting worse.

During dental checkups, the dentist and dental hygienist will usually evaluate all parts of your mouth, including the tongue, cheeks, gums, and jaw joints. They will also take X-rays to see what is happening underneath the surface of your teeth. If you have anxiety about going to the dentist, talk to your dentist and dental hygienist about options to make your visit less stressful. Having healthy teeth is important because it allows you to speak clearly; chew and swallow food; and express your emotions through facial expressions, such as smiling.

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