Dental Hygiene Buying Guide

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Top Pick

Crest Pro Health Toothpaste  is the first toothpaste of its kind to encompass a mini-checkup as part of your daily dental hygiene program. It is formulated to basically perform everything you could want from a toothpaste. It protects against gingivitis, fights tartar, reduces plaque, protects against sensitivity, whitens and brightens, and kills bacteria to fight breath. Did I mention that it protects against cavities? If a toothpaste can multitask as well as it claims to, who knows, maybe you can postpone that dentist's visit after all.

In this day and age, dental care isn't just about oral hygiene. From movie stars to movie goers, pearly whites have never been so popular. Whether you're in it for your health or you're just looking to make that smile sparkle, we can help. We've compiled a complete guide to dental care - from the absolutely necessary to the purely cosmetic, and everything in between.

Lets start with the basics.

The only things you really need are a toothbrush ,toothpaste ,mouthwash  and dental floss , as they are the basis of a healthy dental care regimen. An electric toothbrush  or whitening products  are by no means necessary for anyone. You can maintain a perfectly healthy, happy mouth without these extras.  If you want to keep your pearly whites from getting any cavities, check out these dental hygiene essentials. Click on the following links to get more information about Electric Toothbrushes and Teeth Whiteners.

If you have sensitive teeth, gingivitis, halitosis, receding gums, or any other oral health condition, ask your dentist to make some recommendations to simplify your shopping. Alternatively, you can browse through the products until you find something intended for your needs. Try sensodyne  or prevident  for sensitive teeth, listerine  for gingivitis and halitosis, and a soft toothbrush  and floss  for receding gums. For sensitive oral tissue (if the inside of your cheeks sloughs off) try a basic gel toothpaste ; avoid tarter control  and whitening products  as they worsen the problem.

Toothpaste

Professionals recommend that you brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste  at least twice a day for a minimum of one minute each session (two to three is better though). Which brand you choose is mostly relevant to how you perceive the taste and consistency. There is basic mint, which is usually a safe bet, but many companies are now introducing more exotic flavors such as cinnamon, strawberry and lemon, just to name a few. When it comes to consistency, the two basic options are gel and paste. The debate will rage on about which is better, but the truth is that both are effective at cleaning teeth.

More importantly than taste and texture is that the toothpaste contain fluoride! When in doubt, look for a toothpaste that has the approval of a dental association. It should have fluoride in it as one of the major ingredients, an essential combatant against cavities and teeth decay.What else should you know? Toothpaste comes in a variety of types, from tartar control to whitening formulas. Often, the best toothpastes are the ones that can multi-task. If you want to get into the details, below you can see explanations about the majority of ingredients that toothpastes contain. It can help you understand what you are really buying and what it will actually do for your oral health.

Active Ingredients

  • Baking soda is a typical ingredient found in toothpastes and is often combined with peroxide-- think Arm and Hammer  and Mentadent . While it is hyped in the media, there is actually no evidence to prove that it makes a significant difference on your oral health. It can help eliminate odor, but it can also cause gum problems because of its tendency to be highly abrasive.
  • Fluoride, a.k.a. stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride or monofluoride phosphate (MFP), is the must-have ingredient.
  • Peroxide is fine in limited doses, but it may not be good for those with sensitive gums.
  • Pyrophosphate is known to prevent tartar build up, but not remove it.
  • Silica is an abrasive agent that helps break down surface stains on the teeth. Nearly all toothpastes contain it. Whether you choose a paste or gel has something to do with the level of abrasiveness in a toothpaste. Pastes typically contain more making them better at breaking up stains -- a must if you are a coffee or cola drinker. Otherwise, gels will do just fine unless you prefer the consistency of a paste.
  • Strontium chloride and potassium nitrate are meant to block nerves so that your teeth become less sensitive. They are effective once you have been using the product for at least a month.
  • Whitening is a very ambiguous term responsible for increasing trends in tooth whitening products, but despite claims to have your teeth sparkling white after drinking coffee for the last twenty years is just plain baloney. It will, however, help break down recent surface stains, making them effective at cleaning teeth and preventing more staining. Whitening toothpastes will not return the teeth enamel to the color it was years ago. Take a trip to your dentist if you want your teeth looking pearly white again.

Cost

Last but not least, let's talk cost. The effectiveness of toothpaste, as shown above, is based on the active ingredients it contains. A tube of toothpaste shouldn't cost more than your morning coffee and bagel, if it does, you're likely overpaying. As long as the toothpaste contains fluoride and any of the other ingredients mentioned above, it will do everything you need and want it to do. 

Also know that you only need about a pea size dollop of the minty stuff to get your teeth clean. Think of what you can do with all that extra product you will save-- like helping nix a blemish! If you really want to be more effective, dry brush your teeth with a soft bristle tooth brush for a bit first. Rinse and spit, then brush. You will reduce tartar by 60% and make your gums less sensitive in the process.

Quick Picks

Here are some of the best rated toothpastes, as per recommendations by consumers on the Web and by results compiled by ConsumerSearch.com.

Colgate Total 

By far one of the best multitasking toothpastes with a great taste and texture. What makes it stand out is triclosan, an anti-bacterial ingredient that fights gingivitis and gantrez all day.

Crest 

Despite the name and more than 20 varieties of roughly the same product, Crest is only second best. They do get kudos for their fun Crest Citrus Whitening  commercials though.

Rembrandt Plus 

Very minty tasting and it leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean. It is also supposed to whiten, but we all know what that means. At least it is not harmful to enamel or dental work.

Tom's of Maine 

If being eco-friendly is part of your routine, then this is the way to go. It is one of the best natural toothpastes around and is up to par with the others.

Sensodyne 

Specially formulated to be gentle on sensitive teeth and gums, this toothpaste actually does what it claims to, making it worth a mention.

Floss

Floss  should come out of the medicine cabinet at least once a week although professionals recommends using floss everyday (preferably at night). It can be used before or after brushing to remove food particles and tartar buildup in the places that your toothbrush can't reach. Once you clean between the tight crevices, toothpaste can easily flow between them so that it can do its job of warding off cavities and tooth decay.

Since floss is basically just wax coated string with optional flavoring, there is not much to say about it, except for its form factor. Choosing an easy to use floss can help get kids into a regular flossing habit, and can make it easier for those with limited dexterity to keep up health oral care.

Standard floss  in a canister is easy to carry with you, plus it's inexpensive and lasts a long time. The downside is that it's harder to use, which may cause you to "forget" to floss.

Floss picks  are single-use devices that make it easy to floss between teeth and clean tartar from the gum line. They cost more than plain floss though and create more waste.

Rechargeable flossers  are the most expensive and make flossing easy, but they are no replacement for string floss because they can't reach certain places.

Mouthwash

Mouthwash , although not used by all, is nearly a requisite for anyone who suffers from halitosis, which is in fact 25% of the population. Mouthwash may seem superfluous, acting simply as a way to mask bad breath, but in fact it serves several purposes beyond making your breath smell fresh.

Using mouthwash after brushing helps rinse away any remaining debris, kill germs and can also help combat early periodontal gum disease when an antiseptic mouthwash  is used twice a day. There is also talk of it being an effective alternative to flossing.

Some of the most popular brands are Scope  and Listerine . Whichever brand you choose be sure that you choose the right one. That means that it should be an antiseptic (like Listerine) if you need protection from gingivitis and periodontitis, contain at least .05% fluoride if you want cavity protection and peroxide if you want enhanced whitening.

Toothbrushes

  • When was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? Usually they need to be replaced every three to four months, or as soon as they become frayed. Children's toothbrushes need to be replaced more frequently since they usually wear out quicker. Oral-B  makes brushes that have an indicator on them to tell you when it's time to replace, a useful feature if you tend to be forgetful.
  • Choose soft bristles that won't irritate your gums.
  • Pick a size that is suitable for your mouth. If you have trouble reaching certain parts of the teeth, go for a smaller brush head.
  • Opt for brushes with crossed or angled bristles that have a better chance of reaching in between teeth to clean.
  • Consider an electric toothbrush  that makes brushing easy and refreshing.
  • Most major toothpaste manufacturers also make toothbrushes.

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