Daily Oral Hygiene – Part One – The Basics

The definition of hygiene is: Conditions and practices that serve to promote or preserve health. Oral hygiene seems like a simple, straightforward topic. Everyone knows they should brush their teeth, and most people do brush, at least once in a while. Also over the last decade or so, there has been much more attention paid to the fact that we should also floss our teeth. So why is there still so much dental disease in our society, especially since it is well known and scientifically proven that dental disease is totally preventable?

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Why Do I Still Have Problems?

The simple truth is that, even though more and more people are brushing and flossing on a regular basis, when they finish the process the teeth are not actually 100% clean. I cannot tell you how many people have said to me over the years, “But doc, I brush my teeth at least twice a day and I also floss. Why do I still have problems?” My answer has always been “there is big difference between brushing and flossing the teeth and getting them clean.”


Succeeding at any endeavor requires an understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish and then applying an effective technique to succeed at that task. Until I got to dental school, the extent of my oral hygiene instruction was my parents telling me to go into the bathroom and brush my teeth. I suspect that is the case for most people, even today. Cleaning the teeth is not a 2 minute process, and an untrained young child not only does not have the slightest idea of what it takes to get the teeth clean, they don’t have the manual dexterity to angle the brush properly to clean every surface of every tooth. In addition, flossing is more involved than they can be expected to handle. These tasks need to be done by a parent for the very young. As the child becomes more capable, they can start doing it themselves, but a parent should still be present to make sure they are doing it properly. If this level of parental involvement is not present, these children grow into adults who do not get their teeth clean on a daily basis and they end up with dental problems because the proper habits were not formed in childhood.

Getting Teeth Clean

Consider this question: how long does it take you to clean your teeth compared to how long it takes a dental professional, either a hygienist or a dentist, to clean your teeth? I am not suggesting that any of us need to spend that amount of time brushing and flossing on a daily basis, but the comparison should make it clear that most of us do not spend enough time on this task of cleaning our teeth. To fully understand what it takes to get the teeth on a daily basis requires some very basic knowledge of the science behind dental disease.

Posted June 26, 2017, By Dr. Kevin Kelaher


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