A Dental Hygienist’s 5 Top Tips for a Healthy Smile

Add these steps to your oral health regimen
dental hygiene
Photo: IStock

As a registered dental hygienist of seven years, Sally Ammar knows the ins and outs of proper oral health. After receiving a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene from the University of Michigan in 2017, she has gone on to work as a clinical instructor, lecturer, and competency/e-portfolio advisor for dental students at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Ammar knows better than anyone that having a healthy smile goes far beyond a set of pearly whites. Here, she offers a few simple, but deeply effective tips for those looking to improve their dental hygiene.

dental hygiene - dental hygienist Sally Ammar
Dental hygienist Sally Ammar // Photograph courtesy of Sally Ammar

Two is the Magic Number

“Most people brush, but research has shown that people only brush for around 20-30 seconds,” Ammar says. The recommended amount of time to spend brushing your teeth is 2 minutes. “When brushing for 2 minutes, it assures better and longer debridement of food debris and stain from the tooth’s surface.” If you’re looking to track the time you spend brushing, you can set a timer on your phone to ensure you’re getting a good cleaning. While it’s recommended to brush twice a day, Ammar points out that it never hurts to brush more often.

The Bass Method

The Bass Method, which Ammar says she teaches to students as the best way to brush, involves tilting the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle so that the bristles are slightly under the gum line. “This allows the toothbrush to remove any bacteria lurking under the gumline,” Ammar says. “Use circular movements so that the entire surface of the tooth is covered, as opposed to the classic back and forth motion.”

Keep it Gentle

“One very big misconception is to brush your teeth hard or rough,” Ammar says. “Never brush hard.” Aggressive brushing can lead to tooth pain as well as a receding gum line. This recession can cause the root of the tooth to be exposed and result in more sensitivity and a higher risk of developing root cavities. “Another popular misconception is that using a hard-bristled toothbrush is better, but you should always use a soft brush, or better yet an electric toothbrush.” Using one of these brushes provides the correct amount of pressure and control to properly cleanse the teeth. When shopping for an electric toothbrush, Ammar urges readers to make sure they purchase one that oscillates, not just vibrates.

The Forgotten Step

According to Ammar, flossing is one of the most skipped steps in a dental hygiene routine. “This step removes the plaque located in hard-to-reach areas,” she says. Because of the size of most toothbrushes, it can be hard for them to penetrate the spaces between teeth, which is where plaque tends to build up. “We teach our students about the C-shape flossing method. This is when we wrap the floss around each tooth in a c-shape and see-saw motion to remove unwanted plaque between the teeth.”

Make an Appointment

Visiting your dental hygienist twice a year is crucial to maintaining oral health. “We can only remove a small portion of bacteria and stain with a toothbrush. A visit to a dental health professional is always recommended to remove hardened plaque that can often cause gum disease.”