Hi! I'm Dr. Kyle Hornby and I'm a Kitchener, Ontario Dentist. Each week, I write about a few interesting oral health topics to help people increase their overall dental wellness. My goal is to give you the kind of information you're not likely getting at your regular dental checkups (you can access all of my other blog posts, here). Today, I'd like to share the nighttime dental care routine you won't get anywhere else!
If you're constantly battling cavities and gum inflammation or if you'd just like a few tips for reinforcing an already sterling nighttime routine, this article is for you. Great dental home care routines lay the foundation for great oral health. Caring for your teeth during the morning and at night are critically important to keeping teeth and gums tidy. Your nighttime routine, however, is the single most important factor in keeping your teeth and gums healthy long-term.
Why is this so?
Well, don't get me wrong. Brushing and flossing in the morning are important.
But, if you do a great job with your night time dental care routine, you'll wake up with super-clean, rejuvenated teeth and gums. So, brushing in the morning will mostly help you to freshen your breath.
If you brush after you eat breakfast, then that morning brush is a bit more helpful as it restores a clean oral environment until lunchtime.
To understand why your nighttime dental care routine is supremely important, we need to understand what we're getting from a super-tidy mouth...
When you brush and floss your teeth, you're doing it to get them clean.
I bet you already knew that.
So, to get more specific about the benefits of cleanliness, let's talk about what happens inside a clean mouth.
First off, removing dental plaque from gums and teeth minimizes fuel sources for harmful bacteria. Without a surplus of fuel (dental plaque), these bacteria are less likely to cause cavities and gum disease.
However, most people aren't told about the kind of rejuvenation that happens when you keep your mouth spotless with an adequate dental care routine.
That's right: a clean mouth not only prevents tooth decay and gum disease but it also allows for enamel mineralization and strengthening as well as healing of inflamed gum tissue.
When your mouth is totally clean, and dental plaque and harmful bacteria are at a minimum, your teeth can soak up calcium and phosphorus from your saliva to remineralize. That's right, you can actually strengthen your enamel naturally through your saliva!
This won't happen in a mouth filled with dental plaque because harmful bacteria will thrive, munch up dental plaque, and produce acids that wear down your enamel faster than your saliva can rebuild and strengthen it.
So, this underscores the importance of having a clean mouth as much as possible throughout a 24-hour day.
The reason that nighttime is so special for dental care is that it provides 8-10 hours during which you won't disrupt the healing and mineralization going on during sleep. That is, you won't interfere with regeneration by contaminating the system with food debris and dental plaque.
So nighttime really is prime time for dental health and therefore, dental care.
At this point, you may be wondering, "is there anything I can do to increase the nighttime healing activity that goes on in my mouth?".
Luckily, the answer is yes.
In the last section, we established that a pristine mouth helps to fend off tooth decay but it also enables enamel strengthening and demineralization in addition to healing inflamed gums. What's really neat is that you can actually boost the remineralization of your enamel with a simple dental care technique.
I guarantee you haven't come across this before...
Now, there are two types of toothpaste that can help boost the strength of your enamel to help you avoid cavities and the need for costly dental fillings.
The first type is fluoridated toothpaste.
This may be an issue for some people who prefer to avoid or minimize fluoride use for themselves and their children (if you're on the fence about Fluoride use, here's the Canadian Dental Association's position statement on fluoride use). Luckily, there is a natural toothpaste that can boost enamel strengthening as well!
It's called Hydroxyapatite (high-drox-ee-ah-pah-tight) (or HA) toothpaste.
Let me talk about HA toothpaste first.
Hydroxyapatite is the main building block in your enamel and dentin. For the chemistry buffs out there, it contains a bunch of calcium, phosphate and a hydroxyl group.
For the non-chemistry-buffs (like me), just know that it's loaded with Calcium and we already know that calcium is great for building strong bones and teeth.
When you use HA toothpaste, you're feeding your teeth, literally. You are rebuilding what you've lost to acid demineralization (you may remember from above that harmful bacteria in our mouth munch up dental plaque and produce acids that break down our teeth, leading to cavities). So, HA toothpaste gives you a NATURAL way to heal your teeth and prevent costly dental treatment for cavities.
Now, before I get to my secret nighttime dental care technique, I'm going to blaze through an explanation of what fluoride does for your teeth.
We just talked about Hydroxyapatite and how it's the main building block in tooth enamel and dentin. It's loaded with Calcium and is therefore mineralized. It's that very mineralization that helps it to resist being dissolved by acids in the mouth.
Now, if you add fluoride to hydroxyapatite, you get Fluoroapatite (floor-oh-ah-pah-tight), or FA. Fluoroapatite is even more acid-resistant when compared to Hydroxyapatite.
The easiest way to conceptualize this is to think about a cube of enamel soaking in acid. Enamel containing hydroxyapatite will dissolve in acid. So will the enamel cube containing fluoroapatite (FA). The key is, the FA cube will hold on longer in the acid before starting to dissolve. In addition, once it does start to dissolve, it will do so at a slower rate compared to the enamel cube made of hydroxyapatite.
So, you'll want to decide if you're going to use Fluoridated toothpaste or HA toothpaste for your nighttime routine, but both will work nicely to reinforce tooth enamel.
Now, let's get to my dental care routine ... I'm willing to bet you haven't come across this before!
Let's start with the basics: before bed you should brush for 2-3 minutes using a fortifying toothpaste (one that contains fluoride or hydroxyapatite) and floss your teeth. You can augment this routine with a Waterpik irrigating device (but please, don't replace flossing with "Waterpik-ing" as they achieve slightly different things).
Now for the big secret...
Rinse your mouth vigorously with water a few times and spit. This will help to remove any dental plaque and food debris that you've loosened by brushing and flossing. Now, you'll have maximized the amount of clean, exposed tooth enamel surface area for absorbing re-mineralizing agents in your toothpaste! Next, take a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and swish it around for 1-minute.
Try that vigorous kind of swishing where you puff out your cheeks. Also, raise your tongue to the roof of your mouth and try to force the saliva-toothpaste combo between your teeth.
What you're doing is trying to bathe your teeth in either Fluoride or Hydroxyapatite. Using your tongue to create pressure, you'll be able to push toothpaste into the contact spaces between teeth. This will help you to coat your tooth enamel.
After a 1-minute swish, spit out any excess a few times...then, go to bed. I would recommend against rinsing with water because it will remove the thin film of fluoride or hydroxyapatite from the surface of your teeth.
So, to summarize the benefits of this swishing: you'll have your teeth coated in a thin pro-mineralizing film and you'll have a reservoir of either fluoride or hydroxyapatite in your saliva.
This will help to boost the re-mineralizing power of your saliva.
My nighttime dental care routine is designed to take advantage of the clean, regenerative environment that you have in your mouth while you sleep. It allows you to ramp up remineralization and stave off cavities.
Don't get me wrong, a typical brush and floss nighttime routine is fine, but rinsing with water after brushing and then not re-applying the good stuff (fluoride or hydroxyapatite) means you'll be missing out on the potential to rebuild tooth enamel as you sleep.
You can think of re-applying fluoride or HA as pushing enamel re-mineralization into overdrive. Now, your teeth can soak up salivary calcium and one of those two substances to supercharge the remineralization process...
And it only adds a single, 1-minute step to your dental care routine.
If you're cavity-prone, I can guarantee you that adding this easy technique to your nighttime care regimen will reduce or eliminate cavities and save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Thanks for reading this week's article!
For more great dental information, tips, hacks and suggestions you won't get anywhere else, check out my blog menu page, here.
By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener, ON Dentist
Our Dentist Office is located in Downtown Kitchener, Ontario. We are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dental care near you!
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.