Breaking bad oral hygiene habits

As we age our daily oral hygiene care is important, but did you know it can take up to one month to break a lifetime bad habit? It takes conscious effort and dedication to shift everyday practices and for seniors it becomes challenging to break a lifetime of bad oral habits.

Proper dental care can do more than keep your smile looking good and feeling healthy. No one said change is easy but the rewards can be great if you persevere.
We spoke to Mobile Dental Services’ General Manager, Rebecca Yarrow, who exposed some of the most common bad habits and shared some advice on how to take a preventative approach to dental wellness.
Bad Habit – Ineffective tooth brushing
Visiting your dentist regularly is a good start to oral care, but what’s also important is what you do on a daily basis between these visits. Plaque-causing bacteria is always present in the mouth and, if left unchecked, can contribute to the development of gingivitis.
A daily oral care routine is the only way to keep plaque growth in check – think of it as an insurance policy for your smile.

  • Step on the brakes and slow down your life, even when it comes to brushing your teeth! Ideally spend 30 seconds brushing each corner of the mouth.
  • Brushing too hard can actually cause damage to your teeth and gums including gum recession. Choose a soft head or an electric brush.

Bad Habit – Sleeping in dentures
Maybe you don’t like to be without teeth (not ever!) or you get a little forgetful. Whatever the reason, if you’re wearing your dentures to bed at night, please stop!
Dentures that are not removed at night can become breeding grounds for all kind of bacteria and fungi. They can also double your chances of getting a lung infection when bacteria moves from the mouth to the lungs.

  • Soak your dentures in warm water if they have metal clasps. If they don’t, you can use either a half-vinegar, half-water solution or a special denture cleanser. Soaking will help to remove stains, plaque, tartar and bacteria.
  • Taking your dentures out overnight also gives your mouth the chance to recover from wearing them all day. Your gums will be healthier for it. 

Bad Habit – Neglecting to floss
Flossing isn’t sexy. However, unlike a toothbrush that cleans the tops and outer surfaces of the teeth and gums, flossing cleans between the teeth and the gap between the base of the teeth and the gums – places that a toothbrush can’t reach.

  • Flossing should not be painful. If you floss too hard, you could damage the tissue between your teeth. If you’re too gentle, you might not be getting the food out. It’s normal to feel some discomfort when you first start flossing, but don’t give up.
  • Technology makes flossing easier – Interdental brushes are small brushes that come in a variety of shapes and sizes to make cleaning easier. Your dentist will be able to recommend a brush to suit your needs.
  • Consider an ‘air flosser’ for unsteady or weak hands.

Bad Habit – Overconsumption of liquid calories
High-sugar beverages such as soft drink, juice or sweetened tea and coffee are bad for your waistline and they’re damaging your teeth as well. Even if you water down juice, the presence of sugar in the beverage ultimately acidifies your saliva and can cause tooth decay.

  • Choose to drink water between meals.
  • Don’t bring junk food into your home. If it’s not accessible, you won’t be so inclined to indulge.

Over time and with conscious effort, you should be able to break the cycle. Even if you just concentrate on one bad habit at a time, you will feel as if you have achieved something very positive.
Mobile Dental Services visits Tarragal Manor regularly. Their aim is to improve oral health for aged care residents from simple check ups and oral advice to the most complex dental procedures. The mobile clinic is also wheelchair accessible. For more information visit or call 1800 MDS MDS (1800 637 637) or our Sydney office on 02 9816 1105.

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