A Complete Guide to Oral Hygiene at Home

Oral hygiene is a proactive choice by you to maintain the health of your oral environment. This involves the process of using some familiar tools to remove the plaque, tartar, and food debris from your mouth.

Oral hygiene is critical to preventing gum disease, tooth loss, dental caries, staining, confidence loss, heart disease, and so much more.

Common Dental Care Terms


Plaque is the term to describe the yellowish and soft film buildup that we get on our teeth and gums daily. Accumulation occurs when we drink, eat, bite our nails, or do any activities with our mouth. However, plaque isn’t just a substance, it is a collection of millions of bacteria. With time, these bacteria can lead to tooth decay and gum disease without proper oral care.


Tartar is calcified (hardened) plaque, which if not removed contributes to gum and bone disease.  This exists as hard deposits on your teeth below your gums, which are areas that you cannot reach and cannot remove. When you come for a cleaning at the dental office, this is one of the things the dental hygienist takes care of for you.


Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, that causes irritation and inflammation of your gingiva. When untreated for long enough, gingivitis can evolve and progress into serious damage to your jawbone, teeth, and gum structure. Research done by the Canadian Dental Association has also shown chronic periodontal diseases to be linked to more severe health concerns, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Taking The Best Care of Your Teeth at Home


  • Thorough daily brushing is important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Brushing helps remove bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
  • The Canadian Dental Association recommends brushing ideally after every meal, for 2-3 minutes each time. At the very least you should brush your teeth before going to sleep, as it ensures your teeth aren’t sitting with bacteria on them all night long.
  • Always choose a toothbrush with soft and rounded bristles. Your toothbrush should be replaced every three months or when your brush starts to fray.
  • When brushing with a manual toothbrush, hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Brush in a gentle, circular, up and down sweeping motion, making gentle contact with the gums and teeth.
  • It is important to clean every surface of all teeth, the chewing surface, tongue side, and cheek side. Try brushing in multiple patterns to not miss the same areas all the time.


  • Flossing is a technique that allows you to clean between your teeth and reach areas that a toothbrush can’t. When we eat, food gets lodged between our teeth and around our gums, and flossing allows us to dislodge the food and plaque from these areas.
  • Flossing is responsible for cleaning ⅓ of your tooth surface area, brushing is not enough.
  • With string floss, you will want to use a piece that is approximately 16-18 inches in length. Wrap one end of the string around your index and middle fingers on one hand and then around the same 2 fingers on the other hand, leaving about 2 inches between your hands.
  • Using your thumb on both hands push against the floss to support the string. Starting at the back of your mouth wiggle the floss between two teeth gently until it touches the gums. Be sure not to push too hard as you will potentially puncture your gums.
  • Once in between the teeth, hug the floss against the front side of the back tooth making a c-shape with the floss. Slowly glide up and down allowing the floss to gently glide under the gumline and up to the top where the teeth touch.
  • Lift the floss over the gums and to the tooth on the other side, hugging the floss against the side of that tooth. Repeat the up and down movement. Gently glide the string out and move forward in between the next two teeth.

Seeing Your Dentist Regularly

As mentioned above with tartar, there are certain aspects of dental care that can only be handled in the chair. For complete oral health, the CDA recommends seeing your dentist regularly, up to every 6 months for children, to ensure oral health.

If it has been a while since your last visit, give Applewood Dental a call to book your next appointment.