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Archive for August 17th, 2020

How Many Steps is Too Many?

August 17, 2020

My dental hygiene routine has gotten more complicated since I retired. When I was working, brushing twice a day and flossing once and chewing gum in between was pretty much the extent of it. But now more of my time is under my control, and I’m with a dental practice filled with helpful people who make suggestions for things to try, so I’ve been adding steps. Most recently, I’ve been trying to make what I thought were two small changes, and it’s not going well.

These tweaks started with a friend’s Facebook post asking about people’s use of mouthwash, which led to sharing about other steps in their routines, which led me to doing some thinking about mine, which led me to do some searching and reading articles at places like perio.org, online home of the American Academy of Periodontology. All of that added up to me deciding to floss before brushing (apparently this is the best order of operations to reduce plaque, which is a concern of mine as I would like to never ever have planing and root scaling again) and to stop using a water rinse and mouthwash immediately after brushing (this lets the sensitivity reduction and cavity prevention ingredients in the toothpaste do their work).

My morning routine was pretty easy to change. A bit after breakfast, I use my interdental brushes (I have two sizes because one quadrant of my mouth has bigger gaps then the rest) and gum stimulator before brushing instead of after like I was doing before. Then I brush (with something from the Sensodyne line, right now it’s their classic paste but I’ve also used the various Pronamel flavors), spit, and go about my day. The mouthwash I used to use in the morning (Colgate Total Pro-Shield Alcohol Free) has been pushed to after lunch, if I remember, which I often don’t because it’s not routine yet, and also because sometimes we only have a late breakfast and dinner so there is no lunch. I’m okay with this failing because that mouthwash wasn’t something my dentist’s office told me to do.

closeup of rubber tipped dental stimulator


Where I’m struggling is the evening. I floss first*, which is fine—three days a week I use the Water Pik, which is less fine as I find it noisy and sometimes still end up spraying water where water should not be sprayed; my current hygenist wants me to use it every day but we’ve compromised on three days for now—and then brush, which is fine. Then, to give the toothpaste a bit of time to work, I just spit, no rinsing, and wait until after I wash my face and do my nightly moisturizing to use the fluoride mouthwash my dentist’s office did tell me to use (Listerine Total Care Zero). On the days I don’t use the Water Pik, I’m supposed to be not just rinsing with the mouthwash but also squirting it at the gumline by my lower wisdom teeth, where I’ve got some stubborn pockets where plaque forms (my hygienist provided a special syringe thing to do this with).

Except many nights, I don’t remember to use the mouthwash and just toddle off to bed. I’ve tried putting the squirting thing in my mug to remind me. I’ve tried putting the mouthwash in the mug to remind me. I’ve often gotten up in the morning to find the squirter or the mouthwash sitting there, reminding me that I once again failed to complete that last step. I did it again last night. This bothers me. It bothers me that I’m having trouble making this change (am I now the old dog who can’t learn new tricks?), and it bothers me because I know if you’re only going to do either morning or evening dental hygiene, it should be evening.** As of now, I’m leaning toward doing the mouthwash directly after brushing in the evening, when I’m thinking about it. The night mouthwash has a similar active ingredient to the toothpaste and gets in and on places the toothpaste probably doesn’t, so I’d rather get it in there than not. Especially since I’m now letting the toothpaste linger after my morning routine, so it’s getting a chance to do its thing then.


* I have some very tight spaces in parts of my mouth, so finding floss that fits in there and doesn’t shred has been a challenge. I used Reach Woven for a while, but that still shredded sometimes and then became hard to find (it’s now under the Listerine brand and seems to be only online, sometimes for very high prices). I switched to Glide until the study about it and toxic chemicals came out (the ADA wasn’t convinced but I figured why not err on the side of caution). I tried something I found online called Hayden Expanding Floss, which was okay but didn’t really expand much or seem especially special. Lately I’m working my way through a sampler pack from Coco Floss, which is expensive, granted, but they sell refills so the containers are reusable and it comes in fun scents and is free of the PFAS the Glide study was concerned about and does fit my teeth pretty well.

**I had that piece of information seared into my brain in elementary school, when I raised my hand and answered that question wrong. My child brain reasoning was morning was more important because you’d be cleaner during the day when more people would see you. It makes perfect sense that I thought that, especially then, when my mom was still very concerned with appearances and I tried not to embarrass her.

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