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Evening Oral Care

We are all very aware of taking care of our teeth each day. We brush every morning and many of us have a toothbrush in our desk at work so we can brush after lunch. At the very least, we can duck into the restroom during a break and swish our mouth with some cool water to freshen up a bit. However, at night, while we are sleeping, we don’t swallow. This causes bacteria to build up in our mouth. If our teeth are very, very clean, the bacteria don’t have anything to feed on. So, developing a consistent nighttime oral hygiene routine is an important step toward strong teeth and healthy gums.

Every person, regardless of age, should do three things during their evening oral hygiene routine: brush their teeth, floss their teeth, and rinse with mouthwash. It does not matter which you do first, although most people do finish up with mouthwash.

Step 1: Brushing

Brushing your teeth is the primary way to protect them from decaying. First, select a good toothbrush, one that has soft bristles. Whether you use a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush is entirely up to you – it is definitely a personal preference. Then, select a toothbrush that has fluoride as one of the ingredients. Brush your teeth back and forth, at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. One mistake that many people make is to only brush the front surfaces of their teeth – the part that other people see. However, after you do that, you should also brush the backside of your teeth, and the “bottom parts”, the parts that you use to chew.

So, should you brush right after dinner or right before bed? The answer to that question is: It depends. It really depends on how prone you are to having gum disease. Check with your dentist to see what your risk is. If you are at a moderate to high risk of gum disease, you should probably brush both times – right after dinner and right before bed. Otherwise, either is fine.


Flossing is one of the most important health regimens that you can do, but it is one of the most neglected. It is absolutely critical for total oral health; flossing allows you to clean out plaque from between teeth that your toothbrush just can’t reach. In fact, when you floss, you are removing plaque while it is still soft. Also, when you floss at least once a day, you are working to prevent periodontal disease (the scientific name for gum disease). The American Dental Association suggests that you use a piece of floss that is about 18 inches long. Wrap it around your middle fingers and then hold the rest of it between your thumbs and forefingers. To floss, rub the floss between your teeth, moving it toward the gum line. Push the floss against the side of each tooth, rubbing it back and forth against the tooth. When you get close to the root of your tooth, keep rubbing the floss softly between the gum and the tooth. Repeat this motion with all of your teeth.


The last step of your nighttime oral care routine should be to rinse with mouthwash. A good mouthwash helps to freshen your breath, helps protect your gums from inflammation, and helps keep your teeth clean and free of plaque. Although your dentist might give you a mouthwash or oral rinse that requires a prescription, there are many, many mouthwashes that are sold in drug stores or in the health and beauty section of your local big-box store. Be sure to read the care instructions on the package to ensure that you get the best results from the product that you choose.