You don’t need a fancy toothbrush and a medicine cabinet full of dental products to keep your teeth and gums in good shape. A regular manual brush with soft bristles (which are more flexible and can help clean your teeth better), a fluoride toothpaste, and floss are enough (plus visits to the dentist for cleanings and checkups twice a year). You’ll find hundreds of dental products at the drugstore. Many are a waste of money.
The Top-Selling Toothbrushes
1. Oral-B Advantage
2. Colgate Plus
3. Colgate 360
4. Oral-B CrossAction
5. Colgate Wave
The right way to brush
Hold the bristles at a 45-degree angle toward your gum line so that one row of bristles can slip slightly under your gums. Move the brush head in a short, vibrating motion on each tooth. Then brush chewing surfaces. (Spend 2 minutes brushing). Also brush your tongue or use a tongue scrapper to remove breath-wrecking bacteria.
… and floss
Break off about 18 inches of floss (any kind) and wind most of it around a finger, then wind the rest around the same finger on your other hand. Use a careful sawing motion to slide the floss between your teeth down or up to the gum line. Then gently move the thread slightly under your gums. Next, curve it into a “C” shape against the side of one tooth and seep it up and down. Repeat for both sides of each tooth, unwinding clean floss from the first hand.
5 Extras worth a try
Tongue Scrapers let you remove food tidbits and bacteria that become trapped in the grooves of your tongue. That stuff can cause bad breath and plaque. You can also brush your tongue for similar results. BreathRx Tongue Scraper, $4.79.
Floss Accessories help you clean between teeth if you find flossing difficult. Threaders and picks aare strung with taut floss; soft picks resemble miniature pipe cleaners. They might feel weird, but they’re effective against plaque. Just be sure to ease them between teeth gently to avoid damaging your gums. Clockwise from left: Reach Access Flosser, $3.29 ($9.98 for 28 refills); Butler Soft-Picks, $2.09 for 40; Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Dental Floss Picks, $3.49 for 30
Pain-Relief Products use anesthetics to numb toothache pain. And temporary filling replacements can buy you time if you lose a filling. Orajel Maximum Strength reliefLiquid,$7.69; Refilit Maximum Hold, $4.85
Disposable Toothbrushes are preloaded with breath-freshening beads of encapsulated liquid (not fluoridated toothpaste). They’re good for one use and compact enough to keep in your purse, so you can freshen up after a garlic-pasta lunch. Colgate Wisp Portable Mini-Brush Toothbrush, $8 for 16
Air Flossers are the 21st century’s answer to Waterpik. They use pressurized air and tiny water droplets to clean between teeth. They’re safe to use but not cheap; regular floss works just as well. Sonicare AirFloss Rechargeable Air Flosser, $90
3 things to skip
• A toothbrush sanitizer. They’re expensive and unnecessary. Just rinse your toothbrush after your use it and let it air-dry. Replace it every three months or when the bristles start to fray.
• Tooth-whitening Gum. There’s no evidence proving that chewing any kind of gum will whiten your teeth. But chewing sugarless gum instead of the sugary kind can help reduce tooth decay and cavities.
• A one-size-fits-all night guard. A night guard is a good idea if you grind your teeth in your sleep, but a generic device can cause more problems than it solves. If you grind your teeth, see a dentist about getting a custom-fit night guard. Just be warned: A custom guard can cost $1,000 or more, and some insurance plans won’t pay for it. But the expense is worth it; grinding can cause dental and jaw pain and other problems.
DRINK UP! If you drink bottled water, you might be missing the extra fluoride that often comes in tap water. Some bottles contain fluoride; their labels may or may not say so. Examples include Crystal Springs, Fiji, and Poland Spring. Another solution: Brush and rinse with fluoridated products.