How to Wake Up With a Brighter Smile
During the daytime, our mouths are busy eating, drinking and talking, but it’s nighttime that is the most important for our oral health and whiter teeth. "We do believe there’s a difference between your lips being closed at night than when your tongue is moving against your teeth and more saliva is being produced during the day," says Samuel V Low, DDS, MS, past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "The rationale is that if you’re going to clean your mouth only once a day, do it at night." The result of the extra four to five minutes you spend will be a healthier, whiter and bright smile.
Read on to find out what to do in the evening to wake up with a healthier, brighter smile.
Brush First for Optimal Oral Health
Brushing and flossing every night is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. "During the day, when your mouth is open, saliva is being stimulated," Dr. Low explains. "At night, when the lips are closed, you don’t have as much saliva." Saliva is actually very good for the health of your mouth as its inherently anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, he says. "Without it, there’s more growth of bacteria, which can lead to gum disease, bacteria, and bad breath," he says. "That’s why, we, as dentists, appreciate that the most important time to clean a mouth is before retiring."
To wake up with a brighter smile, the No. 1 thing to do is brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, brushing each quadrant of your mouth for 30 seconds. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, says Low. "Only 20 percent of the bacteria in the mouth is on your teeth; it’s primarily on your tongue. Because our tongues are not smooth, there are lots of craters for bacteria to hide out in," he says. He recommends lightly brushing your tongue with your toothbrush, though a tongue scraper may help if you notice you have bad breath.
"A better term for a toothbrush is an oral care brush, because it can be used to remove bacteria from all over the inside of the mouth," he says. A word of caution: if you have particularly bad breath, have a dental exam to rule out gum disease or other causes.
Floss Nightly to Stop Bacteria Breeding
After brushing, you should floss to remove bacteria and plaque from in between your teeth. "It’s better to floss at night than in the morning, because your mouth is an anerobic environment, so bacteria have a chance to breed if you don’t floss," says Low. "Those organisms love to breed in areas with decreased oxygen."
However, "If you’re one of the estimated 90 percent of people who don’t floss regularly — taking a piece of thread and flossing it between your teeth, is one of the most difficult things we ask patients to do —you may want to invest in an air floss device," suggests Low. He likes the Sonicare Airfloss, which blasts water and air in between teeth at the base of your gums. "When it comes to preventing gingivitis, it’s very close to flossing," he says. "The big advantage it has is that people use it, unlike floss."
As a final step, an antimicrobial fluoride mouth rinse may help reduce plaque, gingivitis and tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association.
Nighttime Bleaching Is a Whitening Bonus
If you want to take an extra step towards a whiter smile, bleaching your teeth in the evening can be particularly effective, especially if you don’t eat anything afterwards. "Bleaching at night is popular because of our lifestyles," says Low. "Why should you walk around with tray or strips during the day when you can do it before or at bedtime?" If you do opt to sleep with bleaching trays or strips in, be sure to use one made for that purpose, as leaving a higher concentration of bleach on your teeth for longer than recommended may irritate your gums. "As long as the patient uses the appropriate solution and strips appropriately, there are very few negative side effects and the results are noticeable," says Low.