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How to Clean Your Teeth at Home, According to Dentists

Photo: 20th Century Fox Television

We’ve all had to become a little more resourceful in the time of social distancing. From making bread and plunging toilets to cutting hair and giving manicures, a lot of things we once outsourced to professionals are now up to us to do on our own. If you’ve had to postpone your regular dental checkup due to the coronavirus outbreak, you may be wondering if it’s possible to get that squeaky-clean feeling at home. You can achieve something close, but maybe don’t rush to buy the little hook your hygienist uses. As Sonya Krasilnikov, a dentist and co-founder of Dental House, warns, “a dental cleaning may be more technique sensitive than you think.”

We asked Krasilnikov and eight more dentists what you actually can do at home while you wait, and they offered plenty of suggestions that’ll make your dentist proud when you finally make it into the office. One thing you probably won’t want to hear mid-quarantine, but we’re going to tell you anyway: In addition to the tools and tips below, nearly all the dentists advise minimizing your intake of sugar, which attracts tooth-decaying bacteria. That’s going to be hard in this golden age of baked goods.

The Basics

It’s not very exciting, but brushing and flossing are still the best things you can do to keep your teeth clean. “The purpose of brushing and flossing is to remove the plaque that forms around our teeth and gum lines,” says Heather Kunen, dentist and co-founder of Beam Street. If plaque (the thin film of bacteria composed of food and saliva on the tooth surface) isn’t removed regularly, she says, it hardens and becomes more difficult to scrape off, leading to tooth and gum disease. Since you’re not brushing your teeth in a hurry to make it into work on time, use this as an opportunity to make sure you’re getting in a full two minutes of brushing — 30 seconds for each quadrant of the mouth.

Most experts prefer electric toothbrushes, which use vibrations to blast plaque off the tooth’s surface. “The nice thing about electric toothbrushes is you don’t actually have to use the scrubbing motion that you do with a manual brush,” says dentist Samantha Rawdin of Gallery 57 Dental. “Just hold it at a 45-degree angle toward the gums and slowly walk it around the gum line.” Like many other dentists we’ve spoken to in the past, Siama Muhammad of Brooklyn Oak Dental Care is a fan of the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean, which uses ultrasonic vibrations to remove plaque. Make sure to pair your toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste. “Fluoride serves to help remineralize and strengthen enamel, essentially adding a protective layer of armor against invading bacteria,” Kunen says.

We’ve written about coconut-oil-coated Cocofloss before, and Rawdin says that using it “feels like I just got my teeth cleaned.” Because it’s a little thicker than standard floss, it has “a loofahlike effect, where it really does scrub in between the teeth and underneath the gum line,” she says. It also comes in unique flavors like strawberry and dark chocolate. Whatever floss you’re using, Rawdin advises wrapping it in a C shape around the sides of each tooth and gently shimmying it up and down.