How Do I Adult: Tooth Hygiene

Let’s talk about tooth hygiene. Originally this was purely going to be about brushing your teeth, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I need to include more than simply the mechanics of brushing. So I’m going to go over a few things today that will hopefully make this aspect of being an adult easier. Remember folks – it is ok to need help to learn to adult! There is to be no criticizing or mocking people for wanting assistance.

First things first: Choosing Toothpaste

This might actually be the most important part of this entire write-up. Even among NTs, it is common and normal for people to be incredibly picky about the toothpaste they choose. Adding in possible taste or texture issues to a substance that we are going to be scrubbing around in our mouths can make finding a non-offensive toothpaste incredibly difficult. There is not much I can do to change that, but hopefully going over options and what you can look for will help some.

Before going further, I want to refer you to my How Do I Adult: Making Decisions post. This will hopefully get you started. The primary things I want you to pull from that post for what we are doing here is:

  1. Decide what is important, and do not worry about the rest.
  2. Once you find what you like, just stick with it!

Also, when you are looking for the right toothpaste for you, definitely try to find sample or travel tubes or other small quantities of toothpaste to try, so you don’t wind up investing in lots of full tubes of toothpaste that you can’t stand to use.

However, I am not just going to leave you hanging with nothing else. Now, we move on to the main things to look out for when choosing toothpaste (at least from my point of view); texture and taste.

Texture

Toothpastes actually have a wide variety of textures available, so hopefully if you have issues with texture (like I do), you will still find something that works for you.

First of all, toothpastes tend to be divided up into two big categories of texture – gels and pastes. If you can separate texture from taste, try one of each to see which feels better in your mouth. If you find you distinctly favor one over the other, that’s great! It helps you narrow down what to look for. If both are fine, then you just don’t have to worry about it as you go forward. If both are equally bad, that’s ok too. There are other things you can look into.

Some toothpastes use baking soda in their formulas, which also changes the texture. That would also be something to try.

Now, if having anything goo-like in your mouth is just a non-starter, that’s ok! There are still more options! While not super-common (you may need to buy online), solid teeth-cleaning products also exist. Lush makes a line of tooth tabs, and there are a number of sellers on Etsy, and probably scattered across the internet as well, that make solid teeth-cleaning products. I will expand a bit on how to use them over in the section on the mechanics of cleaning your teeth.

Taste

This one might be tougher if you have issues around taste. Most toothpastes are mint flavored in some way, as we seem to associate mint flavor with pleasant breath. However, these are not the only flavors out there. On this one, there is not much I can tell you besides encouraging you to experiment. Once you know what you need as far as texture, you can look around to try different flavors of toothpaste and find one that is inoffensive. Or maybe even pleasant!

Some things to possibly look for in terms of taste – some toothpastes come in “plain” and don’t have a strong flavor attached. Sulfate-free toothpastes (or other products) will probably also be friendlier to your mouth. Another option is to make your own toothpaste (the internet is awash in recipes) which would let you have a great deal of control over how you flavor it.

Remember – you don’t have to stick with the “standard” options you find in most drug or grocery stores! If those are not working, there are other options! Take a look around and see what you can find.

Now let’s move on to The Mechanics.

First, though, there is one thing I want to make clear. Commercials are lying to you. Ok, obviously this is true, commercials are all about inventing need and convincing you to buy things, but there is something specific here that I am referring to. Commercials and other toothpaste imagery tend to show people putting these big, full, strips of toothpaste on their brushes. That looks pretty for an image, but it is WAY more than you actually need to brush with. In fact, you could easily get away with using only a third of what they sometimes show.

Toothbrush

{Image shows a toothbrush with a small amount of toothpaste on the bristles. This is a far more realistic amount to use to clean your mouth}

The actual mechanics of brushing are pretty straighforward.

  1. Wet your toothbrush. Toothpaste (or whatever you are using) will work better if there is water involved.
  1. Add toothpaste to your brush. Don’t overdo it! Many people say to always squeeze from the bottom, but I lack the manual dexterity for that. Instead, I just go ahead and squeeze from the middle until the toothpaste is at least half gone. Only then do I squeeze it all to the top of the tube, and from then on I squeeze from the bottom of where the toothpaste is. That makes it a lot easier for me.
  1. (optional) Wet your toothbrush again. I do this. Maybe I’m just neurotic.
  1. Start brushing! The big thing here is to remember to brush the ENTIRE surface of your teeth. Personally, I always brush my teeth in the same way every time, so I know I never forget anything. Just remember – brush the outsides of your teeth, the insides, the tops of your lower teeth and the bottoms of your top teeth, reach way back to get your molars or wisdom teeth (if you have them), BEHIND your molars, and all around your gumlines. While you’re at it, also brush the roof of your mouth and your tongue.

I want to mention – I always have to spit halfway through this process. Toothpaste can foam up a lot and become difficult to manage. Just spit out any excess into the sink and continue the cleaning process.

5.  Rinse. You’ll need to rinse both the toothbrush you used, and your mouth. I usually start with my toothbrush, because it’s quick and then I can put it away before I deal with my mouth. Just rinse off any foam or missed toothpaste from the handle and bristles, and put your brush away. Then it’s time to rinse your mouth.

Some people keep a cup in their bathroom specifically for this purpose, other people just cup water in their hands. Do what works best for you. Just put some water in your mouth, swish it around (in both the front and back of your mouth!) and spit it out. Do this several times, until you are no longer spitting out foam along with water.

Many toothpastes will leave your mouth tasting weird for a while and make many foods and beverages taste bad. Personally, I just wait it out – my mouth returns to normal within an hour and I do not find it a terrible inconvenience. If this causes you undue bother, maybe go back to looking for a tasteless or sulfate-free teeth-cleaning product.

If you are using solid tooth tabs (or something along those lines)

Tooth tabs are used slightly differently than toothpaste. Instead of putting it on your toothbrush, stick a tab in your mouth, between your molars, and bite it a couple times. After that, wet your toothbrush, and then continue from step 3 (above).

However, not all solid teeth-cleaning products work this way. The big thing is that since solids are fairly unusual, they will probably come with instructions on how to use them. Just follow the instructions and you should be fine.

The extras

Being thorough with your tooth hygiene means more than regular brushing. It also means regular flossing and mouthwash.

Flossing is for cleaning between your teeth – not just bits of food that got stuck there, but also plaque and such that your brush may have missed. Like toothpaste, you’ll need to find a floss that works for you. Personally, I like floss that is very smooth and easily glides between my teeth.

To floss, break off a length of floss (maybe 18 inches or so), and wind the ends around your middle fingers until there is just a few inches between. I usually wind just a couple of times around my left middle finger, and lots of times around my right. Slide the floss between each of your teeth and move if back and forth a few times to dislodge anything. Ideally go in each between-space twice. When you pull the floss up and out, pull it to the right the first time and the left the second. The idea here is to scrape each side of each tooth with the floss to get it clean.

As plaque or missed bits of food get on the floss, wind it onto one finger and off the next to get to the next few inches of clean floss. Once you are done, wind the floss off your fingers and throw it away.

Compared to all that, mouthwash is pretty easy. Simply put some in your mouth, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, SO MUCH SWISHING, and finally spit it out into the sink. After that rinse your mouth yet again.

Once you are done, make sure the cap is back on the toothpaste, rinse the sink, and make sure the various things you used are put away where they belong.

Do you have any tips for ways you keep your teeth cleaned? Do you have any ideas for How Do I Adult? Let me know!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “How Do I Adult: Tooth Hygiene

  1. Autism Mom

    I love this! I totally agree, it is ok to figure out all these details as an adult. 🙂

    Thanks for pointing out there are more flavors than mint – I hate mint and it used to make teeth brushing horrible. I am very happy to use cinnamon!

    There are also a variety of different kinds of toothbrushes that could probably be described in a whole other post. 🙂

  2. Trudy

    I lack the dexterity to wind floss around my fingers! So I just hold it a few cm’s apart and use that bit, then move along to the next bit. I also never keep my toothbrush in the bathroom, for two reasons. 1) The bathroom is actually the germiest room in the house. 2) In our household with many adults, if someone is using the main bathroom, I can always go and brush my teeth in another bathroom, or even in the kitchen or laundry sink, instead of having to wait for the bathroom where my toothbrush lives, to be free.

  3. Pingback: PROBLEM SOLVING AND TOOTH CARE – FOUND ON PINTEREST | Autism Mom