Sometimes the most useful information is not found in a textbook. Here are several of the more useful dental tips I have come across during my years as a dental hygienist — including one to prevent “brain freeze.” Maybe one will help you.

Keep toothbrushes separate — Your toothbrush most likely won’t make you sick if you keep using it after having a cold or flu. The University of Rochester Medical Center says you are unlikely to become reinfected by your toothbrush. After recovering from an illness, your immune system has learned how to neutralize that particular virus or bacteria. However, each person should make sure their toothbrush does not touch anyone else’s brush when it is stored between brushings. Toothbrushes that touch can spread sick germs from person to person. 

Use your own tube — Is the same cold or flu spreading throughout your family? Check the tube of toothpaste! A shared tube is a potential virus and bacteria spreader. Think about it — as you swipe the toothpaste tube across your toothbrush bristles, little particles of food, plaque, and who knows what else flip off the bristles and may lodge along the rim of the tube. Whoever uses the toothpaste next may get more than just toothpaste! Some germs may live for a few minutes on an inanimate object, others may live for several hours. Germaphobes, this is for you: Many experts acknowledge that sharing a tube of toothpaste may spread sickness, so they recommend each family member use their own tube of toothpaste. Write your name on the tube with a Sharpie, or store your toothpaste in the same cup as your toothbrush. 

Clean your brush — Use hydrogen peroxide to get gunk off your toothbrush. My electric toothbrush head gets, well, gunk, stuck around the moving parts in the little holes where the moving parts live. This happens even though I rinse it off after brushing — I swear. A good soak in peroxide really helps loosen that gunk. Every week or two, I put the brush head into a little dish with hydrogen peroxide and let it bubble up overnight. In the morning, I lightly thump the brush head on the edge of the sink to dislodge any remaining gunk. This is good for any type of toothbrush, electric or manual. 

Teeth cloths for baby — Forget the toothbrush for your wiggly one! For cleaning baby’s mouth, try a washcloth. Wrap one of those thin little baby washcloths over your index finger to clean your child’s mouth and teeth. You can get much more done in a short time, compared with a toothbrush. I preferred the washcloth to the toothbrush for my boys’s teeth and gums until they were about 18 months old. Put a little good-tasting baby tooth gel on the washcloth for better cooperation. 

Biteproofing tykes — While cleaning baby’s mouth, avoid being bitten by placing an index finger back in the gummy part of the mouth, behind the molars. This will gently “prop” the mouth open. Baby will still bite down, but the biting won’t hurt you. Then use your other hand to do the cleaning … quickly!

“Brain freeze” freezeout — Last, but arguably most important: How to cure an ice cream headache. Hold your tongue to the roof of your mouth, making sure to cover the big bump right behind your two upper front teeth. When these areas get too cold, they can cause pain in your forehead area, thus “brain freeze” happens. This phenomena — sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, in case you were wondering — has been published in British Medical Journal and in Scientific American.

Kim Glover is a dental hygienist at Broadway Family Dental Care in Milton-Freewater, online at bwaydental.com.

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