Keeping your teeth clean reduces decay-causing bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. The American Dental Association recommends using a fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth and prevent decay. Cleaning your teeth with water alone is an oral hygiene option if you don't like toothpaste or if you do not have any toothpaste available, but consult with your dentist before eliminating toothpaste completely from your daily oral cleaning routine.
Cleaning your teeth with a toothbrush and water alone can be an effective way to remove plaque. In fact, brushing with water alone may be just as efficient as brushing with toothpaste, according to a study conducted by the Department of Periodontology, Academic Center for Dentistry, Amsterdam. Results of the study, published in the June 2007 issue of the "Journal of Periodontology" found that brushing with water alone removed 6 percent more plaque than brushing with toothpaste. Plaque removal was attributed to friction caused by manual brushing rather than the use of toothpaste. The research study was small, however, and therefore does not replace the American Dental Association's advice of using a fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth. When brushing with water, brush your teeth, gums and tongue to remove plaque from your entire mouth. Follow brushing with a fluoride mouthwash if desired.
Rinse your mouth with plain water after meals to reduce bacteria and remove food debris. Rinsing with water alone removes about 30 percent of mouth bacteria, the University of Maryland Medical Center estimates. To clean your mouth with a water rinse after eating or drinking sugary drinks, swish water around your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out.
Oral irrigation devices, also called water picks, clean the mouth and gums using a stream of water. While oral irrigation does not replace brushing or flossing, it does help loosen and remove bacteria, food debris and plaque from the surface of the teeth and gums, as well as the spaces between the teeth. Follow the water manufacturer's directions for operating your oral irrigation device.
Saliva naturally protects your teeth by keeping a proper pH balance in the mouth to make the oral environment less favorable to bacteria. When the pH balance in your mouth is too acidic, decay-causing bacteria flourish. Keeping your mouth naturally moist with saliva is one of the best ways to keep your teeth clean and prevent decay. To keep your mouth producing plenty of mouth-cleaning saliva, drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.