Brushing 101Written by Advice Team on February 8, 2016
From childhood, we are taught that using a toothbrush twice a day is vital to keep our teeth and gums healthy and reduce the chances of tooth decay and gum disease.
As we get older a good oral hygiene routine becomes even more important; not only for dental health, but for your overall wellbeing. Surprisingly gum disease is a major risk factor for the development of serious health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes!
In addition it’s not just health that your oral routine is has an impact on. A healthy, clean mouth, bright, white teeth and fresh breath improves self-confidence, transforms your appearance and makes you more pleasant to be around. Here are our top 15 tips for good oral health, sparkling gnashers and a brilliant smile.
1. Use an interdental brush or floss before brushing your teeth to clean in between your teeth and remove trapped plaque and food from the gaps and along the gum line. Never use toothpicks to remove trapped food from between your teeth, as you may damage your gums which could lead to an infection.
2. Brush your teeth at least twice a day; just before you go to bed and first thing in the morning. Most people brush their teeth straight after breakfast but it is actually best to brush your teeth before breakfast or not until at least one hour later as eating and drinking naturally weakens the enamel on your teeth, and brushing straight afterwards can cause tiny particles of enamel to be brushed away.
3. Each round of tooth brushing should last for at least two minutes, regardless of whether you are using a manual or electric toothbrush. Many electric brushes now have a built-in timer to check that you are spending the full two minutes or longer. If you are using one without such a timer or a manual toothbrush, it could be worth setting a stop watch to see how close you are to this ideal brushing time (this technique is particularly useful for small children).
4. When brushing ensure you pay attention to all the surfaces of your teeth, including the inside surfaces, outside surfaces and the chewing surfaces of every tooth. It might help to split your mouth into quadrants to ensure you cover the left and right sides of your top and bottom rows of teeth, helping to achieve even cleaning and avoid missing any part of the mouth.
5. With a manual brush, you should aim to brush in small circular motions with the toothbrush angled so that you are brushing the gum as well as the tooth. It's particularly important to brush the area where the gum meets the tooth as this is an area where food and plaque can get trapped causing gum disease. Please be cautious though, the gum line is a delicate area and over brushing can in some cases cause a receding gum line, irritation or bleeding - if in doubt, consult your dentist at your next check-up on what best suits your particular situation.
6. With an electric toothbrush, you should let the powered brush do most of the work unlike with a manual brush. Your job is to slowly and methodically move it around the mouth, tackling an area at a time. You do not need to press hard, in fact doing so lessens the effect of the powered bristles and causes a poor result.
7. Choose a fluoride toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel. It's important to use a toothpaste with the right concentration of fluoride for your age. Adults should use a toothpaste that contains at least 1,350 parts per million (ppm) fluoride. Children above 6 need a little more at 1,350-1,500ppm fluoride and children under 6 need a little less at 1,000ppm fluoride.
8. Once you have thoroughly cleaned your teeth use your brush or a tongue scraper to clean and freshen your tongue.
9. After brushing, spit out any excess toothpaste but don't rinse your mouth with water as it will wash away the concentrated fluoride in the toothpaste left on the teeth, thus diluting it and reducing its preventative effects.
10. Regularly use a mouthwash containing fluoride and anti-bacterial to help prevent gum disease. Don’t use a mouthwash straight after brushing as like rising with water you will wash away the concentrated fluoride in the toothpaste left on your teeth. Choose a different time to use mouthwash, such as mid-morning or after lunch.
11. If you smoke, quitting will help you reduce the chances of developing a wide range of unpleasant oral health problems, including gum disease, tooth decay, yellow teeth and mouth cancer.
12. Chewing sugar-free gum helps protect your teeth and gums in between meals when it may not be possible to brush with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva, the mouth's natural defence against acid.
13. Still water and milk are less damaging for your teeth than fruit juices which contain sugar and acid. It’s a good idea therefore to limit fruit juices to meal times. If you do choose to drink juices between meals try diluting them with still water or drinking through a straw to get the drink to go to the back of your mouth without touching your teeth.
14. A diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fresh fruit and vegetables will lead to stronger, healthier teeth and can help to prevent gum disease. If you have a sweet tooth, look for sugar-free sweets and snacks. If you do eat something sugary follow it with a glass of water to rinse away the worst of the sugar so it isn’t left on the surface of your teeth and gums.
15. Last but not least it’s vitally important to visit your dentist or hygienist for regular check ups and for advice and cleaning tips. Like with all areas of health early detection and preventative care are far less painful, costly and unpleasant than serious dental issues. Remember to always tell your dentist immediately about any changes to your health and any oral pain or discomfort so that they can help you sooner rather than later.