With all the high tech dental tools and treatments available today, plus the staggering array of over the counter hygiene products, it's easy to forget one of the biggest boons to good oral health. It's the simple act of brushing your teeth.
Yes, brushing your teeth, and gums, too, removes bacteria-laden plaque from tooth surfaces and the gums. It also freshens breath and keeps tooth enamel bright and shining.
Tips on Brushing
Doctors Steve Gilbert and Carlos Velez of Gilbert Dental Care in Philadelphia, PA urge all their patients to "brush up" on their tooth brushing technique by reviewing these recommendations:
- Brush teeth and gums two to three times a day for at least two minutes. The American Dental Association says this is the minimal tooth-cleaning schedule. However, it also cautions not to be overly aggressive with the toothbrush or to brush too long as these actions actually break down enamel and abrade the gums.
- Brush with very short, side to side strokes about the width of each tooth. Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and slowly proceed around the mouth.
- Use a good quality, soft-bristled toothbrush as recommended by Doctor Gilbert, Doctor Velez or one of their hygienists. It doesn't matter whether you choose manual or electric. Common fluoride toothpaste has great anti-cavity properties, but avoid long-term use of whitening or anti-tartar products. They tend to be too rough on enamel. Make sure all toothpaste and rinses carry the ADA seal of approval.
- Remember to gently brush the tongue, cheeks, gums and the roof of the mouth. All carry plaque and need just as much attention as teeth.
- Divide the mouth into four parts, taking about 30 seconds or so with each. Time yourself for a while to catch the sense of how long you remain on each part of the mouth.
- After use, rinse your toothbrush with hot water and let air dry, preferably away from the germs of the sink and toilet area. Everyone has plenty of oral bacteria, and we don't need to be adding airborne micro-organisms to our toothbrushes.
- Change out your brush every three months or so and immediately after the flu or a cold. Many toothbrushes have color bands which indicate wear. Also, simply checking the bristles for wear and fraying tells you when to get a new one.
- Don't miss back teeth. Intentionally brush all surfaces of back molars. For tongue-side surfaces of upper and lower incisors, hold the brush vertically, and gently clean with an up and down stroke.
- Don't forget to floss. It's a vital part of at-home dental hygiene and a great partner in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease.