How to Brush Your Teeth 101
Seems to be common sense, right? Not necessarily! We are often asked by patients the correct way to brush one’s teeth…
Let’s begin with checking if you have the proper tools. We know that the wide array and selection of toothbrush options at the grocery store can be overwhelming. Many people may not realize that they are brushing too hard, causing recession of the gum tissues as well as damage to the enamel of their teeth. For that reason, we recommend a soft bristle brush. Medium/firm bristles on the brush head can significantly wear away tooth structure and increase tooth sensitivity. Also, consider investing in an electric toothbrush if you are concerned that you might be brushing too hard. Many electric toothbrushes now have sensors built in that will beep or buzz when too much force is applied – technology has come a long way! Additionally, when determining the size of the brush head that is best for you, it’s important to consider the size of your mouth. If you have a more active gag reflex or a limited opening with only a small area between your cheeks and your teeth, a small size head will be the most comfortable choice for you. If you can comfortably open and place your finger between your teeth and cheek, a medium sized toothbrush head should serve you just fine! Toothbrushes generally last up to three months. Most have color-indicating strips on the bristles – when the color has faded, take it as a good sign that your brush should be replaced.
Selecting the right toothpaste for you is equally as important when it comes to your oral health. Do you feel discomfort when you bite into a cold piece of fruit, or try to avoid letting your ice cream touch your teeth? You are not alone; millions of Americans report to their dentist feeling that their teeth are sensitive. Areas where your gums have receded or enamel has been brushed away can be especially sensitive to cold, sweets, or even air. Sensitivity toothpastes can help with this, and be less abrasive than toothpaste aimed at whitening teeth. If you are cavity or decay-prone, toothpaste with a higher concentration of fluoride could be what is best for you. Your dentist can also prescribe toothpaste to help strengthen areas where cavities may be beginning to form.
Let’s now discuss technique. I know we all strive for that ultra-clean feeling of running our tongue over smooth teeth, but you don’t want to unknowingly remove the enamel from your teeth (over time, of course) in the process. The American Dental Hygiene Association recommends holding the bristles of the brush at a 45 degree angle contacting both the tooth and gumline, and using a gentle, circular motion to repeatedly bring the brush downward/upward to the chewing surface. Brush 2-3 teeth at a time, and don’t forget to brush each surface of each tooth (For animated drawings visit: http://www.adha.org/sites/default/files/7221_Proper_Brushing_1.pdf). When brushing your teeth you should be spending at least 30 seconds in each quadrant of your mouth, totaling a minimum of two minutes. Many electric toothbrushes have built-in timers alerting you when it is time to move onto the next quadrant.
Seeing that brushing alone is not able to fully clean in between your teeth, daily flossing is also vital to access the unreachable areas that trap the most food and bacteria. The tongue is also often forgotten, but it can harbor bad breath causing bacteria. Using your toothbrush once daily to gently go over your tongue can help keep it clean. Stay tuned for blog posts dedicated to both flossing and tongue brushing!
Of course, don’t forget to visit your dentist and hygienist every six months for regular cleanings and exams to make sure your mouth is as healthy as it can be! We’re always here for you.
Photo credit: MouthHealthy.org
-Dr. Melody Salehi, DDS